Reviews March 2012 week four

The exceptional Page 45 feature written by the Nottingham Post’s Lynette Pinchess is now up online! Click on that sentence to read, and if you enjoy it, please, please spread the word by twitter or email or Facebook. Or even carrier pigeon! Thanks. I could not be happier!

The Lovecraft Anthology vol 2 (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by Jamie Delano, Chris Lackey, David Camus, Dwight L. MacPherson, Chad Filfer, Pat Mills, Benjamin Dickson, Simon Spurrier, Dan Lockwood & Steve Pugh, Adrian Salmon, Nicolas Fructus, Paul Peart-Smith, Bryan Baugh, Attila Futaki, Mick McMahon, Matt Timson, Warwick Johnson Cadwell…

“That is not dead which can eternal lie.”

Which obviously means my darling tornado of a daughter who turns one on Sunday isn’t planning on giving me a much needed lie-in until I’m six feet under…

Or it could be the bold Lovecraft legend on the shiny rare bookplates that will be included free for the first few lucky purchasers of this second volume of eldritch horror at Page 45. Get yours whilst sanity – I mean stocks – last!

After the monster (ho ho) success of LOVECRAFT ANTHOLOGY VOLUME ONE publishers SelfMadeHero have rightly wasted no time in getting out a second compilation of creepy, sanity-testing tales penned by the great man himself, and adapted by a whole host of luminescent luminaries such as Jamie Delano, Pat Mills and Si Spurrier. As before a completely different art style is employed on each story by an extremely talented and stylistically eclectic set of artists. Actually, the first thing that strikes you before you’ve even opened the book are the four tiny bits of spot-vanish which form two pairs of glowing eyes looking out of two cadaverous beings shambling along a rather scary looking street. They really do seem to follow you around the room, which serves to get you in just the right frame of spooky haunted house mind before you begin reading. The stories themselves will all be familiar to Lovecraft devotees, but whether you’ve read the original prose or not, you will find every single one of these adaptations disturbing, one or two them extremely so due to the art. Perfect for anyone looking for some pure spine-tingling period horror.

JR

Buy The Lovecraft Anthology vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

The Intrepid Escape Goat vol 1: The Curse Of The Buddha’s Tooth (£9-99, Th3rd World Studios) by Brian Smith.

“Where are you taking me? Who was that man? Where are the dancers? And the fire jugglers? You better not have wrinkled my dress! Where’s the feast? I’m starving! This is the worst ceremony ever!”

Poor Princess Isis! She’s just been rudely awakened – from her pyramid tomb in Egypt, thousands of years after she last took a breath and way before they invented ice cream! Caught in a conflict between debonair, world-famous escapologist Thomas Fleet and his faithless assistant Fassad, Miss mini-myth is going to waste no time at all catching up with such modern delights as the Knickerbocker Glory and letting her elders-but-not-betters know exactly what she thinks. She’s not just a diva, she’s a goddess!

But Thomas Fleet, the Intrepid Escape Goat (he is a goat; he is intrepid and escapes from all sorts of stuff), has more pressing concerns. Having fired Fassad, he is need of a new assistant for his public performances and Princess Isis fits the bill. Not only that but he’s been challenged by a newspaper to expose the mystical doings of a certain Sri Lankan Princess Jayani who’s offered to use her ancient Buddha’s Tooth to discover the whereabouts of the royal Windsor family fortune via (wait for it) the appliance of séance!

Can our doubting Thomas get over his own scepticism of no-nonsense, non-mechanical magic to reveal what’s really going on? Can little Isis stop scoffing seventy-five scoops of ice cream for five seconds and so pay attention? It’s pretty unlikely.

Yet another Young Adult graphic novel that has made me grin again, this full-colour fandango will go over so well with those who’ve loved books like ZITA THE SPACEGIRL because it’s artlessly exuberant and. Just. Good. Fun. Art included, it’s like a modern Scooby Doo with its supernatural crime-solving and occasional anthropomorphism. Fassad, for example, really is a snake – in the grass, Egyptian sand or otherwise. And if you think I’ve been too heavy on the puns myself, Brian Smith should stand up and also take half the blame: this entire book centres on a crime in which the The Intrepid Escape Goat is cast as… the scapegoat!

G’ahh!

SLH

Buy The Intrepid Escape Goat vol 1: The Curse Of The Buddha’s Tooth and read the Page 45 review here

The Red Tree (£7-99, Lothian) by Shaun Tan.

From the creator of THE ARRIVAL, Page 45’s Comicbook of the Month December 2007, this too will give you pause for thought, especially if you’re a young person lost in the world.

It’s not so much a story as a short evocation which is heralded by a McKean-like clock against a Van Gogh cornfield, letters leaking from its base as they do from the child’s megaphone on the previous page. Inside it’s leaves piling up on the girl’s bedroom floor before the surrealism really kicks in courtesy of an enormous coelacanth floating down the high street above her. It’s not the last of the leviathans to come crashing onto the pages, either.

“Darkness overcomes you… Nobody understands… The world is a deaf machine…”

Interpret it as you will. To me, with its padlocked windows it’s an exploration of bewilderment, helplessness and hopelessness – the struggles most of us face, when children, to understand our identity, our place in the world or even perceive our future. If you’re young and going through that at the moment, you have my deepest sympathy and empathy, but it isn’t hopeless, I promise you, as this book makes clear.

SLH

Buy The Red Tree and read the Page 45 review here

The Viewer (£7-99, Lothian) by Gary Crew & Shaun Tan.

Well it’s certainly a picture book driven by inventive and densely coded images as you’d expect from the creator of THE ARRIVAL, but I’m not sure I’d want children reading it for fear they’ll fall in. They’ll certainly never go near a View-Master again.

This is what young Tristan finds within an old box he salvages from a rubbish dump. That, and three discs. Instead of a “3-D” light show of a Thunderbirds episode, however, he is drawn into a chronicle of evolution, and a history of death, natural disaster and man-made violence as the discs update themselves overnight. But how were these images recorded, and if the discs seek to update themselves, who will be their next witness?

Like THE LOST THING and THE RABBITS, this is a book that will reward thought and attention to detail. If you read Shaun’s own comments on his website, you’ll be drawn to investigate yourself, but I suggest you do so late at night and on your second bottle of booze so that you forget most of the details and rediscover them for yourselves. They’re certainly there to find.

SLH

Buy The Viewer and read the Page 45 review here

Strangers In Paradise pocketbook vol 4 restocks (£13-50, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

You don’t need yet another review of this, do you? You do?!

Okay: David loves Katchoo who loves Francine who probably does love Katchoo, though she’s going to marry Brad anyway. Isn’t she? Tambi wants David to impregnate Katchoo, but Katchoo doesn’t want David, so he may have to impregnate Tambi instead. Freddie was unfaithful to Francine, but can’t leave her alone; so Francine has three suitors and a mother but would rather they all left her alone. Oh, and guess who’s pregnant? Also: Casey is finally beginning to pick Katchoo up off the floor of rejection. But just because the past is a foreign place, it doesn’t mean it won’t cross borders, and someone should tell them both to look over their shoulders…

An awful lot happens in this big volume, and a lot that happens is awful. Will anything ever be the same? No, unlike most superhero series that pose that question, in this instance it won’t. Get your hankies out and prepare your heartstrings for another tough tug courtesy of one of the sweetest gentlemen on the planet.

For far more in-depth coverage of this extraordinary series, please see reviews of SiPPKT VOL 1 and VOL 2 and, oh yes, VOL 3.

SLH

Buy Strangers In Paradise pocketbook vol 4 and read the Page 45 review here

Elektra: Assassin h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Frank Miller & Bill Sienkiewicz –

Deadly but beautiful ninja action from 1987. Bill’s art begins to approach the wild invention of STRAY TOASTERS with lashings to photocopies, splayed paint, collage, stickers and time-saving short cuts. The first chapter alone seems to have given David Mack his current tortoise-like career. Frank’s splintered storyline uses multiple voices to give a sense of confusion in both the narrative and their own minds.

We begin with Elektra escaping from the asylum, controlling her memories and trying to keep the ninja training at the forefront. Throughout the book, this discipline is responsible for many great plot twists – mind-swapping, lightning-quick reflexes, mind-control, everyday objects used as weapons. There is a great beast looking to bring the destruction of the world by controlling the mind of the next president of the United Statesand Elektra must stop him. Although this was published by Epic, it references Miller’s earlier DAREDEVIL storyline but the only Marvel bleed-through we get to see is a big-gun-obsessed Nick Fury along with several disposable S.H.I.E.L.D operatives.

MAS

Elektra: Assassin hardcover

Ultimate Comics: X-Men vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Paco Medina, Carlo Barberi.

“”The Tomorrow People.” Sounds great on a loop, doesn’t it? It sent a message that we were the future. We represented progress, evolutionary and otherwise. We were what comes next. But obviously there’s a problem with being the people of tomorrow… Tomorrow will never be today.”

The thought that’s been poured into this! Nick Spencer has made the political personal and the personal political, and thrown in fear, grief, religion and retribution. The only thing that’s emphatically missing is evolution, and that, for some, will make all the difference in the world.

In the wake of ULTIMATUM – the flood of nigh-Biblical proportions caused by Magneto’s tectonic temper tantrum – the American government, under the “apprehend or execute” statute, has made it legal to shoot on sight any mutant refusing to turn themselves in. Some like Storm and Colossus have already been interned in concentration camps where torture is rife. Others like Kitty Pryde (The Shroud), Bobby Drake (Iceman) and Johnny Storm (The Human Torch), reeling from the death of their friend Peter Parker in ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN VOL 4: DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN, have fled to the Morlock tunnels.

But now, everything changes. The public’s just learned that mutants, far from being the natural result of Darwinian evolution, are the direct, man-made result of experimental bio-engineering conducted and funded by the United States government in Canada.* In other words, the very existence of a man like Magneto who could drown entire cities is the U.S.government’s fault. So many loved ones were lost in the deluge, and America has exploded into mass protest and riots. But for Reverend William Stryker Jr it’s not just that he lost loved ones, it’s that the American government played God. They interfered with His Plan, and now both the government and the abominations they spawned must pay.

Now… that’s just the set-up. What actually happens is so far from obvious. Spencer has woven an astonishingly intricate yet elaborate tapestry from precisely placed, multiple threads which aren’t necessarily the colours they first appear. What exactly is Quicksilver – a known mutant terrorist – doing in the White House with the President’s ear? Why, after Rogue appears to have fallen off everyone’s radar, does she suddenly create such a spectacle of herself when she knows she’ll be hunted by death-dealing Nimrods? She says God told her to. Has she too found religion? The full picture reveals itself only gradually, but when it does – oh, the surprises!

There are some very neat touches like Stryker, haunted by his father, adopting the monk’s traditional past-time of self-flagellation. Talk about beating yourself up. Also, the smile-inducing  dialogue between Bobby and Johnny is full of pop culture references, but if you think it’s all rosy between those two and Kitty, well, these are bad times, they’re burning with grief and harsh words will be spoken. Not really surprising when you find yourself in a world where your very existence is illegal.

* See ULTIMATE ORIGINS for how, and ULTIMATE COMICS: DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN FALLOUT for the public revelation.

SLH

Buy Ultimate Comics: X-Men vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Astonishing X-Men: Joss Whedon Ultimate Collection vol 2 (£22-50, Marvel) by Joss Whedon & John Cassaday.

Brilliant, beautiful and tremendously cruel. I had my doubts when Whedon was given Grant Morrison’s set-up to play with, but he grasped the baton, ran full-pelt and won gold medal by a visible distance. Helped in no small part by having a consistently impressive single artist rather than at-times barely readable companions on Morrison’s travels, Whedon delivered sharply timed reversal after reversal, of which there are several here, each of which confounded expectations he’d carefully set up with surprises which were equally well constructed when you went back and looked.

Features the single finest use of telepathy I’ve ever come across (one such reversal), and concludes with the biggest reversal of all. For as the series began Kitty Pryde was still mourning the death of her old flame, Peter Rasputin AKA Colossus. Now, having been resurrected by one of the Breakworld’s warriors to rid Earth of mutants in order to avert the doom prophesied to their own planet, and freed from his strange-metal prison by Kitty, Colossus learns that it is he who is forecast to destroy Breakworld: they have created the means of their own destruction. But at least he and Kitty can finally be together…

Yeah, right.

The complete second half of Whedon’s in a single volume.

SLH

Buy Astonishing X-Men: Joss Whedon Ultimate Collection vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Essential Hulk vol 3 new edition (£14-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas & Herbe Trimpe, Gil Kane.

“Hulk can lift buildings in the air… Smash thru solid steel! But the boy is dying… and Hulk can do nothing to save him! Hulk never felt so weak before… so helpless! Wait! The boy moves — groans — ! Then maybe it’s not too late — not yet! Maybe Hulk can save Jim — if he can just figure out what to do! Think, Hulk! No matter how hard it is… think!!”

See, if I were General Talbot Ross, I wouldn’t come after The Hulk with several squadrons of weapon-loaded stealth jets. I’d just set him quadratic equations.

Fortunately the Hulk has taken Jim to the shores of a lovely deep lake:

WATER! Yes! Water is the answer — it has to be! Cool water always makes Hulk feel well again — strong again! Maybe it will do the same for Jim! It has to!”

Dear God, he’s going to drown him!

The Hulk’s a marvellous creation, a stupid version of Frankenstein’s monster – i.e. the one popularised by Boris Karloff rather than Mary Shelley’s version – unleashed in moments of rage with a vocabulary as limited as his powers of comprehension. Yet somehow he manages to understand words like “litter” when the General refers to a stretcher being lowered from a helicopter:

“Won’t you let me have a litter lowered for him — before it’s too late?”
“Ross want to cover Jim in bones, jam and rusty tiny cans?! How that help Jim?! That just Modern Art!”

No, of course he doesn’t say that. He says, “Yes — a litter! Maybe you can do — what Hulk can’t!”

And then they start shooting at him again. Poor, misunderstood child.

All the regulars are here in their primitive joy: The Leader, The Abomination (who has found himself on board an alien spaceship as first mate), The Rhino, The Sandman (who forces Betty Ross into a blood transfusion which transforms her into a glass statue which proceeds to wobble precariously each time The Hulk jumps at a plane), The Avengers, Hydra, Maximus, The Absorbing and The Glob. Ah, The Glob! Yet another muck creature your mother would kill you for bringing into the sitting room. Twenty-eight issues of numbnut nostalgia, admittedly in black and white, for just under fifteen quid. Hours of mirth, if you want to rewrite some of the dialogue and send it to your friends.

SLH

Buy Essential Hulk vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Flashpoint: The World Of Flashpoint featuring The Flash s/c (£13-50, DC) by Scott Kolins, Adam Glass, Sean Ryan, Sterling Gates  & Scott Kolins, Joel Gomez, Rodney Buchemi, Ig Guara, Oliver Nome, Trevor Scott…

Wee bit of naughty titling from DC this one, as whilst it certainly features The Flash it doesn’t actually have any FLASH issues in. Although, to be fair, there weren’t any published during FLASHPOINT! Instead this collects the REVERSE FLASH, CITIZEN COLD, LEGION OF DOOM, GROOD OF WAR and KID FLASH LOST FLASHPOINT tie-ins. The Legion Of Doom is my pick of the bunch featuring various good guys and bad guys in their different FLASHPOINT incarnations, including a psychopathic Plastic Man, having a huge face-off inside prison. I did also enjoy the Citizen Cold mini which does a completely different heroic take on that character. The other stories were okay, though there was a much better Reverse Flash story told in the main Flash title a few months ago which involved the not so good Professor constantly fine-tuning his own origin story. Flash Fact: it was issue #8 for those of you who want to read it. Overall, probably the weakest of the FLASHPOINT supporting books.

JR

Buy Flashpoint: The World Of Flashpoint featuring The Flash s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Flashpoint: The World Of Flashpoint featuring Green Lantern s/c (£13-50, DC) by Adam Schlagman, Jeff Lemire, Pornsak Pichetshote & Felipe Massafera, Robson Rocha, Joe Prado, Ibraim Roberson, Alex Massacci, Ig Guara, Marco Castiello, Ruy Jose, Vincenzo Acunzo…

What If Abin Sur didn’t die? Oh, wrong publisher. You get the idea anyway, as this book opens with a really fun FLASHPOINT mini that just completely goes for it and manages to be an alternate reality BLACKEST NIGHT tie-in as well! The other minis are a mixed bunch, the FRANKENSTEIN one is easily the best thing in the book, actually, but seeing as it’s written by Jeff SWEET TOOTH Lemire that’s no surprise and is worth picking this book up for on its own. (I’ve literally just noticed the cover quote states pretty much the same.) The other two minis are the stories of playboy Oliver Queen and pilot Hal Jordan, both of whom are not superheroes in this reality, but find themselves drawn into the conflict nonetheless, with rather differing outcomes.

JR

Buy Flashpoint: The World Of Flashpoint featuring Green Lantern s/c and read thePage 45review here

 

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews to follow or already up. You can check by clicking on whichever you’re curious about: all the titles have been linked to their relevant product pages.

Cat Island (£6-00) by Dan Berry

After We Shot The Grizzly (£6-00) by The Handsome Family & Dan Berry

Sharknife: Stage First (£8-99, Oni) by Corey Lewis

Sharknife: Stage Second (£8-99, Oni) by Corey Lewis

Doctor Who series 2 vol 3: It Came From Outer Space (£14-99, IDW) by various

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?: Dust To Dust vol 1 (£7-50, Boom!) by Philip K. Dick, Chris Roberson & Robert Adler

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?: Dust To Dust vol 2 (£7-50, Boom!) by Philip K. Dick, Chris Roberson & Robert Adler

DMZ vol 11: Free States Rising (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Ricardo Burchielli, Shawn Martinbrough

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

My Friend Dahmer (£11-99, Abrams) by Derf Backderf

Star Wars: Jedi: The Dark Side vol 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Scott Allie & Mahmud Asrar

Flashpoint: The World Of Flashpoint featuring Green Lantern s/c (£13-50, DC) by Adam Schlagman, Jeff Lemire, Pornsak Pichetshote & Felipe Massafera, Robson Rocha, Joe Prado, Ibraim Roberson, Alex Massacci, Ig Guara, Marco Castiello, Ruy Jose, Vincenzo Acunzo

Marvel Masterworks: Avengers vol 4 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas & Don Heck

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 1 s/c (UK Ed’n) (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli

Deadpool vol 8: Operation Annihilation softcover (£11-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & Sheldon Vella, Bong Dazo

Secret Warriors vol 6: Wheels Within Wheels s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Alessandro Vitti

Secret Avengers vol 3: Run The Mission, Don’t Get Seen, Save The World h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Jamie McKelvie, David Aja, Michael Lark, Kev Walker, Alex Maleev, Stuart Immonen

Thunderbolts: The Great Escape s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jeff Parker & Kev Walker, Declan Shalvey, Matthew Southworth

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol 12 (£8-99, Dark Horse) by Eiji Otsuka & Housui Yamazaki

Dororo: The Omnibus Edition (£18-99, Vertical) by Osamu Tezuka

Abandon The Old In Tokyo s/c (£12-99, D&Q) by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Good-Bye s/c (£12-99, D&Q) by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

The Push Man And Other Stories s/c (£12-99, D&Q) by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
All copies of Cat Island and After We Shot The Grizzly by Dan Berry have the most beautiful, individual sketches in them for free. Each one is different. Review to follow next week, but we may have fun out. Thank you, thank you, @thingsbydan!

 – Stephen

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