Reviews December 2011 week five

Oh, and don’t miss the absolutely hilarious additional three-pager right at the end of book, where Hector decides to escape to the pub after relentless nagging… from the contents of his flat. That’s some serious delirium tremens!

 – Jonathan on Hector Umbra

Hilda And The Midnight Giant h/c (£11-99, Nobrow) by Luke Pearson.

Oh, the sheer wonder of it all! That’s what you need to light up the eyes and fire up the minds of young readers: wonder, surprise and a protagonist or two o’er-brimming with an insatiable curiosity. Plucky young Hilda’s is infectious!

Living out in the wilds in a craggy valley surrounded by mountains, Hilda and her mother have recently and quite unexpectedly come under siege from the Hidden People. They’ve never spotted one and have no idea where they live, but this is their sixth little letter this week! And, oh dear, it’s yet another demand for mother and daughter up sticks and leave the valley for good. But when Hilda posts a note of her own asking them to leave her alone, their home is bombarded by stones, their books seem to rip themselves to shreds and it’s almost too much for Mum. Hilda, however, is undaunted. She’s determined to discover who these tiny terrorists are, why they’re so suddenly up in arms and see if she can’t set things straight. Of course, there’s also the question of the vast silhouette that has loomed into view. Bigger than the nearest mountain, its eerie black body blocks out the stars, its white eyes silently scanning the horizon as if in search of something…

From the creator of EVERYTHING WE MISS, HILDAFOLK etc. this a breath-takingly beautiful book, its midnight blues as rich in colour as the daylight scenes. There’s more than a dash of Jordan Crane’s THE CLOUDS ABOVE to the floating woofs migrating across the sky like fluffy, wide-eyed, long-tailed tadpoles, while the giant is pure Tom Gauld. But there’s one monumental page on which the Midnight Giant fills the frame from head to toe, bent on one knee whose composition – you may laugh – instantly reminded me of Bryan Hitch’s Giant Man during his first growth spurt in ULTIMATES volume one! The pink glow on the horizon is a golden touch.

There are some great gags that seem to spring spontaneously from the cartooning, while others are stored up for later with exquisite timing (you’ll love the infestation of nittens!) and a tea joke that’s still making me smile several hours later. Hilda herself is a model of inquisitiveness, resolve and resourcefulness, the plight of the Midnight Giant is truly touching, and adults will groan with recognition at the real reason behind the Hidden People’s sudden animosity. Above all, though, it’s the wonder of it all which will fill many a subsequent dream, so highly recommended to people of all sizes: no height restrictions at all.

Please note: this isn’t the actual cover pictured on our shopping page. Quite where the image came from I’ve no idea, but consider it a bonus and the book itself a giant surprise!


Buy Hilda And The Midnight Giant h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ronin Dogs #2 (£4-99, self-published) by Mark Pearce ~

If John Carpenter were to enlist Jaimie Hewlett to create a Saturday morning cartoon, RONIN DOGS would be the result. The concept is simple: Jen; a beat’em-up vixen, and Derek, a skeleton with a beard, are constantly interrupted from their daily routine of hard drinking and video games by myriad cretins attempting to dispatch them. It’s never explained exactly why Jen and Derek invoke such a murderous reaction in their fellow humanoids, explanations tend to elude them when they have hordes of bounty hunters and assassin droids ruining their downtime. Instead the pair pick up the likeliest decapitator and kick the ever-loving crap out of all and sundry. Especially the sundry.

Mark’s latest caper is a feast at over twice the length of book one and at least six times as awesome. Whilst browsing action movies at the video rental store like true connoisseurs, Jen and Derek are rudely disturbed by trouser-less Techno-Assassins and their assassin Droids (which look adorably like a cross between M.O.D.O.K. and GHOST IN THE SHELL’s Tachikoma). Things look dire and as Jen fights for her life, Derek scarpers. Charming! But what the beardy one finds may change the course of the battle and get them a pretty sweet ride to boot.


Buy Ronin Dogs #2 and read the Page 45 review here

Hector Umbra h/c (£18-99, Blank Slate) by Uli Oesterle…

“In three days the opus is going to have its grand premiere at a worthy venue, with none other than Osaka Best back behind the turntables.
“We’re expecting a myriad of fresh as a daisy teenagers to show up on the dancefloor… with their extremely delicate nervous systems.
“Teenagers’ brains which are, thanks to years of drug experimentation, violent videogames and endless energy drinks, as soft as ghost shit. They’ll be falling into a trance as they gyrate, immediately addicted to the grooves being laid down by your friend.
“It’ll be child’s play to take control of their grey matter at that point in time. It’s going to produce a mass of new hosts in one single night, do you understand?
“A fat booty as they ‘shake their booties’. HAH… HAHA… HA.”

Can’t believe he forgot to mention superhero comics contributing to teenage brain rot! Anyway, it doesn’t sound good forMunich’s teenagers as a dastardly plot is being hatched to establish a first bodysnatching beachhead en route to total global domination. But by whom… or indeed, what?

Hector Umbra has always been a sensitive soul, especially since the death of his best friend, up and coming rock star Joseph Nirwana, to a drug overdose. He tends to spend his days and nights getting drunk, being maudlin and painting morose tableaux in his flat. It’s all his remaining friends can do to get him out on the town for a single night, but he wouldn’t miss his DJ mate Osaka Best, king of the turntables, spinning some classic tracks at Munich’s hippest new club. So when Osaka promptly vanishes mid-set, Hector’s determined he’s not going to lose another friend and begins an investigation that will lead him into the darker recesses of the human mind… quite literally. For it seems that this particular sensitive soul might be mankind’s only hope of uncovering and stopping the impending sonic apocalypse.

What a wonderfully written and equally well illustrated story by Uli Oesterle on the, as ever, marvellously eclectic Blank Slate imprint. Once we uncover the circumstances behind the disappearance of our superstar DJ, we’re firmly in the realms of UMBRELLA ACADEMY-esque absurdity, laced with much black humour rather than horror. But it is gripping stuff, simply because the plot has been so well thought through and lovingly detailed. I think fans of HELLBOY would probably enjoy this also, given the humorous aspect. The slightly miasmic art adds to the disorientating plot, if there’s a single straight line used on any of the architecture in the entire book, I certainly didn’t spot it. Oh, and don’t miss the absolutely hilarious additional three-pager right at the end of book, where Hector decides to escape to the pub after relentless nagging… from the contents of his flat. That’s some serious delirium tremens!

“Hey Hector…what brings you to this forsaken place so early in the day?”
“Another second at home and I’m sure the ceiling would have dropped on my head.”
“I totally understand. What can I get you honey?”
“Water, preferably still.”


Buy Hector Umbra h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Walking Dead vol 15: We Find Ourselves (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn.

Such a Christmassy cover!

Return of the shambling masses in the zombie series which outsells all others, even Garth Ennis’ CROSSED. Delighted to report that we’ve continued to keep each book consistently in stock no matter how high the demand grows over Christmas or the launch of TV series. We also stock the WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM VOL 1 s/c (first eight books in one bumber doorstop) and the WALKING DEAD: RISE OF THE GOVERNOR prose novel. If you want any of the two different hardcover formats, please let us know.


Buy Walking Dead vol 15: We Find Ourselves and read the Page 45 review here

Baltimore: The Plague Ships s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden & Ben Steinbeck…

“Is someone there?”
“You’ve made a terrible mistake…”

Regular Page 45 review readers will know I am an unabashed Mignola fan, and love my HELLBOY and BPRD. What is fantastic about Mignola, though, is rather than just continue endlessly with the same characters which does inevitably get old irrespective of the quality of the writing, he’s also producing wonderful new works like this one and also spin-offs using less exposed characters like LOBSTER JOHNSON and WITCHFINDER which, albeit stemming from the same twisted occult mythos, provide a way of telling yet more complex, classic stories in a genre he really is the modern master of.

BALTIMORE PLAGUE SHIPS gives us the pustulent story of Lord Henry Baltimore, a man with more stiff upper lip than the troutiest, poutiest cosmetic surgery victim could ever wish for, and a never-say-die attitude to match. And it’s precisely that sort of British bulldog resilience that’s landed him in the living nightmare he now finds himself. Knocked unconscious on the field of battle in WW1 during a suicidalmidnightover-the-top charge, ordered by the idiotic top brass safely tucked away behind the lines at HQ, he’s appalled to come round and find gigantic bat-like creatures with glowing red eyes literally draining the blood from his dead and dying comrades strewn around him.

When one particularly loathsome specimen notices the waking Lord Henry and decides to make him the next tasty treat, he manages to fend the creature off with a bayonet in a last-ditch, desperate act, gouging the creature’s eye out in the process. Even so, were it not for the fast approaching sunrise, he’d still have been easy pickings for the enraged creatures who seem unnerved by the rapidly increasing light levels and flee the battlefield.

Subsequently coming to in the middle of the night in a field hospital, minus an amputated leg, he’s approached by a cloak-clad fiend missing an eye who chillingly informs Lord Henry that whilst he and his vampiric brethren had previously been content to merely hide in the shadows, feeding on those who were dead and dying, that thanks to Lord Henry’s intervention, they are as of now at war with humanity.

And the visiting vampire who goes by the name of Haigus doesn’t just mean in the wider sense either; it’s a confrontation that’s soon taken to Lord Henry’s home front as his wife and all his family are massacred and turned into undead themselves after a rather unwelcome social call. Although, Haigus might well just have made a fatal mistake, errr… if that’s possible for the undead… as Lord Henry is not the sort of man you’d want to cross, particularly if you’re a vampire and he’s got a cross or two handy himself. From that point on, as far as Lord Henry’s concerned, he’s already living in hell and now has absolutely nothing to lose. He’s living solely for revenge, and he’s prepared to follow Haigus wherever it takes him as the vampire begins to beat a retreat to theOld Worldin an increasingly desperate attempt to shake off his pursuer.

Superb horror writing from Mignola and Christopher Golden, with appropriately atmospheric art from Ben Stenbeck, who appears to have followed the unwritten rule of illustrating a Mignola story, which is to evoke Mignola’s own art style. I do honestly wonder whether it is something that Mignola insists upon actually, but if he does, fair enough, because it really works and ensures these works feel like an addition to a literary canon. I’m already relishing the next instalment ofBALTIMORElike a vampire plotting a trip to the blood bank.


Buy Baltimore: The Plague Ships s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Drops Of God vol 2 (£10-99, Vertical) by Tadashi Agi & Sku Okimoto.

More wine-tasting trials and supercilious smiles as young Shizuku Kanzaki competes for his very inheritance by battling his palate against the more seasoned connoisseur who’s managed to worm his way into Shizuku’s late Dad’s estate.

Please see my review of THE DROPS OF GOD vol 1 for far, far more, but this is 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”. Far from the sugar-buzz manga that yells from the shelves this is a serious comic that’s sold one hell of a lot of wine. Funnily enough we find customers drinking a hell of a lot of wine helps us sell a serious quantity of comics, hence our online motto: Long on, Get drunk, Buy more product. Off you go, then. Cheers!


Buy The Drops Of God vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes (£4-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham, Cameron Stewart.

“We take our memories for granted, never imagining the day must come when they, too, will walk out on us, one by one, like the lovers and friends we never truly appreciated until we are alone.”

Now there’s a frightening thought. I can already see mine waving good-bye from here.

At long last, Leviathan’s leader is revealed! Oh, how it all makes perfect sense! Or does it? Grant has weaved an enormously dense and complex tale in the worldwide saga that’s been BATMAN INC., plus it’s been a while since the first volume’s final issue, so if you’re new or a bit overwhelmed or your memory’s as bad as mine, there’s a detailed refresher course in the back before you begin. Top tip, however: do not flick forward from the front to find it! Instead flick backwards, slowly, carefully and no further than the right-hand “Corporate Takeover” title which marks the start of the recap otherwise you risk spoiling the big reveal!

Essentially two issues, the first follows one of Batman’s many minions to girls’ school where it’s all a bit Morning Glories, a control cult of mass indoctrination training and supplying spy girls to whoever can afford them – which is just where Leviathan wants them. Your master of secret ceremonies is a chip off the old block, but which tree he fell from I will leave you to discover yourselves. The second chapter takes no prisoners at all – well, except two Batmen and both Robins in the labyrinth of Doctor Dedalus – as Grant Morrison puts them and indeed you through the disorientating ringer with much misdirection before Bruce finally figures it all out. Uh oh!

Cameron Stewart handles the first half with style, lovely and clean, while Christ Burnham comes across as a very attractive meld of Frank Quitely and George Perez/Phil Jimenez.

Set before the events of FLASHPOINT never mind DC’s New 52, there’s much more to come in 2012.


Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes

New X-Men vol 8 (Digest) (£10-99, Marvel) by Grant Morrison & Marc Silvestri

The final word from Grant, the epitaph if you will, before Joss Whedon takes over with ASTONISHING X-MEN vol 1. I certain don’t think anyone could accuse Grant of being dull. Here the final catastrophe in New X-Men vol 7 causes Scott Summers to lose heart. He abandons the school, and through that single action rather than the death itself a terrible chain of events is set in motion which lead to the worst possible future. Morrison binds much that he has created into what at first appears a confusing few issues. It’s super-charged with long words – high pronouncements and loud protestations – and slashed onto the page through the busiest of hyperactive art. It will need re-reading, it’s so well disguised. But that’s good, and when you finally begin to understand just what has happened it makes perfect sense and provides a very satisfying wrap. Majestic, creative and bursting with energy. It is, in fact, Sublime.


New X-Men vol 8 (Digest)

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 3: Death Of Spider-Man Prelude s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli, more.

“I feel there’s something between us, you and I. I hope that doesn’t sound odd. You baffle me. I’ve been in the centre of the city for my entire life. I have met drug dealers and kings and everything in between. But I have never met anyone like you.”

I adore Sara Pichelli’s art. She is perfect for this title, keeping it young, sprightly and chic. Indeed each of the artists here is on top form but there’s one unassuming show-stealer: Chris Samnee whose subtle expressions do total justice to a scene I never thought I’d see, for the final chapter in this book contains the most surprising yet convincing, fully thought-through portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson since the newspaper publisher was first created fifty years ago. The quiet conversation – the exceedingly frank discussion – he has with young Peter breathes a real life and humanity into a character used in the regular Marvel Universe as nothing more than a two-dimension foil, a bellicose bully, and a very thick man. No one who has achieved what J. Jonah Jameson has achieved in newspaper publishing could possibly be as incessantly stupid as that human hurricane of expletives, that Ian Paisley of pejoratives.

Journalism at its best is a window on the world, and journalists at their best are constantly peering through it, pointing at things and learning from their experiences. Over the past 150+ issues, J. Jonah Jameson has seen a lot he never thought he’d see – a great deal he hoped he’d never see – and his experiences have indeed shaped him. They have changed the man; he has learned stuff. Specifically, he has learned who Peter is and what he really does, and why.

“I know I just said this two minutes ago… but I have never ever met anyone like you before in my entire life.”

J. Jonah Jameson could have outed Peter as Spider-Man weeks ago, and it would have sold him a million newspapers. He hasn’t. He’s thought about it long and hard, but he hasn’t. Here we learn why.

Before that, however, there’s a knock on Aunt May’s door. The government-sanctioned peace keepers, The Ultimates, have had a discussion of their own and some of them are adamant that Spider-Man needs locking up, shutting down or at the very least training. The destruction he leaves in his wake has been enormous (you can expect a great deal of destruction during this particular instalment with the return of the Black Cat and Mysterio hot on her tail). He’s young, relatively inexperienced and been going it solo with no one to advise or in anyway temper him. Up until now, they believe, luck has played no small part in Spider-Man’s survival, let alone his often pyrrhic victories. As to Aunt May, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane… well, prices have already been paid and it’s a miracle that any one of them is still standing. And one day, they are sure… one day Peter’s luck will finally run out and there will be casualties.

Next: Peter’s luck finally runs out.


Buy Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 3: Death Of Spider-Man Prelude 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!

Terry Moore Sketchbook vol 1: Hot Girls and Cold Feet (£8-50, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore

Stuck In The  Middle: Seventeen Comics From An Unpleasant Age (£13-99, Viking) by Gabrielle Bell, Ariel Bordeaux, Robyn Chapman, Daniel Clowes, Vanessa Davis, Nick Eliopulos, Eric Enright, Jim Hoover, Cole Johnson, Joe Matt, Jace Smith, Aaron Renier, Ariel Schrag, Tania Schrag, Dash Shaw, Lauren Weinstein

The Cartoon Introduction To Economics vol 2 (£13-50, Hill And Wang) by Yoram Bauman & Grady Klein

Evolution: The  Story Of Life On Earth s/c (£10-99, Hill And Wang) by Jay Hosler & Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon

House Of Mystery vol 7: Conception (£10-99, Vertigo/DC) by Matthew Sturges, Matt Wagner, Peter Milligan, Chris Roberson, Mike Carey & Luca Rossi, Werther Dell’Edera, Jose Marzan Jr, Brandon Graham, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Michael Allred, Peter Gross, Stefano Landini

Hellblazer vol 2: The Devil You Know (£14-99, Vertigo/DC) by Jamie Delano & David Lloyd, Bryan Talbot, Mark Buckingham, Richard Piers Rayner, Mike Hoffman, Dean Motter

Roots Of The Swamp Thing s/c (£22-50, Vertigo/DC) by Len Wein & Bernie Wrightson, Nestor Redondo, Michael Wm. Kaluta

Batman: Under The Red Hood (£22-50, DC) by Judd Winick & Doug Mahnke, Paul Lee, Shane Davis, Eric Battle

Generation Hope: Schism s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie,Salvador Espin, Tim Seeley, Steven Sanders

Secret Avengers vol 2: Eyes Of The Dragon softcover (it really *is* the s/c) (£14-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Mike Deodato, Will Conrad

X-Men: Age Of X s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Mike Carey, Si Spurrier, Jim McCann, Chuck Kim & Mirco Pierfederici, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Clay Mann, Steve Kurth, Khoi Pham, Tom Palmer, Paul Davidson

X-Men: Schism hardcover (£18-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen &Carlos Pacheco, Frank Cho, Daniel Acuna, Alan Davis, Adam Kubert, Billy Tan

Spawn Origins vol 13 (£10-99, Image) by Todd McFarlane, Brian Holguin & Greg Capullo, Dwayne Turner

Star Wars Omnibus: Shadows Of The Empire (£18-99, Dark Horse) by various

Doctor Who series 2 vol 2: When Worlds Collide (£13-50, IDW) by Tony Lee & Mark Buckingham, Matthew Dow Smith

Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei vol 12 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Koji Kumeta

K-ON! vol 4 (£7-99, Yen Press) by Kakifly

Air Gear vol 21 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Oh!Great

Bloody Monday vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ryou Ryumon & Kouji Megumi

Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney: Official Casebook vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Kenji Kuroda & Kazuo Maekawa

Gantz vol 20 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Tokyo Mew Mew Omnibus vol 2 (£10-99, Kodansha) by Reiko Yoshida & Mia Ikumi

Dracula: Classical Comics Original Text (£9-99, Classical Comics) by Bram Stoker, Jason Cobley & Staz Johnson

And that’s it for 2011!

See you all in 2012 with whatever I can cobble together on New Year’s Day for next Wednesday. New Year’s Day! I may still be sozzled. Could make for interesting reading!

 – Stephen

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