Reviews September 2012 week three

I promise the shek’s in the post.

 – redacted from Stephen’s review of The Judas Coin. Mercifully.

Wet Moon vol 6: Yesterday’s Gone (£13-50, Oni Press) by Ross Campbell.

GHOST WORLD for goths with pvc, piercings and hair dye – that‘s how WET MOON started out: an empathic exploration of the uneasy friendships between a group of hesitant, second-guessing, slightly paranoid girls at college, and a celebration of their far-from-standard body forms with the silkiest, most tender of art. Over five previous volumes those friendships have expanded, blossomed or withered and died. Some have shared secrets, as do more here.

But all along there were intimations of heart-ache and horror lurking beneath the surface, as if something was simmering in the swamp all around them… and then someone stewing within. In WET MOON VOL 5 she finally erupted, her seething psychosis taken out on one of those women in act of extreme violence which made everyone I know truly wince. This is the emotional fall-out, and it’s handled with the depth it deserves.

So many other creators would have cut all too quickly to the chase – the pursuit of the culprit concerned – but that’s not what happens in real life. Instead they are left dazed, bewildered by a butchery they could never see coming and oblivious to its source. All they care about is their friend. She’s the only person who knows who did it, and I’m afraid she’s deep in a coma.

Six volumes in, I have to be ever so careful what I say, but I hope I’ve intrigued potential new readers. I love this series so much I’ve reviewed every volume and this isn’t my best shot, I know.

Everyone handles grief differently, unpredictably, depending on where they are right then in their lives. Ross Campbell has entirely understood that. His humanity and sympathy leaps from every page. No one is judged, and as they struggle to console each other whilst needing consolation themselves, we wait for our woman to wake up. Will she?

“I hate this waiting, Mara. Waiting an’ waiting for somethin’ to happen. Takes so much energy.”

Lots of lingering silence and exceptional use of clothing. Again: far from predictable. Not everyone wears their true hearts on their sleeves.

SLH

Buy Wet Moon vol 6: Yesterday’s Gone and read the Page 45 review here

7 String vol 1 (£9-99, zetacomics) by Nich Angell >

I’ll start with the art because it’s very, very pretty. In fact we decided to stock the book almost as soon as we saw it just on that basis. Nich’s art is “manga-inspired” along with the big shoes pointy and hair lines, and is very clean and crisp; satisfying to look at on the page. The style of colouring would probably be too bright on shiny paper and in a traditional palette, but the matte paper and pastel shades give it a really gorgeous look. There are some fairly intense chunks of background details in some places which put me in mind of KING CITY and even some Paul Pope panels. Nich clearly has a good grasp on the mechanics of comic books in terms of layouts, well timed splash pages and storytelling.

The story is pretty cool with some classic fantasy-epic elements: a young hero finding his way, factions heading for war and a very bad dude manipulating all behind the scenes. What lifts it up above the average could-be-an-installment-of-final-fantasy story, though, is the musical allegory which runs through the universe and defines everything from the names of the factions to the weaponry and fighting styles they use.

The universe, we are told, is suffused with and sustained by an overarching melody which, when played right, keeps everything in balance. Sounds silly when I explain it but, when described in the first part of the book it makes for an intriguing backdrop, an interesting reframing of the human condition which is, after all, what so many of our fantasy stories are. I was particularly impressed with this prologue-y, narrated part of the book. It’s a device which is often used so badly it sets my teeth on edge, but here I though it worked well, setting the groundwork for the story and helping to explain the strange universe it is set in.

There was the odd bit of bad punctuation and on a couple of occasions the language skirted on the grandiose but I have seen far worse sins committed by much more experienced writers so it’s pretty hard to hold those few minor blips against Nich. In fact the whole book is so big hearted and engaging that I hesitate to pick fault because I am so looking forward to the next installment.

I would say this is a good book for fans of fantasy, fighty manga, Scott Pilgrim… which I think covers pretty much everyone so that’s good news! Also did I mention very, very pretty?

DK

Buy 7 String vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Hive h/c (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Charles Burns.

“What didn’t I tell her?
What parts of the story did I leave out?
I wanted to tell her everything. I wanted to tell her the truth.
…And I tried… I really did.”

The book of nightmares continues. The first instalment, X’ED OUT, freaked me out, playing fears that feature frequently in my dreams: food you really shouldn’t eat, holes that shouldn’t be there, getting hopelessly and helplessly lost only to be misled further by strangers. I don’t know what happened to the missing stairs, filthy latrines and my teeth falling out on the floor. Maybe they’ll be in book three.

Still, there’s more of that here in Doug’s head where he delivers romance comics on a metal trolley to bedridden female patients, pushing the cart down endless, roughly hewn tunnels in a semi-industrial warren prone to unseen accidents that render certain off-limit areas toxic. Apparently there was screaming in the late hours last night. It came from Cindy’s cubicle, and it went on for hours… until it stopped.

Meanwhile in his waking world, Doug is recalling his courtship with raven-haired Sarah: a stroll in windswept, autumn-leafed park where they picked up sixties’ romance comics from an old man at the flea market. Sarah was delighted at the find. Doug bought her the lot, and it bought him a kiss.

“You know what? That was really sweet of you. I know you think these are stupid, but… but wait.. here’s where you stop and kiss me… just like they do in the comics.”

“My kiss was awkward and clumsy,” recalls Doug. “But she made up for it… She made it perfect.”

The evening too seemed perfect, a simple dinner together back at Sarah and Nicky’s. Nicky was out, at band practice. But Sarah… Sarah is a little more fragile than she looks.

There’s more about the buzzer and the threatening voice behind it, as well as Doug’s stage performances behind a Tintin mask. More of Doug’s Dad too. Oh yes, and those photographs.

But it’s the romance comics that particularly fascinated me this time: the search for missing issues, and speculation on what must have happened in the gap. For those of us reading comics before the birth of the collected edition that’s got to ring bells, as well as dreams in which you finally fill your gaps at a second-hand stall – gaps that in real life might never have existed. The comics are in Japanese so it’s even more difficult to fathom what happened, and they’re drawn unmistakably by John Romita Sr. – Burns nails both the composition and the man’s brush strokes. The hair is quite perfect.

For those vaguely mystified for this somewhat allusive and, yes, elusive review, please see X-ED OUT. Or indeed Burns’ most famous, self-contained work, BLACK HOLE: he really is the very best at body horror.

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

Legends Of Zita The Spacegirl (£9-99, FirstSecond) by Ben Hatke.

“You think I’m a hero.”
“I think you’re just like the rest of us. Just trying to hold things together while you find your way.”

A drop of water “plips” from a leaking pipe into a battered old bucket that threatens to overflow. So much for state-of-the-art spaceships.

“But I also think the role suits you. Back at the station I saw it first hand. You shine in a crisis. And you inspire loyalty.”

Zita surely does inspire loyalty and shine in a crisis… which is just as well! There’s a enormous swarm of giant Star Hearts heading towards Lumponia, threatening to strip the planet to bedrock. With multiple, mucus-green eyes and savage, rotten teeth, they are an unstoppable puce-pink plague and there may be nothing Zita can do because Piper and the gang have blasted off without her! Why would they do that…?!

Like most surprises, good or bad, it all begins in a cardboard box: a cardboard box dumped on a waste tip outside the city walls. Out of it struggles a raggedy robot, wobbly and more than a little bewildered. It’s roughly the size of a girl.

High above Piper is pulling in the crowds by putting on a show, presenting, “Zita! The girl who saved Scriptorius!” She’d rather not come out. But she has hundreds of fans drawn by the posters plastered all round the city, even down by the waste tip and the robot has seen one. It’s… intrigued. It finds an old mop head and uses it as a wig; it finds some green and white rags it finds in a trash can, a bucket of black paint and a brush. Slowly but surely it begins to look just like Zita and, when the two bump into each other it, finally morphs into an exact replica. Zita can’t believe her luck: the robot can take her place for the duration of the show while she and Pizzicato, her giant, sign-languaging mouse go off and have fun!

Hmm, great idea. Except that the robot is an Imprint-o-Tron, a model of mechanoids able to mimic with ease, but with one big drawback: they tend to over-fixate, really growing into their roles and rather reluctant to give them up. Also, that cardboard box had been dumped with good reason: the entire line has been recalled! Uh-oh, Jungo!

Brilliant sequel to ZITA THE SPACEGIRL which had me chortling until I choked. Some great gags and much mischievous rivalry between our space-faring gang. Also battles! Big, bombastic battles, and a few hints for the future as we meet Madrigal who remembers our Piper all too well, and she has a surprise of her own for him. It does come in a box, yes.

SLH

Buy Legends Of Zita The Spacegirl and read the Page 45 review here

The Adventures Of Julius Chancer: The Complete Rainbow Orchid (£14-99, Egmont) by Garen Ewing…

Fans of a certain bequiffed Belgian lamenting the lack of new material (since Hergé sadly passed away in 1983 – read all about his own eventful life in THE ADVENTURES OF HERGE) no look no further as Garen Ewing has created a character in Julius Chancer who captures the classic ligne claire illustrated Boy’s Own adventure style that Hergé made his trademark for so long.

There’s a mystery to be solved and a rare orchid to be retrieved from the lost valleys of India to save a man’s honour, plus a distressed damsel or two to bowl over along the way. And it’s up to Julius Chancer, historical researcher and assistant to the retired Indiana Jones-like legend that is Sir Alfred Catesby-Grey, to seize the day and make a name for himself! This is great fun with a charming end of (British) Empire era feel to it that simply adds to the appeal. This album-sized work collects what originally appeared in three separate volumes, and it’s an enthralling all-ages read.

JR

Buy The Adventures Of Julius Chancer: The Complete Rainbow Orchid and read the Page 45 review here

Crossed: Wish You Were Here vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Simon Spurrier & Javier Barreno…

“You think you’ve seen everything. You’ve been through the mill, you know? You’ve been traumatised, fucked-up… you’ve been more frightened than one crispy little heart can bear…
“”But at least,” you tell yourself… “At least nothing’ll ever surprise me again.
“Then you glance up at the wrong moment and spot a bloke lungfucking a dolphin while screaming for his ma.”

Which is the opening page of Si Spurrier and Javier Barreno’s stab at getting the CROSSED franchise onto less disturbing ground…

This volume, which really could have had an additional sub-sub-title of “Bloody Glad I’m Not”, collects all the freely available webcomic material to date that the duo have been pumping out weekly on Avatar’s website à la FREAKANGELS. Now, I was a massive fan of volume one of CROSSED as penned by Garth Ennis and pencilled by Jason Burrows. Utterly vile wrongness, yes, but hilarious utterly vile wrongness, and thus just staying within the tightly stretched bounds of acceptability, if not good taste. Volumes 2 and 3 penned by David Lapham, minus the humour, well, I really didn’t care for them at all. Happily, though, the current ongoing series, penned in turn by Ennis, Jamie Delano and currently Lapham (who has clearly been told to wind it in, at least a little bit, I suspect) is getting the franchise firmly back on track. This material, I’m delighted to say, is very much in the slashed vein of Ennis, and Barreno has certainly gone for a style akin to Burrows, who is probably my favourite maniac illustrator. No one does grinning insanity quite like him, I must say, though Barreno is right up there too!

This material succeeds certainly because it has humour, but also because of the taut, claustrophobic episodic feel. Whereas characters in the CROSSED world have always been completely disposable – and rest assured the whole cast most certainly does not make it through volume one of WISH YOU WERE HERE intact – Spurrier has created a very credible rag tag bunch of survivors who have managed to make it to the relative safety of the Shetlands. It says much for the use of the word relative, that whilst in my fanboy head I would like to think I’d stand half a chance of surviving in the world of the WALKING DEAD, there is absolutely no way I would even want to think about being stuck in the living hell on Earth that is the world of the CROSSED. No sir.

You don’t need to have read any of the other CROSSED material to <ahem> enjoy this, in fact it would be a perfect jumping in-point to the boiling cauldron of insanity. The first page is probably the most shocking, so if the sight of man making somewhat unorthodox use of a dolphin’s blowhole doesn’t disturb you too much, you’ll probably make it through with your faculties intact.

JR

Buy Crossed: Wish You Were Here vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Judas Coin h/c (£22-50, DC) by Walter Simonson.

When Judas betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, he did it with a kiss, and it was for thirty pieces of silver.

Only when Jesus was tried and then sentenced to death did Judas attempt to return those shekels, but they were already seen as soiled: blood money, cursed. So Judas threw them on the temple floor and hanged himself. Good riddance.

Unfortunately there was no getting rid of the silver…

It’s a surprisingly short sequence in the New Testament but, oh, so powerful: the man who preached love betrayed by one his twelve closest confidants, and done so with the most intimate act of affection. No wonder the money which can’t buy you love was cursed – cursed to reappear like the proverbial penny and dooming all hellbent on acquiring it. Simonson has taken that idea and run with it, fusing it with DC legend and lore: the Viking Prince, the pirate Captain Fear, cowboy and quick-thinking mischief-merchant Bat Lash, right through to Batman and beyond…

It will come as no surprise to those familiar with Walt Simonson’s epic arc on THOR that the Viking sequence is one of the strongest here with massive visual flourishes like the giant Green Man statue carved from the most monumental living tree, but also the language:

“The susurration of the wind through the tree-tops is the only sound.”

The bucaneer episode is equally thrilling and frantically paced with great big Galleons and vast sails right from page one using the vertical axis for maximum, eye-piercing impact. On its last page alone the specific curse of the coin comes back into play several times over. Better still are Bat Lash’s multiple sleights-of-hand delivered with dexterity during “Ill-Gotten Gains” as an entire town sets off in hot-headed, post-poker pursuit of our man with the plan which he makes up on the hoof while admonishing the morons he fools. The colour art there is tinted with a sandy filter before arrestingly switching to stark black and white for the ‘Gotham Gazette’, an episode featuring Bruce Wayne, a newspaper seller and multiple broadsheet clippings.

There the silver shekel has resurfaced as part of a private collection exhibited in a public Museum and naturally one man above all others has set his skewed sights on acquiring it: one of Batman’s arch-enemies, Two-Face. Yet here’s the really clever bit: our coin-tossing criminal has spent his entire life understanding the odds – it’s what he does for an Obsessively Compulsive Disorderly living – and he’s the first to figure out the totem’s true nature. So the thin-skinned, fiery-tempered, dual-personality reknowned for going postal does so in a different, more deliberate and deliberated way.

Oh, very well done, Mr. Simonson! I can’t say I cared for the Roman chapter or really the bit in the future whose comicbook context I didn’t understand because I can’t know everything, can I? But I approached this book with minimum interest and left laughing heartily. Also with a new word: susurration. Expect it, now acquired as my own, in a new review imminently.

SLH

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

OMG!! Where Are My Shoes? card (£2-20, ) by Lizz Lunney.

A moment of sublime feline satori from one of Britain’s most sage socio-political commentators which you can send to your friends and help them understand what’s what in this world. It can be confusing, can’t it?

I have no idea why our intitial batch of Lizz Lunney cards didn’t contain this, or ‘Sorry to Hear You Got Old’ but they sold so well that we reordered. Lo and behold, two upgrades, and I am reliably informed by li’l Ms. Lizz that there are two brand-new designs on their way for 2013. I am so happy I could open the fridge door and get deliriously drunk by midday! Whoops, fait accompli! I leave you now with our default review on account of I can’t even feel my fingers.

FAQ: “Do you sell greetings cards?” WE DO NOW!

If Lizz Lunney was ever actually on a trolley, the cart has long since sped away, careered down the mountain and jettisoned Ms. Lizz into Page 45’s gratefully open arms.

These, then, from the creator of DEPRESSED CAT: NINE MISERABLE LIVES and all those shiny badges we mercilessly market like boiled sweets in a bowl right next to the till. And the delightful thing is that so many of these are comics: short stories told through sequential art! Each classy card comes matt in two or more colours, and enhanced with a slither of foil. Also, envelopes: you get a free envelope! I can’t tell you how much giving away free stuff sticks in my craw.

The cards weren’t in for five seconds before Jonathan bought ‘Congratulations! You’re Not Dead Yet!’ and ‘One Year Closer To Extinction’ for each of his parents. I’m praying for a week free from irony.

Please note: 10% Student Discount applies to these too in the shop, making them the most affordable greetings cards you will probably find around town. Neat, eh? Alas, unlike our DEPRESSED CAT books, none of these cards come signed. YOU HAVE TO DO THAT YOURSELVES!

SLH

Buy OMG!! Where Are My Shoes? card and read the Page 45 review here

Sorry To Hear You Got Old card (£2-20) by Lizz Lunney.

Yes, well, me too.

I just tweeted “Uh-oh, Chongo! It’s Danger Island next!” and no one had a clue what I meant. If you do recognise the Banana Splits call-out then I am sorry you too have grown old.

It wasn’t planned. I didn’t stick it in my diary or down on my to-do list. But then I never write “Get drop-down-drunk by midday!” Still, these things happen regardless, as I’m sure you’ll agree. I’m glad I made maximum use of my hair while I still had it: a great many colours and multiple styles of quiff. It was me that destroyed the ozone layer, and I am so, so sorry, okay? When you shave it all off, it’s the last hair style you will ever have. If you’re wise.

Anyway, penance. And I cannot thank Lizz Lunney enough for reminding me of my mortality in this beautiful card which I will send to all my friends in spite of the fact that they’ve weathered the temporal storm far better than I. The bastards.

I have no idea why our intitial batch of Lizz Lunney cards didn’t contain this or ‘OMG!! Where Are My Shoes?’ but they sold so well that we reordered. Lo and behold, two upgrades, and I am reliably informed by li’l Ms. Lizz that there are two brand-new designs on their way for 2013. I leave you now with our default review on account of I can’t even feel my fingers.

FAQ: “Do you sell greetings cards?” WE DO NOW!

If Lizz Lunney was ever actually on a trolley, the cart has long since sped away, careered down the mountain and jettisoned Ms. Lizz into Page 45’s gratefully open arms.

These, then, from the creator of DEPRESSED CAT: NINE MISERABLE LIVES and all those shiny badges we mercilessly market like boiled sweets in a bowl right next to the till. And the delightful thing is that so many of these are comics: short stories told through sequential art! Each classy card comes matt in two or more colours, and enhanced with a slither of foil. Also, envelopes: you get a free envelope! I can’t tell you how much giving away free stuff sticks in my craw.

The cards weren’t in for five seconds before Jonathan bought ‘Congratulations! You’re Not Dead Yet!’ and ‘One Year Closer To Extinction’ for each of his parents. I’m praying for a week free from irony.

Please note: 10% Student Discount applies to these too in the shop, making them the most affordable greetings cards you will probably find around town. Neat, eh? Alas, unlike our DEPRESSED CAT books, none of these cards come signed. YOU HAVE TO DO THAT YOURSELVES!

SLH

Buy Sorry To Hear You Got Old card 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.
The Phoenix #37 (£2-99, Phoenix Group) by various

The Nao Of Brown h/c (£16-99, Self Made Hero) by Glyn Dillon

The Hive h/c (£12-99, Jonathan Cape) by Charles Burns

Pearl Of Pandaria h/c (£18-99, DC) by Micky Neilson & Sean Galloway

Doctor Who: The Dalek Project h/c (£14-99, BBC Books) by Justin Richards & Mike Collins

Green Lantern Corps vol 1: Fearsome h/c (£16-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & various

Penguin: Pain And Prejudice s/c (£10-99, DC) by Gregg Hurwitz & Szymon Kudranski

Winter Solider vol 1: The Longest Winter s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Butch Guice

The Punisher vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Greg Rucka, Mark Waid & Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Marco Checchetto, more

Journey Into Mystery: Fear Itself Fallout s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Robert Rodi & Whilce Portacio, Pasqual Ferry, Richard Elson

Spider-Man: Spider-Island s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Rick Remender & Humberto Ramos, Stefano, Tom Fowler

Uncanny X-Men vol 3 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Greg Land, Billy Tan, Dustin Weaver

Daredevil vol 3 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid, Greg Rucka & Marco Checchetto, Chris Samnee, Khoi Pham

Invincible Iron Man vol 10: Long Way Down h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Salvador Larroca

Lost Boys: Reign Of Frogs (£9-99, Wildstorm) by Hans Rodionoff & Joel Gomez

Wolverine: Goodbye, Chinatown s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Paul Garney, Renato Guedes

X-Men: The Wedding Of Cyclops And Phoenix s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Fabian Nicieza, Scott Lobdell, Glenn Herdling, Kurt Busiek & Richard Bennett, Andy Kubert, Aron Wiesenfeld, Ian Churchill, Mike McKone, John Romita Jr., Tim Sale, Ron Randall

Venom: Circle Of Four s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender, Rob Williams, Jeff Parker & Tony Moore, Lee Garbett, Sana Takeda, Julian Tedesco, more

Until Death Do Us Part vol 2 (£12-99, Yen) by Hiroshi Takashige & DOUBLE-S

Higurashi vol 19: Massacre vol 1 (£12-99, Yen) by Ryukishio7 & Hinase Momoyama

Cardcaptor Sakura Book 4 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Clamp

Angelic Layer Book 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Clamp

Berserk vol 36 (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Kentaro Miura

Yotsuba&! vol 11 (£8-99, Yen) by Kiyohiko Azuma

Fairy Tail vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima
Have you been in awe of CEREBUS over the years but perplexed by Dave Sim’s somewhat controversial statements? I have most certainly had issue, but kept my level head. Do you have a tricky question to ask him gnawing at your nethers? Then ask it!

Thanks to Tim Webber, we opened the doors with Dave Sim HARDtalk (it was a throw-away joke, but Dave liked it – full interview there online for free) but now you can blow them wide open and you may even get an original piece of artwork for yourself!

Dave Sim HARDtalk is going on world-wide virtual  tour, and if you click on that subclause you’ll see how you can get involved yourselves.

– Stephen

One Response to “Reviews September 2012 week three”

  1. […] shop in the UK) recently stocked my book and wrote an amazing review of it which you can read here: http://www.page45.com/world/2012/09/reviews-september-2012-week-three/ you can also buy the book through them if you fancy sampling my […]

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