Reviews March 2012 week three

“This always reminds me of fishing – casting loose lines into a random sea, trying to hook something substantial. It’s surprising what sense can emerge from nonsense, and how the juxtaposition of odd images on a page can have a serendipitous effect, catching ideas that might otherwise be hidden by the waves.”

 - Shaun Tan on idle doodling. See The King Bird, below.

Journey Into Mystery: Fear Itself Fallout h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Robert Rodi & Whilce Portacio, Pasqual Ferry, Richard Elson.

“Did you bring us anything, Dad?”
“Little Gudrun, I brought you the greatest gift of all. I brought you a story.”

Hear ye, hear ye! The best fantasy comic currently in town! And it’s funny!

Ignore the fact that it’s published by Marvel, in exactly the same fashion that SANDMAN came from DC. Exactly the same fashion. The comic’s a comedy. It’s also a blood-soaked high fantasy ripe with mystery and matured mythology. It’s a rollicking, full-blooded entertainment. It’s a battle of wits contested by a right royal cleverclogs, and written by another one too.

Its star is a Loki reborn as a boy with no memory of his former self, sponsored by Thor yet distrusted on all sides by those whose memory is all too vivid. He’s not interested in perpetrating evil, but the successful execution of a meticulously laid plan, acquiring leverage with cleverage in this case to save Asgard and Earth from the Asgardian Serpent. In the first half, Fear Itself: Journey Into Mystery, young Loki gathered all his pieces in a manner which left us wondering what on earth they were all for. Here he moves them all into place, and when he finally makes his play I can promise you so many smiles of admiration both for the little tyke trickster and his author.

It’s written with a real love of language enriched with a singular wit, and when the dark lord Mephisto takes the stage, he frankly steals the show. Far from the two-dimensional soul-stealer of yore, this debonair devil (“I have the most luxuriant sideburns in all creation”) is a bon viveur with a penchant for power but also for pretzels. He’s an iconoclast who loves messing with minds and mocking the misfortunate from a position of relative impunity. Here he’s telling a barman about his trip to the Infinite Embassy created by Living Tribunal:

“They say that all realities’ Embassies are one and the same, and if you know the way you can emerge anywhere and anywhen. Which just proves that gods and demons are just as likely to make up myths about things they haven’t a clue about. But everyone agrees on one thing. You come in peace. Otherwise, the Living Tribunal gets a tad touchy… and, generally speaking, unless you want your existence privileges revoked, that’s a bad idea.”
“Is he… God?”
“Oh, you are just so cute. I could eat you up with a spoon. Maybe later… No, he’s not God. He’s just the biggest kid in all the playgrounds. And if he knows the principal, he’s not exactly chatty about it.”

It’s all about stories and storytelling. That is, after all, how Loki achieves his goals: spinning the right yarns to the right entities in exactly the right fashion. Volstagg’s tall stories told to his children are an exuberant joy. But back to the action – and there’s plenty of that – as Loki and his motley crew must navigate the halls of a far darker Asgard in order to, well, tell another story. You’ll see. Unfortunately the opposition is considerable.

“We need a distraction. Destroyer? Act in a suitably eponymous fashion.”

SLH

Buy Journey Into Mystery: Fear Itself Fallout h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Saga #1 (£2-25, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples.

“This is how an idea becomes real. But ideas are fragile things. Most don’t live long outside of the ether from which they were pulled, kicking and screaming. That’s why people create with someone else. Two minds can sometimes improve the odds of an idea’s survival… but there are no guarantees.
“Anyway, this is the day I was born.”

Grand, double-sized opening to a new science fiction epic from the writer of EX MACHINA, Y – THE LAST MAN and PRIDE OF BAGHDAD (one of our earliest Page 45 Comicbooks Of The Month), and half the draw here comes in the form of Fiona Staple’s Alana and Marko, two of the most beautiful individuals I’ve ever encountered. Their expressions are infectious, whether it be Alana’s eyes smiling up between her flop of green hair or Marko’s tearful joy at the birth of their child. Her name is Hazel and she bears the embryonic stumps of her father’s curled ram-horns and her mother’s green wings. It’s the last moment’s peace any of them will know for some time.

Marko and Alana’s peoples have been at war with each other for as long as anyone can remember. It’s a war that has spread from the planet Landfall and its moon called Wreath for fear that either’s destruction would cause the other to spin out of orbit. Right across the galaxy other worlds have been dragged into the conflict and caught in its crossfire. This one’s called Cleave, and Alana and Marko are trapped there, wanted by both factions for desertion; she specifically for abandoning her post and aiding the enemy, he for fraternizing with it and “betraying The Narrative”. And they have no idea what’s heading their way…

Beautifully written, the double-sized chapter affords Vaughan the space to drop in so many introductory elements without cramming them together, but Warren Ellisexplains it far more eloquently than I ever could in a preview to SAGA her posted up here.

I would just add that as a Native American totem the Big Horn Sheep whose horns Marko bears represents new beginnings. I doubt that’s a coincidence.

SLH

Buy Saga #1 and by summoning us on 0115 9508045 or casting the arcane spell of page45@page45.com

Northlanders vol 6: Thor’s Daughter And Other Stories (£10-99, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Marian Churchland, Simon Gane, Matthew Woodson…

I still can’t believe this title is coming to a conclusion. Sales here are phenomenal and I had hoped it was going to give some of the Nordic sagas a run for their money in duration, but sadly I think there may be just one more book after this. Still, at least Brian is getting the chance to continue channelling his inner barbarian on Dark Horse’s CONAN comic which, with art by Becky Cloonan on the first arc, has very much succeeded in getting me excited again about a character who I thought I was done with reading, despite much love for the classic 70’s Roy Thomas / Barry Windsor-Smith incarnation. I know the Dark Horse Version Of Conan has been running since 2003 I think, and has its loyal followers, but you haven’t seen anything like Wood and Cloonan’s version, trust me.

Still, back to the book at hand… where Wood continues as before, giving us very different short stories and tales rather than an ongoing yarn, with three in this volume. The first, about the siege of Parisc. 885A.D. as seen from the perspective of one particular mercenary foot soldier, was probably my favourite, as the Norse nutjobs try just about every tactic imaginable, without success, to take down the tower that’s stopping them over-running the city and having a merry old time raping and pillaging. The irony being that King Sigfred, the Viking head honcho, wasn’t even actually interested in Paris, he just wanted fat King Charles to raise his bridge and let his 700 warships and 30,000 fighting men sail blithely past, so he could get on with sacking the rather less arduously defended rural interior of the country.

King Charles, probably thinking he could trust his fellow regent about as far as he could throw him (not far I wouldn’t think given how legendarily fat King Charles was and presuming King Sigfred was probably also wearing a ton of armour and weaponry), admirably declined, although perhaps his decision was also informed by the fact that he wasn’t actually resident nearby himself at the time… So, the Vikings decide they’re going to have to teach the Parisians a lesson, but all is not going to plan, a fact which is proving particularly irksome to our footsolider in question, who decides to take matters into his own hands. Gloriously brutal art from Simon Gane here (DARK RAIN, ALL FLEE!), with a lot of red used to say the least, that really suits the story perfectly.

So when the next tale of a lone hunter following a deer far up into the Arctic Circle, far, far further than is sensible or safe comes along, with a change of art style to Matthew Woodson’s altogether more delicate and detailed lines and palely lit skies, the difference is striking. This tale is as much about the mindset of one lone man as the first though, and is very much a direct counterpoint to the first story in some ways. I shall say no more as I don’t wish to spoil it.

Finally we have the titular tale of a young woman forced to make a hard choice, when her father, the local chief of the small island on which they live, passes away suddenly. For women cannot inherit, which is precisely the uncomfortable position Birna now finds herself in as others perhaps not entirely well disposed to her threaten to take over, leaving her facing a rather uncertain existence. But here again, we see into the mind of someone forced to make a choice, whether to accept her reduced lot, or to challenge the convention and lay a claim to her birthright. For perhaps if she chooses a make a stand, some of her father’s loyalist men will follow her, but first she needs to convince herself. Marian (BEAST) Churchland provides a completely different art style again here, almost ethereal in places, with a touch of Charles Vess feyness to finish off this volume in magnificent fashion. Sigh, I’m really going to miss this title when it’s gone.

JR

Buy Northlanders vol 6: Thor’s Daughter And Other Stories and read the Page 45 review here

The Bird King And Other Sketches h/c (£14-99, Templar) by Shaun Tan.

“Some are exercises to simply keep fit as an artist, where the practice of drawing is about learning to see, a study that never ends.”

“Nevertheless, interesting or profound ideas can emerge of their own accord, not so much in the form of a ‘message’, but rather a strangely articulated question.”

From the creator of THE ARRIVAL, etc., a highly illuminating insight into one artist’s driving passions and thought processes. You’ll discover sketches and page layouts which eventually found themselves included in some of Shaun’s finished graphic novels, unusual artefacts, experiments with the language of the sea, and curious creatures which themselves suggest stories so far untold. Some of the preliminaries have brief notes jotted in their margins, like the series of interconnected, roofless rooms arranged like a stage set, one evidently a watertank containing an octopus tentatively exploring the next; another, hilariously, on fire. Tiny figures look in on others. “Are we just moving from room to room?” he asks to one side.

Better still Shaun introduces each segment with some extended, eloquently expressed and inspirational thoughts of his own. On doodling, he writes:

“This always reminds me of fishing – casting loose lines into a random sea, trying to hook something substantial. It’s surprising what sense can emerge from nonsense, and how the juxtaposition of odd images on a page can have a serendipitous effect, catching ideas that might otherwise be hidden by the waves.”

It’s the perfect cure for ‘artist’s block’: “just start drawing,” he suggests, quoting Paul Klee’s description of “taking a line for a walk”.

“Klee has a second good metaphor: the artist as a tree, drawing from a rich compost of experience – things seen, read, told and dreamt – in order to grow leaves, flowers and fruit… Artists do not create so much as transform.”

Hence all the observational sketches and the section entitled ‘drawings from life’, a lot of them in colour, where Sean explores “the relationship between individuals and their respective environments”, a theme found throughout the artist’s graphic novels, especially the three listed above and, of course, THE RABBITS. Likewise “the tensions between natural and manmade forms”. I think ‘tensions’ is underplaying it somewhat! THE RABBITS, THE LOST THING and TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA are all littered with visual and narrative commentaries on what man has made of his natural environment, as a quick glance of any of those reviews will make abundantly clear!

Rarely have I had as much fun absorbing an art book, or come away so inspired. It’s a neat little package, and I’d pay good money to see any one of those ‘untold stories’ come to full, expansive life.

SLH

Buy The Bird King And Other Sketches h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Week In Hell: The Art Of Molly Crabapple vol 1 (£7-50, IDW) by Molly Crabapple.

Forward by Warren Ellis: it’s all his fault.

Molly had just finished a enormous job for a big hotel and made the mistake of askingWarrenwhat to do next. Inspired by a photo of Molly posing between three large canvasses, one on each side at an angle and one at her feet, “It was like looking into a box of art with a midget artist inside. I said, “what you should do, is seal yourself in a box, and every surface is covered in art paper, and you shouldn’t be allowed out for a week, until you’ve every inch of the box in art. Call it Molly Crabapple’s Week In Hell.””

Unbelievably, Molly did exactly as she was told: the box in question manifesting itself in the form of a hotel room. This, then, is the photographic chronicle on that Week In Hell and every possible inch of space bar the floor and ceiling is indeed given over to art paper: vast ‘canvasses’ swirling with the lushest of lines forming the sort of neo-Victorian fantasies that could only come from Crabapple. It’s like some Bacchanalian tea party as attended by animals, aerialists, and hundreds and hundreds of tiny girlthings, and hosted on the double doors by Molly herself and porn star Stoya, spliced onto octopus arms. There are vast, suckered tentacles everywhere.

The composition on those double-doors is particularly impressive: a fish bowl filled to capacity yet structured in a way that maintains a vast sense of space.round all its edges each of the revellers. Some of the shots are works seen in progress as Molly is visited by friends whose portraits find themselves incorporated into the whole or inspiring parts of it.

Political allegories inevitably find themselves into Crabapple’s work. She recently tweeted that it made her so proud seeing her works used on protest banners. So you’ll find not only grotesque, hook-nosed caricatures (‘a formal tea party for one’s worst self’) but specific appearances by the likes of Marie Antoinette, her mouth crammed with coins like a piggy bank, then split wide open to reveal those all-too familiar piggy bankers enjoying the proceeds as bonuses.

“Week in Hell took place 10 days before Occupy Wall Street hit New York. As I’m writing this, our loft’s been converted into a laptop charging station for the reporters covering police brutality down at the square. Week in Hell is the sort of deeply personal artwank that feels awkward in a landscape where senior citizens are getting tear-gassed. I can’t write about it without writing about that.”

The final photograph shows Molly holding some of the finished art work liberated from the walls, a process which would have terrified me. I mean, there are doorknobs to consider.

The Forward by Ellis is called ‘This is Not My Fault’. In it he writes:

“I get the blame for everything up to and including the bloody weather. I have read people inLondoncomment on Twitter that the sky has gone black and supernatural Witch-Rain is hammering down from the skies and smashing brick and bone and surmising thatWarrenmust be coming toLondonand therefore it’s all his fault. Which would not have been so bad if I hadn’t been reading said comments on my phone while seated in a train approachingLondon. But still.”

It’s all his fault.

SLH

Buy Crabapple: Week In Hell: The Art Of Molly Crabapple vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Durarara!! vol 1 (£8-99, Yen) by Ryohgo Narita & Akiyo Satorigi…

Wow, I think my head has just melted and turned to whispy black smoke… Not remotely what I was expected when I idly added this to my pile to review this week. I didn’t know anything about it and I thought from the cover it looked like it might be a slice of life manga, set in the fashionable Tokyodistrict of Ikebukuro. I wasn’t expecting SOLANIN or anything like that given it’s an on-going series, but sometimes the most unlikely on-going series, on the face of it given their content, like YOTSUBA&!, BAKUMAN, TWIN SPICA and CROSS GAME, just come out of nowhere and hit some random pleasure centres in your brain. This could just well be another one of those.

What I was expecting therefore was light-hearted social drama. What I was not expecting were suicide chat-rooms, a presumably slightly deranged if not completely mad scientist, a teenage psychopath and an urban legend known as the Black Rider who is in fact very real, and actually turns out not to have a head, as it roars around Ikebukuro on a motorcycle. All neatly tucked under some light-hearted social drama as naive fifteen-year-old Mikado Ryuugamine from the boring ‘burbs has, at his sophisticated friend Kida-Kun’s invitation, decided to start attending a private school in the fashionable district.

They’ve not seen each other for four years, but have been in daily contact via chatrooms (not the suicide ones) which feature prominently as chapter breaks and provide a sort of round-up / teaser of what has just happened and what’s going to happen next. Mikado, of course, has no idea that his old friend has turned into some sort of social kingpin, and is quite taken aback and more than a little disorientated by his initial introduction to the neighbourhood and some of its various colourful characters. He also has a close encounter with the Black Rider.

I have absolutely no idea where this manga is going to go, but I’m sufficiently intrigued that I will read volume 2 when it comes out.

Buy Durarara!! vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Beast & Feast (£9-99, June) by Norikazu Akira.

Another yelping of yaoi as a police detective finds himself caught in the clutches of a yakuza. And in his shower and in his bed. Warning: absolutely filthy.

SLH

Buy Beast & Feast and read the full Diamond preview here

Depression Of The Anti-Romanticist (£9-99, June) by Yasuna Saginuma & Riyu Yamakami.

Warning: not filthy enough.

SLH

Buy Depression Of The Anti-Romanticist and read the full Diamond preview here

Martiniere: Velocity (£19-99, Titan) by Stephan Martiniere.

We don’t stock many art books unconnected to comics and when we do they’re usually by Lowbrow peeps. However, we’ve been asked so many times, “Do you have anything with jaw-dropping, futuristic landscapes in them?” And now we do! As evidenced at Stephan’s own gallery: http://www.martiniere.com/environments/

For something less fantastical but no less futuristic, I’d recommend the 8-volume set of PLUTO, my favourite manga that isn’t by Taniguchi.

SLH

Buy Martiniere: Velocity and read the Page 45 review here

X-Men: Season One h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Dennis Hopeless & Jamie McKelvie.

“Being in a girl’s bedroom makes a guy tingly.”

Superb and subtle body language throughout. Young Bobby Drake’s shoulders hunched, hands in pockets, eyes wide and wandering round the room as Jean Grey lies on her bed nonchalantly messaging on her mobile was one of so many details here that made me grin. Fingers then twiddling on her dresser… excellent! In fact Bobby’s loose, purple shirt is a star in its own right, its chequered pattern folding to perfection round his waist or across his back.

The artist on PHONOGRAM: RUE BRITANNIA, PHONOGRAM: SINGLES CLUB and the creator of SUBURBAN GLAMOUR has made this book his own. Just like Nabiel Kanan for our website front-page, for me McKelvie was the only choice for this graphic novel predominantly starring doubtful teenagers, and Matthew Wilson’s clean, bright colouring could not complement Jamie’s ligne claire any better. Out of costume, Jean, Bobby, Scott,Warren and Hank are dressed like the best contemporary teens; in costume as the original five X-Men, they are pure Paul Smith.

Although it should be noted that Cyclops is never out of costume!

Another original graphic novel, then, going back to the team’s earliest days yet set in the here and now. It works. Rather than retreading tales already told, most of this concentrates on the moments in between as the four young men and one young woman gradually get to know and figure out where they fit in which other. It doesn’t go smoothly, no.

Mostly it’s seen from Jean’s point of view and it ends on exactly the right note, although I caution you once again that it ends before you’ll expect it too, since the final pages are given over to the first full issue of Kieron Gillen’s recent UNCANNY X-MEN relaunch. My only regret is I’d have liked to have seen more of Jamie’s preparatory design work.

SLH

Buy X-Men: Season One h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Allan Heinberg & Jim Cheung, Alan David, Oliver Coipel…

This is easily the best YOUNG AVENGERS material so far; easily. Actually it’s astonishing to believe just how much Allan Heinberg has managed to cram into one mini-series with deaths, resurrections, reincarnations, reappearances and indeed a possible revision of a certain piece of well-established Marvel history. Oh yes, and a marriage proposal and indeed a jilting at the altar, not even of the same couple either.

A quick overview then… deep breath…

Magneto finds out the Young Avengers are searching for the Scarlet Witch because Wiccan and Speed might be reincarnations of her two children who never actually existed, which when she realised she’d lost them she also lost the last of her remaining marbles and declared “No more mutants!” depowering most of Marvel mutantdom and killing Hawkeye again for good measure. (Read AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED and HOUSE OF M for more on this in that order, and you really should.) Along the way Quicksilver turns up during a rather disappointing reunion with Wanda in Wundagore after she turns out to be a Doombot in disguise, when the fingers obviously all start pointing Latveria-ward. By now the grown up Avengers and Wonder Man (set long before the recent Avengers annual) have arrived and everyone sets off to confront Doom. There they find the real Wanda, devoid of memory and powers and all set to marry vivacious Victor.Meanwhile, Iron Lad (who will eventually become Kang The Conqueror) has just reappeared out of the timestream too. There’s an initial confrontation, the results of which include the resurrection of an Avenger (though there’ll certainly be no happy ending for him), and Wanda gets her memory and powers back. The Beast then asks Wanda if she can reverse her mutant depowering spell, the X-Men show up to kill Wanda, and Doom tries to claim credit for absolutely everything, including what happened to the mutants. Somewhere along the way X-Factor show up as well too. Time for the absolutely-everyone-team-up versus the not-so-good Doctor big battle to conclude everything. Which isn’t going to be quite so one-sided as it sounds given that Doom’s managed to make himself near omnipotent with the aid of the power which actually enabled Wanda to depower all the mutants, when combined with her own innate powers, in the first place. It won’t end well for some, that is for sure.

… and breathe!

Now that brief summary doesn’t do this book justice at all, but hopefully you get the point that there is an awful lot going on here, and that’s before I’ve got into any of the snappy dialogue or myriad sub-plots such as Hulking and Wiccan’s very sweet romance, which no doubt has had the Concerned Mothers of America getting their collective knickers in a twist because they’re both boys. Never mind that one’s a magical being and the other one a half-Skrull / half-Kree shapeshifter. It’s handled here with so much humour, not least when Jarvis seems not entirely sure as to how to handle the situation domestically. More often than not when titles are taking absolutely forever to come out, it’s not a good sign. This, on the other hand, was well worth the wait.

To put it in context we need to ask the question is this as good as what it builds upon, namely AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED and HOUSE OF M, and the answer is simply yes, it most definitely is. But is Doom really responsible for everything that happened then, or was he just blowing his own trumpet? Well, maybe, but if you’ve got to blame somebody, a megalomaniacal despot is as good as anybody, right? Perhaps, but suffice to say Wanda’s got a long way to go before pretty much anyone will trust her ever again.

JR

Buy Avengers: The Children’s Crusade h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Uncanny X-Men vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Carlos Pacheco, Brandon Peterson.

Post- X-Men: Schism, this is Gillen’s relaunch of UNCANNY X-MEN, and I’ve been loving his work there prior to it. He’s also writing the finest Marvel title currently on offer in the form of Fear Itself: Journey Into Mystery and its sequel Journey Into Mystery: Fear Itself Fall Out which I commend unequivocally to lovers of fantasy, mythology and storytelling. I’ve compared him to Gaiman. They’re funny.

This too has moments of mirth and one final, poignant, self-contained chapter about the last living member of the Phalanx, gorgeously illustrated by Brandon Peterson. The Phalanx were a race like the Borg: a hive-mind that absorbed others into its collective. For this shared consciousness, communion was constant, loneliness unknown. But thanks to Mr. Sinister’s scientific… inquiries… he’s now been hived off.

“He cut me in places I didn’t even realise existed. He colonised my undiscovered countries with pain. In the years that followed, he learned much. What I learned I would rather forget.  Eventually, he had what he wished. He left me in a great storage unit. I could sense other life nearby. I tried to communicate. I stretched out my mind. I clinked the remains of proxy-fingers against my cell. For years there was no response.”

Ditched at long last by Sinister in the wake of the preceding chapters, all the Phalanx survivor wants to do now is resume contact with the rest of his race and then he’ll be whole once more. This is the story of his struggle to do just that.

Did I mention that they are all dead?

SLH

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

Flashpoint: The World Of Flashpoint featuring Batman s/c (£13-50, DC) by Brian Azzarello, J.T. Krul, Jimmy Palmiotti, Peter Milligan & Eduardo Risso, Fabrizio Fiorentino, Mikel Janin, Alejandro Giraldo, Joe Bennett, Tony Shasteen, Alex Massacci, John Dell, George Perez, Fernando Blanco, Scott Koblish…

Once upon a time there was a reboot (that wasn’t a reboot, remember) that all hinged around an event called FLASHPOINT. Now the good and kindly people at DC, who promised to hold the line at 2.99 (dollars, that is), something conveniently forgotten about post-non-reboot I note, decided it would be only fair that, if they were going to cancel all their titles and restart them, they did mini-series of them all first. Which is a rather churlish introduction actually, because I did rather enjoy FLASHPOINT, and unlike BLACKEST NIGHT, I did actually enjoy pretty much all of these spin-offs. Like that particular event, they’ve carved up the big three – Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman – so that their minis are in different books, and then lumped in all the other stuff with them too. Actually, there are the Green Lantern and Abin Sur stories yet to come, but they’ll be out soon.

So in this particular volume we have the Batman mini where, in the Flashpoint world, it wasn’t Thomas and Martha Wayne that were gunned down that fateful night, but young Bruce. So as Barry Allen desperately turns to the one person he thinks will be able to help work out what on earth is going on, he’s rather surprised to find that Batman isn’t the person he thought he was. So who precisely is behind the mask? And how can Barry convince him to help? And what of the villains of this reality, are they their usual selves, or someone else entirely, especially a certain rictus-faced comedian? This is far superior to most of the various Batman Elsewords tales that have come out over the years, as this reality’s Batman has an even more heartbreaking back-story than Bruce if that’s possible, and perhaps because of that, he’s even darker, grimmer, more ruthless. Certainly not someone who’s easily persuaded that his entire reality is an illusion by a madman dressed in a bright red costume who wants help with being electrocuted to try and restore his super-speed.

The other stories were actually some of my favourites. ‘Deadman and the Flying Graysons’ features, of course, Boston Brand and Dick Grayson as part of a travelling troupe of acrobats who get caught in the middle of the upheaval in Europe, as the Amazons try to hunt down another member of their circus (one Kent Nelson, better known in mainstream DC reality as Doctor Fate) for a certain artefact in his possession, the helm of Nabu. ‘Deathstroke and the Ravager’ sees Deathstroke and Warlord as piratical buccaneers facing off on the high seas in a very personal battle, with a whole host of low grade, super-villainous sidekicks for crew on either side. And ‘Secret Seven’ re-introduces Rad Shade aka Shade The Changing Man along with various magical characters such as Black Orchid, Zatanna, Enchantress, now holding regular spelling bees in JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK. The first two back-up stories are well written, making full use of the chance to do something completely different with the characters, the third less so; but it’s just nice for me to see some old favourites return.

JR

Flashpoint: The World Of Flashpoint Featuring Batman softcover

Flashpoint: The World Of Flashpoint featuring Superman s/c (£13-50, DC) by Scott Snuder, Lowell Francis, Rex Ogle, Dan Jurgens, Mike Carlin & Gene Ha, Eduardo Francisco, Paulo Siqueira, Roland Paris, Dan Jurgens, Rick Leonard, Ig Guara, Rags Morales, Rick Bryant…

The main story in this work, the Superman mini, is excellent as poor little Kal-El has spent his entire life locked away in a lab being experimented on by the government. As he’s never been exposed to the yellow rays of the sun, he looks like a puny, skinny weakling, albeit still one with vertiginous powers. General Lane meanwhile has been making use of what he’s learnt in his experiments on Kal-El to try and create his own superpowered humans to use against the Amazonians and the Atlanteans. It’s all going to go horribly wrong, of course, but when humanity needs its Superman to defend them in its most desperate hour, why should Kal-El come to their defence? It was nearly a tear-jerker, this story, in a couple of places, I’m slightly ashamed to admit. It’s a cleverly put-together tale that also featuresLois Lane, who is key to showing Kal-El that not all humans want to insert probes into you.

Two of the three back-up stories aren’t bad, with World Of Flashpoint featuring Traci13 magically travelling round the world incidentally showing us what’s become of various mainstream characters, the most amusing one certainly being Guy Gardner who is a peace-loving Buddhist. And the Booster Gold issues, concluding his own title rather than being a mini-series per se are interesting as he is the only character other than Barry Allen who remembers the world as it was before the Flashpoint; it’s just a question of whether he’s going to be able to do anything about it. The third story, a single issue, called The Canterbury Cricket doesn’t really add anything, but does feature characters which all crop in the ‘Lois Laneand the Resistance’ mini in the Wonder Woman book.

JR

Flashpoint: The World Of Flashpoint Featuring Superman softcover

Flashpoint: The World Of Flashpoint featuring Wonder Woman s/c (£13-50, DC) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Tony Bedard, James Robinson & Agustin Padilla, Scott Clark, Vicente Cifuentes, Adrian Syaf, Eddie Nunez, Gianluca Gugliotta, Christian Duce, Javi Fernandez…

It’s slightly harsh on Aquaman that he doesn’t share the billing on this title, as his mini, along with Diana’,s are simply different aspects of the same story really, as attempts are made to resolve the political differences between the Amazonians and the Atlanteans through a marriage of convenience. There are parties on both sides, though, plotting to ensure our lovely couple doesn’t make it to the altar, and in fact, one side’s dastardly plan is pretty much going to ruin everyone’s day, and explain how the world of FLASHPOINT came to find itself in the state it is today, half shaken to pieces and flooded.

The back-up stories are both pretty good, the first being ‘Lois Laneand the Resistance’ as a whole host of second-stringers try to bring down the Amazonian occupation of Europefrom behind enemy lines. DC take the opportunity to bring in people like Grifter onto the scene ahead of the non-reboot, and whilst it’s one continuous chase / fight scenario, there is a fair amount of humour throughout, as it certainly goes to show that the Lois Lane of pretty much any reality is going to want to have the last word. The other story, The Outsider is a real surprise and just goes to show what can happen if you give someone free rein to do something completely different. I don’t think the main character existed in the DC mainstream universe, I’m pretty sure that name was just something Alfred, Batman’s butler used from time to time, but here Michael Desai is a metahuman who has risen to take control of all of India and turn it into a vast criminal enterprise. Someone is trying to assassinate him, which turns out to be [SPOILER], and Black Adam is also involved as well. It’s great fun from start to finish probably because it doesn’t really tie into the main FLASHPOINT story at all but just concentrates on doing its own thing.

JR

Flashpoint: The World Of Flashpoint Featuring Wonder Woman softcover

Crossed vol 3: Psychopath (£14-99, Avatar) by David Lapham & RauloCaceres…

Kind of difficult to understand how the same person, David Lapham, who wrote the wonderful STRAY BULLETS, YOUNG LIARS and SILVERFISH could be responsible for this horror show, or indeed that Avatar would actually think it is acceptable to publish it. Honestly, it’s the kind of thing that gives comics a bad name, as it is basically torture porn. If someone showed me their sketchbook in the shop, as happens from time to time, and it had this sort of material in, I’d be making sure they never found out where I lived, that’s for sure. I certainly hope the Daily Mail never find out about this or they will be encouraging people to start burning comics.

Joking apart, what I really don’t understand though is how a good premise like the Crossed can be so totally wasted. CROSSED VOLUME ONE penned by Ennis was utterly vile, but it wasn’t, on the whole, particularly prurient and was frequently darkly comedic. Hence whilst it was a writing tightrope act of balancing out the most horrifically unpleasant scenario imaginable with the most preposterous humour you could wring out of the situation, Ennis managed it very successfully. To the point where when people have caught up to date with THE WALKING DEAD, we do recommend it, with a note of caution [“I don’t care how depraved you are, this is worse!” – That’s-The-Way-To-Do-It Ed]. And it was ultimately about man surviving in the face of the complete and total insanity that are the Crossed.

CROSSED VOLUME TWO: FAMILY VALUES, however, as I noted in my review when Lapham took over the writing duties, wasn’t based around that fight for survival of man versus Crossed, but instead was a deeply unpleasant tale of someone taking sexual advantage of others who were looking to him for security, including his own daughters, hence the sub-title of the work. Yes, he met his comeuppance so we had a happy ending, of sorts, but still, there was absolutely no humour in it all, and I found it pretty much without merit.

VOLUME THREE: PSYCHOPATH is something else again though, as an insane loner manipulates other survivors he meets purely so he can fulfil his own sordid rape / murder fantasies. Which pretty much sums up the book from start to finish, full stop. Whilst the psychopath in question is human, he is in effect just as depraved as any of the Crossed, which I presume is the token point that Lapham is trying to make, that man himself is the beast and whatever causes the sickness that turns people into the Crossed is merely setting it free.

Ennis is thankfully back on writing duties for the Crossed ongoing series that has also started this week. Well, initially at least, then Jamie Delano takes over which could also be very interesting. I haven’t read that first issue yet, so I can’t pass any comment on what direction that is going in, but I think perhaps that Lapham has ruined this franchise for me now anyway. I can’t really see how Ennis is going to be able to turn it around into something readable that will allow me to forget about this monstrosity.

JR

Buy Crossed vol 3: Psychopath and read the Page 45 review 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.


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

Axe Cop vol 3 (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Malachai Nicolle & Ethan Nicolle

Jeffrey Jones: A Life In Art hardcover (£37-99, IDW) by Jeffrey Jones

Red Robin: 7 Days Of Death (£14-99, DC) by Fabian Nicieza & Marcus To, Ray McCarthy

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

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

X-Men: First To Last softcover (£11-99, Marvel) by Christopher Yost & PacoMedina, Dalabor Talajic

Annihilators, Earthfall softcover (£11-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Tan Eng Huat, Timothy Green II

Wolverine: Goodbye, Chinatown hardcover (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Ron Garney, Renato Guedes

Elektra: Assassin hardcover (£18-99, Marvel) by Frank Miller & Bill Siekiewicz

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

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

Marvel Adventures: Avengers: United (£7-50, Marvel) by various

Witchblade Compendium vol 1 s/c (£52-99, Top Cow) by various

House Of Five Leaves vol 6 (£9-99, Viz) by Natsume Ono

Tenjo Tenge 2-in-1 Edition vol 5 (£10-99, Viz) by Oh!Great

Gunslinger Girl Omnibus vols 9-10 (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Yu Aida

Bakuman vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys vol 19 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Urusawa

Kimi Ni Tokode vol 13 (£6-99, Viz) by Karuho Shiina

Bleach vol 39 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Rosario + Vampire Season II vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Akihisa Ikeda

Blue Exorcist vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato

Bunny Drop vol 5 (£9-99, Yen) by Yumi Unita

Star Wars Legacy vol 11: War (£12-99, Dark Horse) by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema


This simply cannot be passed over: Tom Gauld’s hilariously concise short story: scroll down here!

If you liked that, then you will love Tom’s GOLIATH, our current Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month Club selection.

 - Stephen

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