Reviews June 2012 week four

“Out the window it goes…”

 –  Eddie Campbell on the Lovely Horrible Stuff. I do hope he’s right!

 

The Lovely Horrible Stuff h/c (£9-99, Top Shelf) by Eddie Campbell.

“The most creative part of the creative life is coming up with persuasions to get overdue cheques.”
“Do you think all artists and writers in history had to do it?”
“I’ll ask at the café tonight.”

And he does: he asks William Shakespeare who’s been trying to chase payment both wittily and tetchily for centuries. It’s all there in the plays.

Eddie Campbell’s own angry letters dictated to wife Anne are legendary. You can find them dotted about his autobiographical ALEC OMNIBUS, and there are several outstanding accounts to be addressed, stamped and mailed out here. I see dozens of writers and artists seething on Twitter about monies owed. Gary Northfield’s threatened to become a zookeeper. It all saps up time which could be spent far more constructively in daydreaming. 

“Time is money. It’s a maxim that has tended to annoy me. An obstacle in the path of the daydreamer. Who one day might find this his ‘idle daydream’ is worth a great deal. And then he’ll replace the old maxim with a new one: MONEY is TIME.”
Anne: “How much are we worth?”
Eddie: “About twelve months.”

Welcome, then, to THE LOVELY HORRIBLE STUFF, a book about money researched in part on the island of Yap. Situated in the Pacific Ocean somewhere north of Australia and south of Japan(that’s geographical precision for me), it’s been an independent state within the Federal States ofMicronesiasince 1986. Its currency now is in US dollars, but dive deep into its local history and you’ll discover an economy based on giant stone discs carved on the island of Palau then transported over the waves, strapped to rafts in such an ingenious fashion that they work as a keel. These once moon-bright discs shining with quartz are called rai and those not since abducted and sold to museums can still be seen literally lying around the island now covered in moss and lichen. But what’s fascinating is that they were never necessarily in the physical possession of their owners in the first place: some of the largest – up to 9 and 12 feet in diameter – were, after all, pretty tricky to move once exchanged. Plus transportation across oft’ stormy seas was hazardous.

“Many years before, an ancestor of the family quarried the stone and was bringing it home. Caught in a storm, the party had to let it go. They all testified that it was a magnificent piece, lost through no fault of their own. “It was universally conceded that the mere accident of its loss was too trifling to mention… And that a few hundred feet of water offshore ought not to affect its market value. The purchasing power of the stone remains as valid as if it were leaning outside the owner’s house.”

That’s brilliant! But if you think it’s also quaint or whimsical and in no way related to modern western economics, you’d be wrong. In 1932, fearing the devaluation of the dollar,Franceasked the Federal Bank ofNew Yorkto convert its dollar assets to gold. They couldn’t be arsed to have the ingots shipped back toFrance, so they just asked the Federal Reserve to pop stickers on them assertingFrance’s ownership. So what’s one hundred feet of water compared to 3,000 miles across theAtlantic?

All of this, the second half of the book, is interspersed with further legends, tactical variations of the rai (you’ll love the matrimonial Butterfly Stone) and Eddie’s and Anne’s own holiday there mixing with Swiss divers and a bunch of drunken Poles. It’s told in a rich mix of line, colour and blended photography quite unlike anything you’ve seen from Campbellbefore. Oh, there was plenty of each in THE FATE OF THE ARTIST, but not so much on the blended front.

This is preceded in similar style by Eddie’s own experiences of the horrible stuff, some of which are far from lovely, particularly his father-in-law’s pursuit of a legal claim against all measurement of sanity and the best interests of those who had leant him the money: Annie and Eddie! Unfortunately it involved property and, as anyone who’s ever shuddered at the phrase “negative equity” knows, the truth of the dictum “safe as houses” has long since been devalued.

Blessedly most of the stories are far more mischievous in form and absurd in content like the limited company urged on him by Campbell’s co-creator of THE PLAYWRIGHT just so he could write and draw a BATMAN book. It was called Antelope Pineapple Ltd. There are several sequences about his plans for television including the development of an animated After The Snooter (screen shots included) and its funding dashed by the world recession:

“Comedy. It’s all in the timing.”

Bill the Bard’s erudite assistance is once more enlisted, if only to teach TV execs a lesson in the only language they understand, and it’s all threaded through with the verbal dexterity we’ve come to expect from Campbell. But best of all is the story I originally heard told during whichever year it was we conspired to have customer Craig Dawson’s wedding blessed by Alan Moore. In it Eddie seeks from daughter Erin a token contribution to household expenses now that she’s earning and driving his car. It’s an argument that quickly grows heated and Eddie, in retribution, demands the return of his car keys. Erinrefuses leaving Eddie fuming and determined to disable the car. You will not believe the next two pages of outlandish buffoonery but I swear to God that they’re true.

Embezzlement, expenses, and intellectual properties… it’s all here. I’ve no hesitation in commending this treasure trove of stories, worth every one their full weight in gold, but I don’t want you to think too much about money, just the brilliance of the books you can buy with it. That’s it, do come along! The lovely, horrible stuff:

“Out the window it goes…”

SLH

Buy The Lovely Horrible Stuff h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Cow Boy: A Boy And His Horse h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Nate Cosby & Chris Eliopoulos…

“If you’n your men drop your guns and take a hundred paces away, I promise not to burn your office to the ground.”
“Hangin’ an’ bakin’ are current options… I always been fond’a fire.”

He’s the rootinest, tootinest cowboy by far, a feared bounty hunter on the trail of his entire outlaw family, determined to take them down or die trying. He also happens to be ten years old… This sure is real ‘ornery fun, with back-up short stories from the likes of Roger Langridge to add to the main tale. Many of the contributors have worked with Jim Henson on various shows or books and this has exactly that sort of zany humour and comedy violence. The lovely tanned-hide-effect cover complete with classic Western move title font adds to the rawhide flavour. Fans of CALVIN AND HOBBES-style kid-in-charge chaos would definitely approve.

“An’ how old’re you?
“Age requirement for the chair? Ten. Fairly mature for my age.”
“Mm. Mature enough for a deadly weapon.”
“It ain’t no gun. Just a peashooter with a loud holler.”
“You intend to cause a ruckus?”
“I do not. But the byproduct of my intentions could well lead to ruckus.”

He’s not kiddin’!

JR

Buy Cow Boy: A Boy And His Horse h/c and read the Page 45 review here

I Want My Hat Back h/c (£11-99, Walker Books) by Jon Klassen.

A bear hath not his hat on.

He misses his hat and wants to know where it’s at. To that end he wanders through the forest and enquires of his fellow creatures as to its location. Alas, no one has seen it. Only when one animal asks for a description do alarm bells and recollection ring.

With dead-pan delivery all the way through, this is an exquisitely illustrated and exceptional children’s storybook which is emphatically comics. For without the pictures it simply couldn’t work: the key moment halfway through is image-only and hilarious! Meanwhile that single page’s prose content is mirrored to perfection in the punchline with one single-sentence, laugh-out-loud detour. It’s not this one but…

“Don’t ask me any more questions.”

SLH

Buy I Want My Hat Back h/c and read the Page 45 review here

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century 2009 (£7-99, Top Shelf) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill…

Let us begin with a controversial statement… is there anyone else who yearns for the more straightforward action adventure of the first two volumes of LOEG? I realise I could be on my own here, but each of the CENTURY books just feels a little disconnected from each other in terms of storytelling style that –  though this third volume certainly feels closer to the second than the first –  the whole arc feels slightly… discombobulated. To the extent, actually, that despite this apparently being the final chapter of volume three, I wasn’t sure if it finished the story off or not! That, of course, could be entirely the effect Uncle Alan is attempting to induce!

I did really enjoy spotting the myriad cultural references in this volume, however, and the many fly posters in the background of this otherworldlyLondondepicting the advertising and cream of musical youth in this world were frequently hilarious in their perfectly parodying crude and bombastic garishness. Plus there are also various real person guest appearances as background characters and even a certain comic shop which resides in the real Soho.

And then there is the big reveal as to identity of the Moonchild, or Anti-Christ, which Mina, Orlando and Allan Quartermain failed to stop the birthing of, back in 1969. Depending on your literary sensibilities it’ll either have you spluttering in outright indignation or snorting furiously with mirth. I note Alan is very careful not to mention the young [CENSORED – but not on shopping page!] by name, however, presumably assuming the author in question might not have a sense of humour about his appropriation of her cash-cow… I mean creation.

It is undoubtedly great fun throughout and Kevin O’Neill adds his own typically anarchic sense of style to proceedings including a cover with I’m quite sure is supposed to make you think of 2000AD, especially given one of the cultural winks Alan drops, being the Dare Dare-related ‘Treen Scum Go Home’ graffiti on a wall.

JR

Buy League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century 2009 and read the Page 45 review here

New York Mon Amour h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Benjamin Legrand, Dominique Grange & Jacques Tardi…

“No! I’m still waiting for the wire from Zurich…”
“I knew Otto was going to delay things…”
“Jose too, what the fuck is he doing?”
“He was supposed to take the pseudo-revolutionary monkey out a week ago. What’s he waiting for to knock him off?”
“He insists we can’t use a pro… it would be too complicated…”

Typical Tardi illustrated crime fiction in that things most definitely do not play out smoothly, or indeed remotely how one would expect, with some suitably crazy secondary characters thrown in for good measure. Starring Walter, a cockroach exterminator who overhears a conversation he soon wishes he hadn’t, it’s a suitably gritty tale, set in a very grimy and run-down 1980s’ New York. Walter soon finds himself on the run from the mysterious organisation, with only his colleague Luis, who just happens to be the local gang leader to help him. Except Luis’s motivations in offering to help his colleague are certainly not altruistic as Walter soon founds out. From there on in, it all starts to unravel apace as the shit well and truly reaches the fan travelling at terminal velocity. Not the first work I would point people to who were looking to try some Tardi crime fiction, that’d be LIKE A SNIPER LINING UP HIS SHOT or WEST COAST BLUES, I think, but certainly one for Tardi fans.

JR

Buy New York Mon Amour h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 3: The Fear Machine (£18-99, Vertigo) by Jamie Delano & Mark Buckingham, Richard Piers Rayner, Mike Hoffman, Alfredo Alcala.

Bless Delano: he electrified these pages with political storms, raging all around us as they were back in 1989. Here a group of travellers, constantly under threat of harassment from the police and falling foul of new laws contrived to make their lives as difficult as possible, welcomes a wary Constantine in, clothes him, feeds him and builds him a bender to sleep in.

“I always thought a bender was suspended jail sentence or a gentleman of the homosexual proclivity — neither of which I feel in need of just now. Marj nearly wets herself.”

They do so in the full knowledge that he’s on the run, framed for a couple of murders he didn’t commit, because Marj’s precocious daughter Mercury can see the true aspect of people – she’s gifted that way.

It’s unusual and entertaining to see a Constantine so out of his element here: he doesn’t like the countryside much for a start, and he really should have remembered to dig that drainage gully round his tent. He tries too hard to begin with as well, but they’re a forgiving bunch for the most part. Unfortunately that’s when it begins. One bad day kicked off by with one wrong decision which plays itself out like dominoes via a run-in with a fenced-off stone circle patrolled by trigger-happy guards and culminating in a very bad magic-mushroom trip which Rayner and colourist Kindzierski play to nauseous perfection. This is a Constantine who doesn’t know everything – how to handle psychedelics or the exact nature of ley lines – and again that’s refreshing. But he’d better learn fast because someone’s messing with those energy conduits – someone corporate and quasi-military – and there’s far more fear on the way…

Fantastic set-up I relished as much as when it first appeared, Delano taking the time for reminiscence about childhood dens and teenage squats because any life led is always related to its past and we’re always making connections. Unfortunately it’s a game of two halves with a time-out in the middle during which I can only imagine the writer was given the most depressing pep talk in history – or stumbled upon the disastrous twenty-four pages handed in by Hoffman. After that not even Buckingham can inspire Delano to get himself back on the right foot. The mystery sprawls, complicates itself, takes on way too much hippy nonsense in the form of Zed and her earth-mother antics and beggars belief. Hey, I think Freemasons are a bunch of insidious power mongers as well, but honestly… Dr. Gull’s antics in FROM HELL were completely credible given that he was acting on his own obsessions and was quite clinically insane. But this proves too silly, it’s twice as long as it should be, and by the end all timing has been shot to hell with a bunch of travellers embarking on an eight-hour train journey from Scotland in the same time it takes a mason to make a single last human sacrifice.

SLH

Buy Hellblazer vol 3: The Fear Machine and read the Page 45 review here

Lost Dogs (£7-50, Top Shelf) by Jeff Lemire.

Originally published by Ashtray Press back in 2005 long before ESSEX COUNTY broke Jeff’s name to the general public, I took a punt and liked what I saw, previewing it thus…

“You really need to see this guy’s art. The cover itself said Ted McKeever to me, but it’s a lot more fluid than that, and really hefty. The brush is laden with ink in as it’s swept across the page, and the cart scene at the docks is beautiful – a real sense of light, the scenery distilled to all that’s necessary. Fine use of grey as well, and I like the pale red on Ulric’s vest. So who is Ulric? He’s a hulk of a farmer, effectively mute, who finds his idyllic rural existence with his beautiful wife and daughter torn apart after a confrontation in the coastal town.”

Quite proud of myself, spotting the potential of powerhouse Jeff Lemire so early on, and in retrospect it’s fascinating to pick out elements that have since become his visual trademarks like the protagonist’s thick brick of a nose… and nigh-ubiquitous sorrow! Some of the pages are dense with panels and pugilism, but others explode with great, hulking forms. I wasn’t kidding about the ink, either. More ink was used over the course of these 90+ pages than the man’s since employed in his entire run of Sweet Tooth.

New preface by Jeff himself.

SLH

Buy Lost Dogs and read the Page 45 review here

Dreams And Everyday Life (£7-99, Hedge) by Aviv Ratzin.

Cartoon musings drawn by an animator, and it starts off amiably enough with a hitchhiker from Hell and an all too accurate encounter with one of those twatishly self-important neighbours militantly defending their so-called car parking space on a communally shared road. I’ve got one of those about four doors down. What an utter dickhead.

But then I’m afraid Aviv turns into a bit of a dickhead, angrily overreacting to a waitress who may a little over-loquacious but only meant well. Is not tolerance a two-way street? And then I’m afraid it just lost it for me with pages of silent self-indulgent dreamscapes which we’ve seen so often before and drawn a great deal better. You’re far, far better off on that front with Matthew Forsythe’s masterful and witty JINCHALO.

Meanwhile, down below, some stick figures argue but he ain’t Matt Feazell, either. Next!

SLH

Dreams

Tanpopo vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Boom!) by Camilla D’Errico.

So, your useless fact for this week is that Tanpopo is the Japanese for dandelion. That has no bearing whatsoever on this work, I assume Camilla D’Errico just liked the sound of the name, and so chose it for the name of the main character. Moving on now, apparently this work is based on Faust by Goethe, and indeed this volume does contain passages quoted directly from that text, because the idea with Tanpopo is to apparently simply bring works like that to modern audiences in a format they can appreciate and feel comfortable with. It’s an interesting approach which works entirely because of D’Errico beautiful art, though I can imagine many typical manga readers might just come away feeling this is merely a rather lightweight, if extremely pretty manga. A touch ethereal and insubstantial perhaps, though Faust of course is anything but. I can’t honestly see this appealing to people outside of Camilla’s current fan base which would be a shame for such a brave experiment, though I could be completely wrong.

JR

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

Same Difference (£9-99, June) by Nozomu Hiiragi.

Battle of the beaus and their high-rise, skyline-shattering erections! Yes, it’s a total tower struggle between two alpha males in adjoining office blocks who are going to take far more than their work home with them. In possession of Tower A: jetsetting, multilingual blonde Tsuburaya. He can turn his tongue to any language and his hand to any instrument. In possession of Tower B: arch-narcissist Ozaki whose pheromones are rumoured to get a girl pregnant at one hundred paces. He’s smokin’. Each one lords it over the ladies who gather and giggle in front of them, but now that they’ve noticed each other, it’s a battle for dominance over each other’s hearts, domains and the increasingly damp duvet cover too.

Not to be confused with Derek Kirk Kim’s SAME DIFFERENCE – please don’t! – this is of course more Japanese Hot Boy-On-Boy Action (©™ Page 45) in which each high flyer tries to get his leg over the other without cocking up and making a complete arse of themselves. Much manipulation ensues.

Please note: conducting your courtships like this is highly ill-advised. Sound effects include <shhlp> <spasm> and <shudder>.

SLH

Buy Same Difference and read the Page 45 review here

Honey Darling (£8-99, Sublime) by Norikazu Akira.

“Why-why are you spooning me?!”
“Oh, you’re awake.”

Big book of awww as drifter Chihiro adopts a kitten abandoned in a box. When the kitten sickens he rushes it to the nearest vet, the tufty-chinned, smouldering Dr. Kumazawa, only to find himself adopted as live-in dog’s body. Initially the impenetrably serious but far from surly Dr. Kumazawa sees Chihiro as a bit of a kitten himself, while Chihiro begins to see Dr. Kumazawa in quite a different light. And in the shower. And eventually in bed. Lovely little epilogue seen from the kitten’s point of view, wondering what tasty treats they’re not sharing with it behind closed doors.

Unlike so much yaoi crammed full of misery and emotional fuck-ups, this is genuinely heart-warming stuff, beautifully drawn, with Kumuzawa’s straight-laced straight face played to fine comedic effect either when Chihiro is bouncing off the walls or finds the actual kitten hanging off the tip of his tie.

SLH

Buy Honey Darling and read the Page 45 review here

The Twelve vol 2 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by J. Michael Straczynski with Chris Weston & Chris Weston.

“You seem troubled, my friend.”

Already one of my favourite five series Marvel had ever produced, I cannot recall when I last read a book in any genre where every single element was tied in to perfection and its conclusion was so remarkably thorough. An extraordinary achievement: you would never know there was a three-year creative break between the first and second halves.

Twelve heroes lost to cryogenic suspension during World War II find themselves revived in the 21st Century and a world they find baffling. It’s not just the technological marvels, it’s the way society has moved on in their wake. For most it is progress, but not for all. And sixty-odd years in suspended animation give you no free passes for past deeds. Not when we can now match DNA; not when some contracts are open-ended through their signatories’ immortality; not when you alienated your now dying family with your shame about its true heritage. If the world has moved on then these individuals haven’t: they awaken with desires still aflame, words yet unspoken, and businesses far from finished.

At the centre of it all is a modern mystery: a whodunnit, a whydunnit, as a gay bar in New York City is trashed, its pool-playing revellers torn apart, stamped on, stamped out. It’s not as obvious as you might think and its mechanics will keep you guessing until the moment the truth is exposed for all the world to see. Come back and read this review in hindsight, for I have chosen my words with care. In the meantime, for a far, far lengthier discourse I throw you back to 2008 and my review of THE TWELVE VOLUME 1.

Weston has done a stunning job of capturing both periods. So many remarkable little details like Captain Wonder’s exposed, hairy legs making his antiquated costume even more dated. But best of all here I relished Master Mind Excello’s sour, pursed-lipped profile. More than that, however, it’s comicbook storytelling at its finest on every single page: flawless choreography rich in detail and fierce in expression.

You need never have read a Marvel Comic in your life, for these are all heroes previously unheard of, although there is one small but satisfying moment of pay-off if you have involving The Witness. Straczynski’s a writer I’ve long admired ever since Babylon5 and I’ve great affection for a lot (but not all) of his subsequent comicbook work as well. It’s all there in our published reviews – pop his surname in our shopping-area search engine. But this is his first work in this medium in which I can find no derivations. It’s entirely his own beast and will delight not only the more sophisticated, modern-day action adventure readers, but also those now older and more nostalgic. And that is a nigh-impossible trick to pull off.

“Sleep easy, old friend. There’s no need to be afraid of the dark. I’ve left a light on for you.”

SLH

Buy The Twelve vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Daredevil vol 2 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Paolo Rivera, Emma Rios, Khoi Pham…

“My name is Matt Murdock. I’m here to see my client. His name is Nolan.”
“If you say so. DAREDEVIL COMIN’ THROUGH!
“Tell holding that Daredevil is on his way!”
“Hey, look out! HERE COMES DAREDEVIL!”
“…sigh…”

Mark Waid continues to prove there’s life in old hornhead yet, as he further develops his utterly implausible main plot thread revolving around the Omega Drive which, despite sounding like a next generation games console, is in fact a vast hard drive containing every bit of incriminating information imaginable concerning five megacrime organisations.

It was being used collectively by the organisations to ensure none of them would try and seize dominion over the others (clearly not the wisest idea they’d ever had to pull all that information in one place), but now it’s in Matt’s hands it’s turning into a free for all as the various megacrime lackeys in their various fancy dress outfits starting falling over each other in comedy fashion to retrieve it first… to try and seize dominion over the others.

Meanwhile, there are some excellent side-bar stories involving a romantic triangle between DD, Spider-Man and the Black Cat and a trip down under to visit the Mole Man who, as ever, is having a confidence crisis in the romance department himself. Delightful, delicately kinetic art again from Paolo Rivera, who is rapidly ensuring he and Waid are well on the way to becoming as good as a DD double act as Bendis and Maleev, including as fine a set of covers on issues #7-#10 as I’ve seen in a long while. Pure design heaven.

JR

Buy Daredevil vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Death Of Captain Marvel h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin, Steve Englehart, Doug Moench & Jim Starlin with Pat Broderick.

“You know, I’ve been thinking a lot lately of all the people I’ve met in my lifetime. I’ve made quite a few friends along the way. I also keep remembering Adam Warlock. I was with him when he died. His was a hard and sad life, filled with pain and confusion. When death came for him he welcomed it as a friend. I’ll not do so.
“I’ve enjoyed this life. It’s had its bad moments, but it’s had far more good moments. I’m going to miss it.”

Surprisingly haunting, even to this day, this was a landmark publication from Marvel in 1982 for so many reasons: it was its first original graphic novel; it was Jim Starlin’s return to a character we all thought he’d had his final say on; and it featured the death of one of its flagship superhumans not in self-sacrificial battle but quietly, in bed from the all-too human disease of cancer.

Like Mark Millar’s more recent, magnificent SUPERIOR, it remains the antithesis of everything that all too often irks me when real-life issues like incapacity or bullying enter the arena of superhero comics. All of Marvel’s preternaturally bright scientists turn up when they finally learn of the good Captain’s fight, and they try and they try, but they still can’t save him. Nor should they have. Back in 1982 it would have been a magic-wand insult to all those with incurable strains of the disease which was far less treatable than it is now. Fighting the disease or lying down and accepting your fate – now that is explored here in great depth from all sides of the argument – and poor Rick Jones, once bonded to Mar-Vell by those place-switching Negabands, takes it harder than most.

Seven years ago a supervillain called Nitro (oh, it’s always Nitro – see CIVIL WAR) succeeded in stealing a canister of nerve gas from the United States Army. During his explosive battle with Captain Marvel, the canister fractured and its lethal nerve agent began to leak out, threatening to kill thousands of local residents. And Mar-Vell – with his alien physiology providing immunity to so much physical harm – stopped up the proverbial damn with his thumb. And promptly passed out. “Is this the End of Captain Marvel?!” screamed the Next Issue caption with customary alarm. Well, no. The thing about superheroes is that they get knocked down – then they get up again! – you’re never going keep them down. And so the Kree soldier soldiered on for many further adventures. In publication terms, it wasn’t even a sub-plot.

Seven years later, and the good Captain is recording his memoirs for posterity. His one unique ability is his Cosmic Awareness, giving him an empathic knowledge of shifts in so much around him. But that power turn itself inwards and, long before he is diagnosed, he already knows he is dying. The photonic power of his Negabands staved off the carcinogenic effect of the nerve gas for seven whole years, but the period of remission is over and now, gradually, one by one, his friends and family find out.

I adored Starlin’s art. In so many ways he took after the photo-realists like Neal Adams with some extraordinarily impressive neo-classical figure work. But then he’d give it a more expressionistic edge, making the jaws more jutting and gesticulations more angular. THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL graphic novel boasted plenty of both, and there’s a particularly brave panel which stood out a mile after Mentorasks Mar-Vell if his lover, Elysius, knows of his terminal condition. After a moment’s silence he looks up from a panel over which Starlin has scrawled – literally scrawled – not photo-realistic shadow but thick lines of creeping darkness right across his face and says, “No… not yet”.

Better still is the composition of the page in which he does break the news to Elysius, out in the sunshine of an idyllic cityside park on Titan, each silent panel interspersed by a narrow window as Mentor watches protectively over them, then withdraws respectfully leaving the couple alone and the window empty and black.

It’s a dignified and respectful book, guest-starring so many of your favourite Marvel characters shown to be unusually uncomfortable, awkward in their impotence and unable to express how they feel. Isn’t that so often the way with cards of condolence? I like this. I still like it a lot. And Starlin wrote a very difficult final few pages very, very well. Before then, however…

“Meanwhile, on the far side of the royal palace, down a long and quiet corridor and behind oak-panelled doors… a woman sits with her man. The long hard vigil that all lovers fears begins.”

Reprints CAPTAIN MARVEL #34, MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #1-2 and the first-ever MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL, THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL.

For Starlin’s finest hour, please see the life and strange death of Adam Warlock which Mar-Vell is referring to in the opening pull quote: the completely self-contained MARVEL MASTERWORKS: WARLOCK VOL 2. It really is exceptional space-faring science-fiction at its most cosmic and I hope that I gave it the review it deserves.

SLH

Buy The Death Of Captain Marvel h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Silver Surfer: Rebirth Of Thanos s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin & Ron Lim.

This is where craggy-chinned Thanos first turned up again after THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL, in SILVER SURFER volume two #34-38 and THANOS QUEST #1-2, leading directly into the INFINITY GAUNTLET.

SLH

Buy Silver Surfer: Rebirth Of Thanos s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Incredible Hulk vol 1 h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Marc Silvestri, Whilce Portacio.

Slight shift in style for Silvestri, possibly on account of the art assist from Michael Broussard and a trio of inkers. The forms are still gigantic, which is what you want for the Hulk – there’s plenty of smashing going down – but the lines are lighter and his monkeys are positively Leinil Francis Yu, he of ULTIMATE WOLVERINE VS. ULTIMATE HULK which incidentally remains one of the best books on our superhero shelves. Sunny Gho’s colours whoosh all over the place as if they’re been applied by Magic Markers, too busy in places but very effective when dappling the island jungle with sunlight.

Brand-new start, then, and things have changed, though why remains a mystery. A fully cognisant, bearded Hulk with unkempt, shoulder-length hair, has taken up residence deep underground in the monstrously populated caverns of the… Moloids? Tyrannoids? Whatever. As ever, he just wants to be left in peace. He isn’t. Dr. Banner, meanwhile, has read one too many H.G. Wells novels and gone all Dr. Moreau. Also, he appears to be angry.

SLH

Buy The Incredible Hulk vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batwoman vol 1: Hydrology h/c (£16-99, DC) by J.H. Williams III & J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman…

One of the new 52 titles I had the highest hopes for, given the retention of J.H.Williams on art duties – well, the Batwoman parts at least – with a different artist being employed on the Katy Kane parts, a device used to superb dualistic effect on the near perfect BATWOMAN: ELEGY. I did, however, have reservations about the fact he was taking over writing duties from Rucka, and despite a superb start with issue #0, in which Dick Grayson tails and surveils Batwoman with a view to establishing her identity and allegiances, it all then gets rather, well, wishy-washy, if you’ll pardon the sub-titular pun. It just feels like it’s lost the punch and drive it had previously and whilst the intriguing side-plots Williams is building up do promise an improvement, this particular main tale just drags on far too long in a somewhat turgid manner.

The art being so superb, though, he does just about get away with it, for now at least.

JR

Buy Batwoman vol 1: Hydrology h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The  Boys vol 11: Over The Hill With The Swords Of A Thousand Men (£14-99, D.E.) by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun, John McCrea, Keith Burns.

Do yourselves a favour and don’t read any other review of this book which could be riddled with spoilers. Also: don’t flick ahead when you buy it!

This is what it’s all been leading up to: one almighty conflagration, the stakes no less than America itself in the form of the Pentagon and the White House, with casualties on all sides. But only Mother’s Milk has had the tenacity to work out what’s really going on and, as he explains it over the phone to a slack-jawed Hughie, so many of the tiny moments which Ennis slipped in over the last ten books – some of which I had completely forgotten about – now make appalling perfect sense.

Congratulations, Garth, you fooled me completely. You completely fooled Billy Butcher too. Amazingly you fooled [CENSORED] as well. Never saw that coming! Oh dear.

Exceeding violent superhero series featuring a latrine of filthy language about the military, money and power and publishing. Probably best to start with THE BOYS VOL 1, yes.

Bonus points go to the first two panels featuring new character Muzzletov, the male equivalent of Zatanna, gurning and gesticulating madly.

SLH

Buy The  Boys vol 11: Over The Hill With The Swords Of A Thousand Men and read the Page 45 review here

 

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 
Fatale vol 1: Death Chases Me (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Beanworld vol 3.5 (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Larry Marder

Gloriana h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Kevin Huizenga

Journalism h/c (£17-99, Metropolitan Books) by Joe Sacco

The Song Of Roland (£14-99, Conundrum) by Michel Rabagliati

Anna And Froga: Want A Gumball? (£10-99, Enfant) by Anouk Ricard

Dinosaurs Vs. Aliens h/c (£14-99, Dynamite) by Grant Morrison, Barry Sonnenfeld & Mukesh Singh

Black Hole s/c (£13-99, Pantheon) by Charles Burns

A Boy And A Bear In A Boat (£10-99, dfb) by Dave Shelton

Monkey Nuts vol 1: The Diamond Egg Of Wonders (£9-99, dfb) by the Etherington Brothers

Baggage (£9-99, dfb) by the Etherington Brothers

The Guild vol 2: Knights Of Good (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Felicia Day, Jeff Lewis & various

The Goon vol 11: The Deformed Of Body And The Devious Of Mind (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Eric Powell

The Chronicles Of Conan vol 22: Reavers In The Borderland And Other Stories (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Michael Fleisher, Jim Owsley & John Buscema, Val Maywerik, Ernie Chan

Gotham City Sirens vol 3: Strange Fruit softcover (£10-99, DC) by Tony Bedard, Peter Calloway & Lorenzo Ruggiero, Jeremy Haun, Walden Wong

Wolverine: The Best There Is – Broken Quarantine s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Charlie Huston & Juan Jose Ryp

Conan vol 11: Road Of Kings (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Roy Thomas & Mike Hawthorne

Morning Glories vol 3 (£10-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma

X-Men: Schism s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen & Carlos Pacheco, Frank Cho, Daniel Acuna, Alan Davis, Adam Kubert, Billy Tan

The Defenders vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Terry Dodson, Michael Lark, Mitch Breitweiser, Victor Ibanez

Star Wars: Knight Errant vol 2: Deluge (£14-99, Dark Horse) by John Jackson Miller & Ivan Rodriguez, Iban Coello, David Daza

Kick-Ass 2 h/c (£18-99, Icon/Marvel) by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.

Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men vol 5 (£18-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont & John Byrne, John Romita Jr.

X-Men Legacy: Back To School h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Christos Gage & David Baldeon, Rafa Sandoval

FF vol 3 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Juan Bobillo, Nick Dragotta

The Darkness Compendium vol 2 s/c (£52-99, Top Cow) by various

Tenjo Tenge 2-in-1 Edition vol 7 (£10-99, Viz) by Oh!Great

Naruto vol 57 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

Rosario + Vampire Season II vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Akihisa Ikeda

One Piece vol 63 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Bleach vol 42 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Bleach vol 43 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Bakuman vol 11 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Bakuman vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Arata The Legend vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Yuu Watase

 
As you may have noticed the reviews above haven’t yet been added to their product pages. We probably still have the Diamond Previews there instead. Don’t worry, we’re aware of that and you can still buy ‘em. Be up by tomorrow. But at least you get most of the covers in the blog tonight. I am learning stuff!

– Not So Stoopid Stephen

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