Reviews December 2011 week two

Jeff Smith has immersed himself in the underworld of fringe science, Native American mythology and symbolism, and even spent two weeks sweating bare-chested in the desert surrounded by cacti.

 – Stephen on Rasl vol 3


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

“Sigh. You know I like you…”
Whoa! No good sentence ever started like that. Don’t say but.”

It’s New Year’s Eve 2000, and young quitter Vincent is having a very bad day: four hours sleep, a freezing flat, a shower that refused to heat up and he’s late for a shift selling tickets at the Odeon which he swapped with co-worker Andrew. Still, at least that means Andrew will cover for him later so Vince can meet up with his girlfriend. Wrong! Andrew has just pulled a sickie, effectively pulling the rug from under young Vincent who’ll now have to work a double shift, miss his date and – Oh wait, unless he quits. You know, just like he quit his Philosophy course at university where he first met his girlfriend Jane. But as far as Jane is concerned this latest quit is one quit too many: it’s time to call it quits. New Year’s Eve 2000: what a total pisser!

Which reminds me – roaming the streets of Manchester after storming off in a huff (and typically forgetting his jacket) – Vince is in need of a piss. Oh, look, a dark alley! Did I mention this is a vampire comic yet? With its feet set firmly on the Mancunian ground it’s like none other you’ve ever seen before, with a tremendously funny final-page spread.

What a brilliant surprise! I’ve loved Cadwell’s THE EVERYDAY entries for ages (three issues, all in stock), and his NELSON pages did not disappoint, but this is a revelation. Right up there with Paul Grist, its lines are absolutely delicious, its spot-blacks are placed to perfection, the scene-cutting’s note-perfect, while the choreography… There’s a single stand-out freeze-frame panel towards the end of Vince in mid-air, going down for the count (not as rude as it sounds – sorry, Yaoi fans), which is magnificently weightless, every single line of his belt-loosened jeans a joy. Vince himself is a chipmunk: adorably cute, exasperatingly idiotic and very, very familiar.

This is a writer and artist relaxed, having fun, and it shows. Exposition-free, he’s in total control: lots of great visual gags, superb gesticulation on the dance floor, top-notch timing, plenty of room for layout surprises and this, Adam Cadwell, is your key to the city. The cover’s a killer as well.


Buy Blood Blokes #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Look, stick together and we’ll get through this nubile-hipster nightmare in one piece.”

Production values ahoy as La Noonan stars in her first colour special with much thicker paper and a card-stock cover! Obviously Noonan’s delighted. You can tell.

“Oh good they’re playing ‘Chelsea Chelsea’.”

The nightmare in question is a club night in Ravensdale where Doug is checking out the girls (entry fifteen plus!), Zoe is drinking whatever she can lay her hands on (she can lay her hands on a lot) and Chloe is scowling forBritain. That’s what Chloe does. But you remember she also hunts monsters, right? Turns out not everyone in the club is who they first appear; it also turns out that not everyone Chloe vents her frustration on is prepared to just sit back and take it. It’s going to be an evening that booze-blinded Zoe probably won’t remember; it’s going to be an evening that Chloe will never forget.

The colours are rich, the expressions hilarious and there’s even a guest appearance by Adam BLOOD BLOKE Cadwell. Oh yes, please note: all our initial copies are signed for free! Please note that, because I didn’t!


Buy Chloe Noonan Colour Special and read the Page 45 review here

Tesoro (£9-99, Viz) by Natsume Ono ~

Natsume’s art style dances across the page with a nervous energy in these stories of food, family, friendship, and, well, food! She really does like writing about culinary delights. Whether it’s the pickles from HOUSE OF FIVE LEAVES or Epicurean drama in RISTORANTE PARADISO, she almost always has a thread running back to the kitchen. It’s evidently a passion of hers and almost all the stories herein express it often with the humorous foibles of her characters.

In ‘Three Short Stories About Bento’ a group of working Joes, bored of their work-bought lunches, decides to change the rota in which they order from their client’s restaurant. It backfires when no one remembers to bring their own lunch on the off days, but everyone is too proud to let anyone know they’re starving. In ‘Padre’ a father tries to convince his son to eat broccoli, but his tactics are all wrong and eventually scares Padre into eating more of those bitter little trees then any boy should.

The two stories that really stand out here though are ‘Eva’s Memory’ and ‘Senza Titolo #5’, both of which share ingredients with her first success, NOT SIMPLE. Eva is an orphan with little memory of her early life, and no knowledge of who her father is. She spends her days overcompensating for this by referring to every man as her Dad, confusing and embarrassing all but the orphanage’s owner and his son. Then she sees a politician on local TV news and rushes out to meet him, there in the huge crowd she shouts “DAD!” and causes a strange chain of events to reveal more truth about her past then she may be ready for. In ‘Senza Titolo #5’ Alex is set to be released from prison and ponders why in the movies only one car ever comes to meet you when you leave. Little does he know that he will have a cavalcade of family and friends waiting with their passenger doors open. As we see each car prepare to meet Alex, we’re given opportunity to learn more about him from the reflection he makes on those closest to him.

Natsume’s stories and in particular her art style which is constantly growing and changing throughout her career is so unlike anything else coming from Japan (or anywhere else for that matter); she is a true original, and if your standard fare is Drawn & Quarterly / Fantagraphics / Top Shelf then I implore you to give this collection of her early Doujinshi (essentially mini-comics) a look.


Buy Tesoro and read the Page 45 review here

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

From the creator of BONE, a third album-sized volume of intense speculative fiction with one more to come, and I heartily suggest you read the reviews of books one and two because by this point it’s growing increasingly hard to explain without giving too much away.

Robert has been hopping divergent dimensions using science he stole from the research facility he helped run, and the one he’s in now appears to be cracking. There are… echoes, traces, visual footprints if you like, and seemingly random bursts of electricity strong enough to kill hundreds of birds in the sky. Then there’s the strange little girl, mute with a lolling head, who seems to know more than she should. On top of all this Robert has been complicating things beautifully by seeing two different women with multiple counterparts and… oh, you really do have to read this for yourself!

Jeff Smith has immersed himself in the underworld of fringe science, Native American mythology and symbolism, and even spent two weeks sweating bare-chested in the desert surrounded by cacti – something that’s imprinted itself on the art here. These trips, complete with photographs, sketches and concepts for the covers, are documented in the back.

It’s eerie, it’s unnerving, but utterly compelling, particularly the science itself. It is also, as you’d imagine, very, very beautiful in bold black and white with some extraordinary effects as the rooms start to ripple and morph.


Rasl vol 3: Romance At The Speed Of Light

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

Courage and competitiveness when confronted with a vert ramp of doom, a shop full of snazzy equipment, and the watchful gaze of girls. I was looking forward to this enormously: the cover design in black, white and red stands out a mile, Syder’s wide eyes greeting his potential readers’ straight on, and it’s easy to see why hisManchestermusic scene posters were so sought after. Also, the way he draws hair is lovely. Lovely.

Sorry, that’s about it.

It’s very thin in every aspect. There’s none of the broader self-questioning that made KING-CAT’s John Porcellino such an instant hit at Page 45 with PERFECT EXAMPLE (particularly with skateboarders but also our wider community of students) then kept them on board throughout MAP OF MY HEART etc., and when the publisher claims two “mini-interviews” with classic skateboarders as a bonus, you could fit each on the back on a postcard – after you’ve filled in the address. There’s no insight, no discipline and, worse still perhaps, even as an outsider I cannot think I learned anything new at all. A mere two-pager from ALEC’sEddie Campbell gives me far more to digest than this entire graphic novel put together. Plus Ed’s limitations as both storyteller and artist are readily apparent in the expressions which barely fluctuate and the top-left panel halfway through in which Ed is indistinguishable from his mother. Incredibly disappointing.


Buy My Skateboard Life and read the Page 45 review here

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

Album-sized anthology closer in aesthetic to KRAMERS ERGOT rather than, say, SOLIPSISTIC POP. Under a cover and interior front page by Tom Gauld, you’ll find two pages each from the likes of Kevin Huizenga (GANGES, THE WILD KINGDOM, DRAWN & QUARTERLY SHOWCASE VOL 1, more), Luke Pearson (EVERYTHING WE MISS, SOME PEOPLE, Dull Ache etc. ), Jon McNaught (PEBBLE ISLAND, BIRCHFIELD CLOSE and one the very best sequences in NELSON) Jesse Jacobs (EVEN THE GIANTS), Matthew Forsythe (OJINGOGO, NURSERY RHYME COMICS and, soon, JINCHALO), Michael Deforge (BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2011, STRANGE TALES II, Blanquet (DEAD HERRING COMICS), Gemma Correll (MAMESHIBA)…all of which we have in stock!

Some are stories, some are prints, most are bursting with pink, peach, orange and blue; and all are on the subject of doubles/duplicates. I’ve been told recently by a top-notch creator that I give far too much away in some reviews, which is the perfect excuse in this strapped-for-time week to shut up, stay neutral and let you discover how each artist interpreted their instructions for yourselves.


Nobrow 6: The Double

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

Self-contained short story collection which works as a timely introduction to the series until Dark Horse rebundles the first four books in a single package in March 2012 (as Bprd vol 1: Plague Of Frogs rather than HOLLOW EARTH  which is now out of print).

Just so you know, these tales of witchcraft and the undead come from HELLBOY: BEING HUMAN, BPRD: THE DEAD REMEMBERED #1-3, BPRD: CASUALTIES and BPRD: THE ECTOPLASMIC MAN.


Buy BPRD – Being Human and read the Page 45 review here

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

Sun Wu Kong – he such a cheeky chappy. An irrepressible free spirit with a lust for life, the Handsome Monkey King refuses to be bound by the laws of God, man, beast or even nature itself. He’s a buffoon, he’s a braggart and to be honest he can be a bit of a nob, but he’s got a driving ambition and courage aplenty. These are his earliest escapes from his sun-baked birth from a egg made of stone, his early training at the hands of Master Puti (publicly exasperated by his lack of discipline but privately impressed with the monkey man’s tenacity), his return to Spring Mountain, his brazen challenges to the Sea King et al and the Jade Emperor’s vain attempts to distract Sun Wu Kong with a position in his heavenly court. And it works for a while until the Monkey King learns of its status.

As a colourful introduction for kids to his Chinese legend, it’s not a bad précis. The art is energetic and it gallops along at a furious pace, but an intro and précis is all that this felt like. Maybe an introduction is all that’s intended – there are at least twenty more books yet to come – but I would have enjoyed more japes myself. Oddly, there is a précis of the précis in the back, but also a mini-poster looking a little more like the Jademan art some may be used to.


Buy Monkey King vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

8″x12″ slipcased hardcover reprinting BATMAN: HUSH (available as a full-colour softcover or a deluxe hardcover called BATMAN: HUSH UNWRAPPED featuring Jim Lee’s original pencils) along with a sketchbook, and the enlightening, issue-by-issue, in-depth commentary that originally appeared in WIZARD magazine.

This still feels like a console game, the end-of-level bosses in this case including Poison Ivy, The Scarecrow, The Joker, Rrahs Al — Rah’s Al Gh– the beardy bloke who relishes a good afternoon’s soak in the tub… and a back-from-the-dead Jason Todd (Robin mark II).

But I wasn’t actually kidding about how illuminating the commentary is. For example, I hadn’t realised how cleverly Jim Lee had painted the flashback sequences: the further back in time you go, the more monochromatic they are. The colours fade to grey like old photography.


Buy Batman: Hush Absolute Edition 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!

Criminal vol 6: The Last Of The Innocent (£10-99, Icon) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Sandman vol 7: Brief Lives (New Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Jill Thompson, Vince Locke, Peter Straub

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

Superman: Grounded vol 2 h/c (£16-99, DC) by J. Michael Straczynski, Chris Roberson & Eddy Barrows

Batman: No Man’s Land vol 1 (New Ed’n) (£22-50, DC) by Bob Gale, Dennis J. O’Neil, Devin Grayson, Ian Edginton, Greg Rucka, Scott Beatty, Lisa Klink, Kelly Puckett & Alex Maleev, Roger Robinson, Dale Eaglesham, D’Israeli, Frank Teran, Jason Pearson, Damion Scott, Chris Renaud, Guy Davis,Jon Bogdanove, Phil Winslade

Brightest Day vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Geoff Johns, Peter J. Tomasi & Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Fernando Pasarin, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Joe Prado

Superman: Secret Origin s/c (£14-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

Avengers West Coast Avengers: Sins Past h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Steve Englehart & Al Milgrom

X-Men: Days Of Future Past s/c (New Ed’n) (£14-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont & John Byrne*

X-Men: With Great Power softcover (£14-99, Marvel) by Victor Gischler & Chris Bachalo

Tezuka: Black Jack vol 17 (£12-99, Vertical) by Osamu Tezuka

I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow vol 4 (£9-99, Viz) by Shunju Aono

Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex vol 2: Test Station (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yu Kinutani

One Piece vol 60 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Naruto vol 54 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

Rosario + Vampire Season II vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Akihisa Ikeda

Spectrum vol 18 s/c (£22-50, Underwood Books) by various

Noche: D.Gray-man Illustrations (£16-50, Viz) by Katsura Hoshino


* I really didn’t write that review. <sigh> Next week.

– Stephen



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