Reviews December 2011 week four

I can only presume that Shooter was either going through therapy or doing some serious pharmaceutical-grade psychedelics at the time, possibly both.

 – Jonathan on Marvel’s Secret Wars 2. Can anyone recommend a good lawyer?

The Sigh h/c (£8-50, Archaia) by Marjane Satrapi.

Ah, Le Soupir! Almost everything sounds better in French, even an expression of mild disappointment.

I’ll be the first to confess that I let a little sigh slip myself when I first opened this up, but only because my life’s work is comics. Unlike PERSEPOLIS, CHICKEN WITH PLUMS and EMBROIDERIES, this from Marjane isn’t comics but a fabulous story in simple prose illustrated with brightly coloured drawings. It would sit perfectly well in our all-ages section, its silver-framed, black-and-blue cover turning children’s eyes into marbles shining with keen desire. Indeed “once upon a time” does pop its reassuring head up in the second short sentence.

Once upon a time there lived a merchant with three daughters. Since their mother had passed away he raised the daughters himself, doting on them all equally. Once a year he would journey far and wide in search of new goods to sell. Before his departure he would call his daughters together and ask what each would like as a gift upon his return, and then successfully seek out their heart’s desire. This year, like any other year, the father returned home to a delighted reception with presents for Orchid and Violet. Rose, however, had requested the seed of a blue bean, yet try as he might the merchant could find not one single specimen. Mortally embarrassed, he breaks the bad news to young Rose who inevitably lets out a sigh…

“Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.
 Knock, knock, knock!
 “Who’s there?” Asked the merchant, surprised to have a visitor at ten o’clock at night.
 “Ah the Sigh!”
 “Ah the Sigh? Who’s that?”
“Your daughter just summoned me. She said, “Ah!” I have something for her.””

It is, of course, the seed of a blue bean which the strange Sigh has brought, and in gratitude the merchant promises that if ever there is something Ah wants in return, he will on his honour gladly give it. Inevitably there is, and one year later the Sigh returns with its request: it wants the merchant’s daughter.

Now before you jump to conclusions, all is not as it seems. The Sigh is far from malevolent nor acting on its own behalf, and Rose’s story has barely begun. Indeed this couldn’t really be classed as a fable for there is no moral as such: Rose was being neither greedy, ungrateful nor materialistic, she was simply interested in botany, in nurturing; her sigh was not one of exasperation nor petulance; nor was her father’s promise boastful or rash – he was instead expressing commendable gratitude and offering to pay back a favour. Most importantly of all, no one is being punished. But there is first a mystery to be unravelled about the story behind the Sigh, then a quest with many dangers ahead as Rose embarks in search of an item of her own in order to rectify a terrible mistake.

It’s a book that’s made me ponder, a most unusual story indeed full of families which are in one way broken, damaged or threatened by loss, love or lack of it. So I suppose it is a fable after all, about love, honour and commitment – and possibly courage too.

My only regret is that I didn’t read this in French, for how much more resonant would it have been if – when asked who he was – our mysterious visitor had answered:

“Ah le Soupir!”


Buy The Sigh h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Feynman h/c (£22-50, FirstSecond) by Jim Ottaviani & Leland Myrick…

“Oh by the way, I forgot to tell you, Tommy invited us for dinner to meet an old bore.”
“An old bore? Who would… Waitaminnit – did he say an old bore, or meet the old Bohr?*”
“What difference does it make?”
“Well the spelling is different for one thing!”

Ah, whilst Stephen Hawking might arguably lay claim to be the most famous scientist of the second half of the 20th century, and despite the vocoding one busting many a phat rhyme expounding about being down with entropy and dissing the creationists in his hip-hop guise of MC Hawking, the coolest scientist of them all in my eyes at least was Richard Feynman. Most of you will probably never have heard of him, yet he was a key member of theManhattan project during WW2 helping theUS military invent the atomic bomb, and then developed a whole new branch of science called QED, Quantum Electrodynamics. Why is QED important? Well, as Feynman himself was fond of pointing out, with QED you can explain absolutely everything we ordinarily experience on a day to day basis, except gravity and radioactivity, so it’s pretty important.

I suppose Feynman first came to my attention as a kid in the aftermath of the Challenger shuttle disaster. Such was the high regard he was held in within political, military and obviously scientific circles that he was asked to be on the select committee investigating the cause of the disaster. When it became apparent that the usual spin was going to be applied to play down the causes of the disaster he threatened to release his own report, unless his conclusions were included in the official report verbatim. The powers that be reluctantly agreed, including them in their entirety, but as a separate appendix. It was widely observed that most people merely skipped the rest of the report and read Feynman’s unvarnished, and accurate, conclusions.

What I marvelled at most about Feynman, was here was someone who absolutely defied the common perception of the archetypal drab boring scientist. He played bongos, he cracked safes for a hobby, he worked on research papers whilst drinking soda every night in his favourite strip club… which his wife was actually happy to let him do. When he fancied a new challenge, he’d just up and find himself one, learning to play weird instruments, but not just being satisfied to master the basics, he’d have to become good enough to play in a band at the Rio Carnival for example! He taught himself to draw to an incredibly high standard too, and even had a crack at learning Chinese, though he did admit to finding that pretty tough.

When he won his Nobel Prize for physics, it’s pretty revealing that when anyone asked him about it and all the attendant hoopla and ceremony, his anecdote was always the snappy one-liner delivered to him by aNew Yorkcabbie, which he freely admitted he wished he’d thought of himself. The cabbie told him that when he saw Feynman being interviewed on television by reporters and asked to explain exactly why he’d won the prize, he didn’t understand a single word that Feynman had said, and that if he’d been in Feynman’s position he’d simply have stated to the assembled journalists, “If I could explain it in three minutes, it wouldn’t be worth the Nobel Prize!”

It’s a testament to the creators of this work that they manage to capture all these myriad, fascinating facets of Feynman’s life, not just his immense contributions to science, but the vigour with which he approached every single thing he did, including his romantic and professional relationships. This is an absolute must for anyone who enjoyed LOGICOMIX, in fact I would go so far as to say this is actually a superior work, which is high praise indeed given how highly I rate that particular book. And indeed this is also easily my favourite biographical work of this year too hands down. So whilst Hawking might manage to pull his nurse, and get the guest appearances on Star Trek playing poker with Picard, Feynman for me will always be the dude.

* refers, of course, to Niels Bohr, Danish Nobel prize winning physicist and another Manhattan Project member.


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

Absolute Promethea vol 3 slipcased h/c (£75-00, ABC) by Alan Moore & J.H. Williams III.

“The sun is rising. Know yourself.”

And I do, a little better, for having read this.

So ended my review of PROMETHEA VOLUME 5 softcover, the final book of one of most joyous and affecting comics of all time, right up there with FROM HELL as Alan’s crowning achievement so far. An extended essay on (and tribute to) the nature, power and accomplishments of the human imagination, it literally changed my life. If that’s sparked your curiosity, it’s all still on sale in softcover form starting with PROMETHEA VOLUME 1, and I went on to review each book in turn.

This too is the concluding chapter in Absolute form: much bigger editions to showcase the art and drool over for eternity. As always there are extras and this time they are substantial: Tom Strong’s perspective on events during the finale, the team-up with Cobweb, Splash Brannigan and Johnny Future; Timmy Turbo’s mirthful original introduction to the series from Wizard Magazine; the Winsor McCay-inspired Little Margie stories; the script to #29; an illustrated essay by artist and illuminator J.H. Williams III on his approach to composition; all the colour variants to #32’s cover; the “making of #32”… and finally a reproduction of the double-sided print previously only available as part of the signed, limited edition of PROMETHEA #32 on which all the individual pages were joined to form two single stunning images and their attendant, free-flowing narrative.


Buy Absolute Promethea vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Same Difference h/c (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Derek Kirk Kim –

Gorgeous new cover for this early work long out of print. A decade or so ago Mark wrote…

“Kim captures the ups and downs of early adulthood with sensitivity and gentle wit…. (And also) captures the small but significant moments that define young adult personalities.”
– The Comics Journal

“No American cartoonist has more promise in 2003 than Derek Kirk Kim.”
-Scott McCloud

SAME DIFFERENCE has two friends who should really get together they’ve got such a good spark. Simon tells of an almost romance he had with a blind girl at school and how he bottled it at the last moment.Nancyhas been misleading a guy through a postal romance after opening a letter meant for a previous tenant. The two Korean-Americans decide to set off to sneak a peek at the deceived Romeo. Derek keeps the beautifully toned artwork simple and direct, taking some cues from manga without straying near the amerimanga that I’ve seen too much of recently.


Buy Same Difference h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Mush!: Sled Dogs With Issues (£13-50, FirstSecond) by Glenn Eichler & Joe Infurnari…

“I liked the way you ran the team the other day. You showed real authority.”
“Just doing my job.”
“I wonder if Buddy and Venus are pulling their weight though. The wheel dogs are really supposed to provide the muscle.”
“We got where we were going. I didn’t feel anyone slacking.”
“You might not notice it because you’ve got so many other things to think about. Since I don’t have to worry about being in charge, I can pay more attention to stuff like that.”
“I’ll look out for it next time.”
“You want me to talk to them?”
“There’s nothing to talk about.”
“Sure, absolutely. Just let me know if you need my help with anything.”

Office politics as viewed the lens of a pack of sled dogs. Anyone who has ever worked in a large company will recognise the various archetypes here. This is so well written you could completely forget it’s anthropomorphics until the writer pulls out a purely canine punchline that helps puncture the tension he keeps skilfully building up between the pack. Like any large working environment there’s always someone who’s the top dog either by right or might, plus the loyal and faithful workers doing all the graft and moderately content with their lot though prone to the odd gripe or two, and of course the requisite sneaky, untrustworthy fucker who has got his eye on weaselling himself a promotion entirely at the expense of someone else, seeking to suck the weak-willed and feeble-minded into his dastardly, Machiavellian scheme as unsuspected pawns. And it’s absolutely no different here! Great fun, and lovely crisp wintry art from Joe Infurnari who I must say I’m not familiar with, but he really does a great and often hilarious turn on the dogs’ facial expressions.


Buy Mush!: Sled Dogs With Issues and read the Page 45 review here

Day Of The Magician (£22-50, Humanoids) by Michelangelo La Neve & Marco Nizzoli…

“Find peace in serenity and wisdom. The answers are within you.”
“What? Idiots!”

You’ll like it… quite a lot. Don’t panic, this isn’t a graphic biography of Paul Daniels, but rather yet another fine addition to the Humanoids imprint. This time we have the story of Drazen, son of a renegade magician abducted from his school playground as an infant, then educated (or brainwashed depending on your perspective) in a remote and isolated location and now, finally, as a young adult, being released back into the wider world on a mission to help track down and kill his father.

His father’s crime is simply having dared to break the ancient and sacred laws of the magicians, which primarily revolve around keeping themselves secret from the general population, and being celibate, as human emotions are regarded as the ultimate psychological weakness by the mages. Drazen’s father obviously didn’t succeed too well on the latter score given that he sired himself an heir, and now he’s planning on announcing his existence to the entire planetwith a very audacious scheme indeed. But why is he doing it? Is it for personal power and glory? Or to try and win back his son perhaps? Certainly he knows that the magicians will never rest until they’ve eliminated him, so eliminating them first is definitely high on his agenda. And how will Drazen react when he finally comes face to face with his father? Will he succumb to the mages’ conditioning, or rebel and side with his father? Who of course it goes without saying has a very special plan of his own for Drazen.

La Neve weaves an intricate story, where fantasy and our own modern reality sit quite believably alongside one another. Neither set of protagonists can honestly really claim to have the moral high ground as both parties are prepared to do absolutely whatever it takes to come out on top. I particularly liked the misdirection regarding the final outcome, a nice sleight of hand I didn’t see coming. You start to think you know where it’s all going, perhaps even feeling slightly it’s heading into the realms of predictability and… just like that… you’ve been fooled. Sorry, couldn’t resist a Tommy Cooper reference there. Nizzoli’s art is pretty good too, I must say. He clearly aspires to a Moebius-like style, though at times it perhaps feels ever so slightly stiff in places compared to the great man. But that’s not even a gripe, just a very minor observation, because despite a very chunky page count, I would have loved this work to be even longer, I enjoyed it that much.


Day Of The Magician

Witch Doctor vol 1: Under The Knife (£9-99, Image) by Brandon Seifert & Lukas Ketner.

“Go to the hospital and get a C.T. scan.”
“A Computed Tomography scan. A sciencey thing at the doctory place.”

Fast and furious comedy-horror described byWarren Ellisas “mental”. He’s not wrong.

Meet Dr. Morrow, the man who knows monsters, and he’s got plenty to play with here: demons, Deep Ones, cuckoo faeries and vampires, all infected with parasites desperate to worm their way into all and sundry. Fortunately he’s adept at adapting and able to make complex diagnoses on the run. There’s method in his madness – but then there’s an awful lot of madness to his methods, hence being called up in front of the board.

“Doctor, I’ll remind you again why we’re here –“
“Yes, I know. You want to take away my license. You’re hardly the first.”
“This isn’t some bureaucratic slap on the wrist. When they brand our chakras to destroy your magical abilities, they don’t use anaesthetic. The vocal portion of the spell will be your screaming. Now. Pray continue. …Well?”
“I’ve forgotten my place.”
“You certainly have.”

These are all house calls from hell, so the prescriptions are bitchin’ and if all else fails there’s young Penny Dreadful, the bad doctor’s agile assistant with a ravenous appetite and several mental disorders. She’s not as simple as she seems and I sense a sub-plot in the offing. But it’s all the mad medicine I love the most, so wittily and convincingly adapted to Dr. Morrow’s purpose, for if he’s somewhat cavalier with his caution, he’s thorough in his findings and it all makes perfect sense. Here he’s found a vampire to examine – identity unknown – one with a lot more teeth than the ones you’re used to…

“Show us that lovely smile.”
“Thank you. Lady and gentleman, meet Vlad Doe. A reanimate hematophage.”
“Obligate? Or facultative?”
“Obligate. But blood is just a substrate for pneumatosynthesis – metabolizing other people’s life energy.”
“Does he sparkle?”
“On a sunny day he burns like white phosphorous. That’s…like sparkling. His saliva’s got the usual bloodfeeder chemistry set – vasodilator, anticoagulant, and an anaesthetic – plus some interesting mystical secretions. I think this one’s an anterograde amnesiac.”

Its victims won’t know what’s bit them.

Seifert in the back makes the very valid point that in horror it’s all about the monsters: Count Dracula isn’t the protagonist in Bram Stoker’s novel, yet he’s most certainly its star; it’s the monster who’s remembered in Frankenstein rather than its creator to the extent that the monster’s mistakenly referred to as ‘Frankenstein’ instead. And that’s where Ketner’s excelled – in the monsters themselves, every one of which here is a slimy masterpiece of complete reinvention mostly playing on our deep-rooted fear of parasites. That’s Seifert’s emphasis too: things living inside you. Each of the horrors here is playing host to another looking to spread its disease further still. Infectious!


Buy Witch Doctor vol 1: Under The Knife and read the Page 45 review here

Rocketeer Adventures vol 1 h/c (£18-99, IDW) by various.

“Cliff Secord, where have you been?!”

Not to be confused with Dave Stevens’ original ROCKETEER material already in stock, this is the recent tribute anthology with a stellar line-up of creators, and Dave Stevens would be very proud indeed.

In the first issue alone there were three short stories, each faithful in their own individual ways to different aspects of Dave Stevens’ rocket-fuelled retro with the luscious Betty (Page) centre-stage in each. John Cassady’s lifts off right in the middle of a military heist / blackmail / kidnapping which feels very early-Superman complete with our Lois Lane substitute giving the Rocketeer a right roasting for being late / impulsive / accommodating. On top of that, being Cassady, it is as lush and shiny as hell. Allred’s is a breathless and far more romantic affair which takes full advantage of the Art Deco, star-themed crown of the Chrysler Building for its sense of wonder and air-born liberation. Busiek and Kaluta, however, as you might expect, go for heart as Betty, very much the successful stage star in her own right, eschews the superficial rewards fame lays on for her each and every night to immerse herself in letters sent from the frontline of WWII by her beloved Cliff Secord flying alongside an air force squadron who of course have Betty Page painted on most of their planes’ fuselages. He makes light of the danger but she sees right through him, and suddenly – for days, weeks then months – the post stops arriving and Betty starts to fear for the worst…

One of my favourite Alex Ross pieces in ages graces the front cover. The colours are rich, the perspective a perfect piece of foreshortening; and the different leather textures and metallic sheens all suggest a sunshine up above which fills the space before brightening up the green fields below.


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

The Red Wing (£10-99, Image) byJonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra.

From the creator of NIGHTLY NEWS and current writer of Shield and FANTASTIC FOUR, a science fiction series and a second stab at time travel, this one lighter on text with lots of space and a very clean line. Here we’ve jumped back to the Tithonian Age where the slim ships have to navigate past vast, feeding dinosaurs:

“Just look at that, Captain. Over twenty tons of vegetarian monster the likes of which the world has never seen again… I wonder what they taste like.”

So much for evolution.

“Time travel should have ushered in the golden age of scientific discovery — It should have ushered in the golden age of MAN. Instead, we were reduced to using it for war. And in war total victory is not defined by simple dominance of the battlefield. Overcoming the enemy is not enough. In many ways, victory simply means bitterness and bile for the defeated — The genesis on a deep-seated hatred that is always seen again.”

That’s certainly how WWI turned into WWII, and there’s plenty more to give you pause for thought in the first chapter alone, for if you can wage war in four dimensions – if a battle really isn’t over until you say it’s over as long as you can cling to the technology to travel back in time and change its outcome repeatedly – when do you stop? At what point do you decide enough is enough for any given battle and at which point of time do you begin or go back to start your temporal chain reaction? Also, if your enemy is similarly equipped, surely the only option is to bomb them back into the Stone Age or obliterate them completely or they’ll just reboot things themselves? That’s a whole new frontier you’d need to constantly patrol: you’d need to defend not just your finite, physical borders but an almost limitless number of chronological borders too.

As it transpired, the series ran in a different direction I never foresaw, so I’ve given nothing away at all – just something for you to think about! Instead the focus is on Dominic, a new recruit flying in the wake of his father who went missing in action and so presumed dead, for no one has survived a shield failure during time travel. Mathematically it is so improbable as to be practically impossible.

“But ask yourself: isn’t a statistical improbability a massive number when standing in contrast to all of space-time?”

So what happened to Dominic’s father?


Buy The Red Wing and read the Page 45 review here

Moon Knight by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev vol 1 h/c (£2-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev.

“I think there’s something really wrong with you, and normally I wouldn’t judge, but you’re playing a dangerous game. You’re asking me to cook up armours and chemicals that even Nick Fury specifically put a kibosh on. You’re walking around with the head of a homicidal artificial intelligence and you want to use it as bait to catch a criminal… And you don’t even know who the criminal is.”
“Here then. You keep it.”
“The Avengers let you keep it?”
“Because Captain America trusts me. Which you’d think would be enough to get anyone to trust me. I wonder what I would have to do to get you to.”
“It ain’t that I don’t trust you.”
“Sure it is.”
“It’s that I don’t think you’re all right. Bipolar, Aspergers… I don’t know what….”
“I hear voices.”

From the creative team behind SCARLET (ooh, look, interior art!), ALIAS (nothing to do with the TV series but possibly the best thing ever from Marvel), SPIDER-WOMAN (lurid!), and definitely the best-ever run on DAREDEVIL… a 7,205th attempt at Moon Knight to coincide with the number of personalities battling away in his nocturnal noggin. You can add three more here, and they’ll be readily familiar to you.

Finally after half a century of modern Marvel continuity, some of the supervillains have figured out that if 963 superheroes have chosen to live in Manhattanand only one in Los Angeles, they’d be 963 times less likely to get busted if they relocated to L.A.. Marc Spector also happens to be in L.A., overseeing the launch of his Legend Of Khonshu TV show, so the Avengers call on him to scare the bejeezus out of the criminal community there… IN HIS MIND!

Lo and behold, however, a new Kingpin has indeed set himself up – one with a power level that makes Mr. Hyde’s look puny. That’s unfortunate for Marc because Moon Knight barely survives a dust-up with Hyde. Instead he’s deep under Hyde’s yacht when the two villains confront each other, and when they do there’s little left of Hyde or the yacht, so Spector retreats with the prize he’s salvaged from the boat: the gleaming head of genocidal Ultron. Obviously Moon Knight is way out of his depth – this is going to take a whole team full of Avengers. It’s a bit of a shame, then, that THEY’RE ALL IN HIS MIND!!!

A clever new twist in Marc’s long-standing mental illness, this series set well away from the somewhat convoluted doings at Marvel central comes with a brand-new supporting cast including ex-Avenger Echo (she’s real), ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. operative Buck Lime and an arch P.A. on the Hollywood set who hates the show she’s working on. Also, that new Kingpin of crime who isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s snappy, far from obvious and whilst Maleev is being far more economical with the art here than he is in SCARLET, there are some exceptional light effects under the water, high above the smoking remains of the yacht, and indeed any time our mystery villain really lets loose. Here’s Captain America displaying his trust:

“If he gets an Ultron up and running… An artificial intelligence that wants to wipe out humankind…”
“I know what I’m doing.”

He really doesn’t.


Moon Knight By Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev vol 1 hardcover

Spider-Man: Mark Millar Ultimate Collection (£25-99, Marvel) by Mark Millar & Terry Dodson, Frank Cho.

The complete Mark Millar saga which amply answered J.Jonah Jameson’s broken record of a question: “If he’s such a great guy, why does he need to wear a mask?” Because the mafia like to know where your family live.

Aunt May has been abducted by someone who obviously knows who Spider-Man is, but there’s a limit as to who could or should have known and what they could possibly gain. The most obvious culprit is Norman Osborn, The Green Goblin, but he’s under lock and key and swears he has nothing to do with it.

Hampering Peter in his desperate search – harrying him, it seems, at every juncture – is a virtual “Who’s Who” of his worst and oldest enemies, some of them remarkably enhanced since their last encounters. Is this a coincidence, or part of a larger scheme? And could Peter’s worst mistake have been to put his greatest threat behind bars? Because if the stakes are that high, don’t you make contingency plans? If you’re a businessman, don’t you take out insurance, especially when your own life is in danger? It all goes back to control, to the early days of the first superheroes, when those were used to being in charge – politicians and businessmen alike – found these self-appointed crusaders for justice getting just a little too close for comfort, and a little too enthusiastic about their moral crusade. They’re not going to take it lying down; they’re going to provide… distractions.

Sexily drawn by the Dodsons, Millar pushes all the fanboy buttons whilst delivering on the entertainment rather than just stuffing the stocking for the sake of it. It’s the classic Spider-Man tale so far: a rollicking good read with moments of true emotional rather than just splash-page drama, and some clever, logical thought behind it.


Buy Spider-Man: Mark Millar Ultimate Collection and read the Page 45 review here

Secret Wars (£25-99, Marvel) by Jim Shooter & Mike Zeck, Bob Layton…

“We won the first skirmish, but not the war! Not by a long shot!”
“So let’s go out and win it! Why are we sitting here?”
“First, Wolverine, because we don’t know where all our foes are! It’s a big planet! Galactus, Doctor Doom, The Molecule Man, The Wrecker, The Absorbing Man… and Magneto… are still out there. Any one of the them is too dangerous to take lightly! We have an advantage now! Let’s not blow it!”
“You’re nuts, flag-man!”

Ostensibly little more than a 1984 twelve-issue mini-series vehicle to help launch a Mattel line of toy figures by contriving a situation whereby pretty much all the major Marvel superheroes and villains could have one massive sequence of fights. And yet, and yet, somehow it became something so much more splendidly, ridiculously epic than that, as Jim Shooter just let his imagination run riot. The paper-thin plot device to start the ball rolling involves the cosmic entity known as the Beyonder clicking his fingers and spiriting all and sundry – and a good chunk of New York to boot – off to a planetcalled Battleworld, created just for the occasion, where after said fights to the death the winners would receive all they could possibly desire.

There’s pretty much the then Who’s Who of the Marvel Universe duking it out including, for some strange reason, Galactus who you might think would have a bit of an unfair advantage. What makes this fun, though, are all the crazy side plots going on. The winsome Wasp having a strange beauty-and-the-beast interlude with the Lizard, Spider-Man donning his black costume for the first time (little knowing that in fact it’s the alien symbiote Venom), Owen Rees the Molecule Man figuring out that in fact he’s near-omnipotent himself, and good old Doctor Doom, who despite the top prize on offer decides he’d rather take on the Beyonder himself. Does he not realise it’s going to take the mother of all team-ups to take down that bad boy? Still, everyone’s got to do the let’s-all-fight-each-other bit first, I suppose, those are the rules after all!

It’s absolute hokum, there’s no doubt about that whatsoever, but it is such good fun, you can’t help but shake your head and go with it. Every character gets a chance for a quick star turn and there are some lovely moments I can still remember reading with awe as a twelve-year-old from first time around, such as Captain America, in the aftermath of the final battle, with the Beyonder’s residual cosmic energies still crackling all around, reassembling his shattered shield using only his indomitable will power and wholesome all-American apple-pie goodness. And then, before you can reach for the ultimate (plot device) nullifier, everyone is back safe and sound inCentral Park. Well not quite everyone, Ben Grimm stayed behind for a year or so, sulking, in a truly forgettable mini-series of his own, but that’s a different story which is definitely not worth reading… ever.

Bagatelle art from Mike Zeck and Bob Layton complement Shooter’s frenetic storytelling and over-the-top dialogue perfectly. (I’m surprised the letterer didn’t get sick of finishing every single sentence with an exclamation mark, actually.) If you’re only going to buy one big slice of stinky, vintage cheese for Christmas this year, then make it this one.


Buy Secret Wars and read the Page 45 review here

Secret Wars 2 (£22-50, Marvel) by Jim Shooter & Al Milgrom…

“So uh… uh, you observed Earth through the pinhole and decided to check it out right? Why don’t you lie down again, Beyonder, and we’ll retrace your steps after you came to Earth!”
“All right, but there’d better be a point to this!”
“Here we are a few weeks after you came to Earth and assumed human form! Tell me about this time in your life!”
“Well, I was pretty bored! I’d learned humans want things… money, power, each other, you know… and try to acquire them! So I thought I’d do that too, see if it brought some kind of fulfilment! I’d taken over the whole world…”
“No fulfilment that way huh?”
“No! And no other way either!”
“You tried finding love right?”

So, because the first mini-series went down so well, and presumably sold millions of toys, they wouldn’t let it lie would they? (Nor the non-stop exclamation marks neither.) In fact, they got this sequel out pretty sharpish (just one year later in 1985), in which the Beyonder comes to Earth, still puzzled by the events on Battleworld, desiring to understand humanity better, and whilst I remember being massively disappointed by it at the time, thinking it was complete drivel, in fact I found it hilariously brilliant this time around.

It is quite literally like nothing else from Marvel you will have ever read. Shooter clearly knows he’s got to come up with something different for the sequel (surprising given Marvel have based their entire existence on just retreading the same thing ad nauseam) and boy did he do just that. It’s like a five-year-old omnipotent child romping through the entire Marvel cast, desiring to be enlightened and educated, by asking the most ridiculous questions and doing the most ridiculous things, such as flying a Lamborghini Countach through fighter jets whilst chopping up vegetables in a food processor for example. I kid you not…

I can completely understand why I wondered what the hell I was reading at the time, and why this was regarded as such a complete turkey, and I suppose, technically it is. But hey it’s Christmas, and even turkey gets its turn once a year no? If you want to read something so completely different, so completely out there, that it makes Jonathan Hickman’s S.H.I.E.L.D. look like the Beano then this is for you. I can only presume that Shooter was either going through therapy or doing some serious pharmaceutical-grade psychedelics at the time, possibly both. It’s clear the only way this project could have possibly got past the editorial committee at the time is because he was actually the then editor-in-chief of Marvel!

I think actually this is possibly is a work of genius, deranged genius certainly, but I defy anyone not to open this book at any random point whatsoever, read just two pages and not be amused by what they read. Even as I type this I’m shaking my head chuckling. Makes the STRANGE TALES humour strips look like serious, heavyweight stuff.


Secret Wars 2

Daredevil: Guardian Devil restocked (£14-99, Marvel) by Kevin Smith & Joe Quesada.

Just before the Brian Michael Bendis run…

Daredevil is given a child only to be told by one party that it’s the Saviour, and by another that it’s the Anti-Christ, and he’s barely able to catch his breath before someone very close to him pays the price. Film-maker Smith writes intelligently and compassionately about love, faith, death and the will to go on, and the art is equally up to the task. For whilst Quesada and Palmiotti, with the help of some gorgeous, lambent colouring, deliver a feast of bold and thrilling form, they still manage to bring a simple quietness to the many scenes which require both delicacy and restraint.


Buy Daredevil: Guardian Devil and read the Page 45 review here

Hitman vol 5: Tommy’s Heroes (£22-50, DC) by Garth Ennis & John McCrea.

Bullets, bravado and bar-room banter. Not your regular DC Universe fare at all, this is a much bigger slab than usual, and may – may – be the first time this material’s been reprinted. I know DC never made it to the end the first time round. They say…

“When British S.A.S. commandos and a troop of mafia soldiers target Tommy Monaghan and his partner, Natt, they must stand side by side in a fight they cannot win. Then, Tommy and his comrades sign up for mercenary action inAfricaagainst super-powered opponents. Collected from HITMAN #23-36 and 1,000,000.”


Buy Hitman vol 5: Tommy’s Heroes 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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Wars: Blood Ties: Jango And Boba Fett (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Tom Taylor & Chris Scalf

Farscape vol 6: Compulsions s/c (£9-99, Boom!) by Rockne S. O’Bannon, Keith R.A. Decandido & Will Sliney

Dorohedoro vol 5 (£9-99, Viz) by Q Hayashida

Dogs – Bullets & Carnage vol 6 (£8-99, Viz) by Shirow Miwa

Tenjo Tenje 2-in-1 Edition vol 4 (£10-99, Viz) by Oh!Great

Kobato vol 5 (£7-99, Yen) by Clamp

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

Higurashi vol 16: Atonement Arc vol 2 (£7-99, Yen) by Ryukishi07 & Karin Suzuragi

March Story vol 3 (£9-99, Viz) by Kim Yang

XXXholic vol 18 (£8-50, Del Rey) by Clamp

Mardock Scramble vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Tow Ubukata & Yoshitoki Oima

All being well there will be more as usual next week, though current correspondents, please take note: retail at Christmas is such a big rush that I don’t even have time to read my own speeding tickets!

On yeah, wait: deliveries for the next fortnight are on Thursdays rather than Wednesdays, so maybe reviews will be on Thursday nights. Not sure – I’m making this up as I go along.

Either way, big hugs for Christmas, folks, and thanks so much for your support this year. 2011 has been a tough one for every retailer and we’re not immune. That you even read these reviews is very much appreciated!


– Stephen

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