Reviews September 2012 week two

Delirious instalment of Dave McKean’s POSTCARDS series (so far six in total), and all Page 45’s copies are SIGNED free of charge by the good man himself.

 – Stephen on Postcards From Perugia

Thief Of Thieves vol 1: I Quit (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman, Nick Spencer & Shawn Martinbrough.

The magic of catching fireflies early evening with his son, who dashes through the penumbral woods into a low, golden-orbed sunset… That’s when Conrad Paulson AKA Redmond wakes up. Breakfast smells delicious.

“Morning.”
“You’re out of bacon.”
“Meant to go to the store.”
“Just eggs and toast, then?”
“Mm. Sounds good.”
“You want some juice?”
“Sure. Oh, and before I forget — You got a warrant?”

Oh, how I cackled when I read that. This is a book which won’t just surprise, it will astonish. Each smartly spliced scene in this classy crime caper has been meticulously arranged in far from chronological order for maximum gasps of “I never saw that coming”. It is easily the cleverest crime since CRIMINAL, and I love each slither’s subheading winks:

“What Goes Around.
Or, What Comes Around.”

“What Got Left Out Last Time.
Or, For Effect.”

Where to begin? Oh, right in the middle, I think. Redmond is the most notorious thief in modern American history, and Agent Elizabeth Cohen of the FBI is determined to catch him. That was her making breakfast, by the way, and we’re going to be calling him Redmond from now on because that’s what he wants: the reputation to spread. The problem Elizabeth faces is that Redmond knows how to dance, but she’s pretty nifty with the verbal fencing herself. Then finally a golden opportunity falls right in her lap: Redmond’s son, who hasn’t fallen far from the tree – he’s a thief too but with much less dexterity: he appears to have two right feet. Busted red-handed with kilos of stolen heroin, Augustus will be Cohen’s leverage. Wriggle out of that one, Redmond.

The dénouement is one big flash-flash of revelations spinning right back to the very first chapter and you’ll find yourself headed thataways immediately to re-read the whole thing with hindsight. It is watertight. So here we are, back at that beginning, which I review thus:

“I told you back then I didn’t need an assistant.”
Apprentice. You told me back then you didn’t need an apprentice. And you didn’t tell me we’d be sleeping together.”
“We’re not sleeping together.”
“But I think I’ve made it very clear we could.”

Meet young punk and single mother Celia desperately trying to clear her student loan by jacking cars. Redmond did. Meet her, that is. He caught her trying to steal the wrong car with the wrong tools, in the wrong way for wrong fools. The wrong car was his.

So the thief of all thieves gave her a quick lesson in grand theft auto, saved her from being mugged by her fence and told her she should totally give it up. She should do something else. And now he wishes he hadn’t, because now she has: she’s joined his team of international con artists and, boy, does she relish her roles.

I was asked last week by a most excellent customer whether this was like Brubaker and Phillips’ CRIMINAL. It isn’t – this is comedy not noir – but it precisely like BBC’s The Hustle and I love the art by LUKE CAGE: NOIR’s Shawn Martinbrough who plays it cool with most excellent timing. The set-up’s from WALKING DEAD’s Robert Kirkman while the first story arc here is written by Forgetless’ Nick Spencer. I’ve been suckered and sucked in – and so will you be.

SLH

Buy Thief Of Thieves vol 1: I Quit and read the Page 45 review here

Heartless h/c (£14-99, Ontario Arts Council) by Nina Bunjevac.

Kim Deitch is a big fan, and I’m far from surprised. On the very first page you’re greeted by a Los Bros Hernandez heroine with booted, Dave Cooper thighs as inked by Charles Burns – love-a that rocket!

And inside I would once more reference Dave Cooper with all the sexuality that comes with it, but this time given a distinctly Howard Cruse veneer completely with stippling, yes, but also homoerotic cowboys in bare-bottomed chaps, dancing on the spot-lit stage to an audience of awed gay guys. That is our Chip, vainly pursued by the middle-aged, chain-smoking, cat-faced Zorka, her tired eyes hooded, forever left hanging on the telephone. He’s also lustfully prized by hysterical, Divine-sized drag queen Fay, the nightclub’s receptionist, determined to stay sober against all her own expectations and failing in spectacular fashion after finding Chip without chaps – just a Native American head-dress – working his manful magic over an old woman’s breasts. Cue “Oh Momma!” meltdown as Fay resurrects her parental issues, hits the bottle and then the stage to tearfully sing, “Maybe this time…”

However, just when you think it’s going to be one long chronicle of romantic misadventures (and really, it is), Nina hits you with a pleasant surprise and then something decidedly more serious and political. Kim Deitch writes:

“HEARTLESS is just amazing! I laughed out loud a lot. It is chock full of great stuff and I’m hard to please! Nina Bunjevac’s art is a pleasure to look at. The writing is seriously demented, but in a totally brilliant, highly entertaining way. It is its own thing, imitating no one.”

SLH

Buy Heartless h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Message To Adolf part 1 h/c (£19-99, Vertical) by Osamu Tezuka…

This material was actually my own personal entry point into Tezuka many years ago, when I picked up this work which was then titled ADOLF – THE STORY OF THE 3 ADOLFS. Set between the 1930s and the 1960s in Japan, Germany and eventually Palestine, it tells the interlinked stories of three people called Adolf: Adolf Hitler, obviously, and a young Jewish boy, and his confused half-Japanese / half-German namesake and friend. Like many Tezuka works it combines several different genres: war story, thriller, mystery, even romance.

In other words, it’s a hugely real, rich and complex story about people and places. This is Tezuka’s great strength as a writer, his ability to make a vast and diverse range of characters really come to life, both in their dialogue and his relatively clean, simple yet wonderfully expressive artwork. His ‘more is less’ artwork style is definitely refreshing for those of us who can sometimes get slightly jaded of the incredibly detailed, technical and somewhat linear artwork of a lot of modern manga.

You only have to look at his portrayal of the moustachioed, maniacal Adolf where he perfectly captures the slightly unhinged manic ranting, fist-thumping look familiar from Hitler’s rallying speeches to realise just how clever and expressive an artist Tezuka is. But it’s the story that keeps you gripped with every turn of the page. As with many of his works, whilst it is eminently clear who are the heroes and who are the villains, there is much of the sense of an ongoing wider struggle between the forces of good and evil. Or perhaps more, as Tezuka would say, between enlightenment and ignorance.

Always through his deft handling we are brought to understand the human motivations and machinations of the personalities involved and how they arrive at the conclusion that whatever course of action they are taking is the correct one. Adolf is a fantastic story that draws you in and keeps you gripped right to the very end of the epilogue. One Adolf we obviously know what happens to, but it is the fate of the other two that keeps the reader compelled to keep on reading right to the bitter end…

JR

Buy Message To Adolf part 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

McKean: Postcards From Perugia (£11-50, Hourglass) by Dave McKean.

Delirious instalment of Dave McKean’s POSTCARDS series (so far six in total), and all Page 45’s copies are SIGNED free of charge by the good man himself.

The opening pages see you ascend and descend down the dark, narrow passageways of this ancient Italian city, the walls closing in as if swaying with vertigo, and you’re going to feel a bit giddy yourself, looking up through the arches or down steep, hill-top steps. Elsewhere Dave steps outside the city walls altogether or looks down from above, meandering through courtyards or into grand, open plazas, sketching the art and the art lovers it attracts, along with its citizens, its elaborate, hanging shop signs and restaurants.

Pencils, inks and free-form combos, along with a rich, thick charcoal, I think, these square, hardback pocketbooks summon the spirit of the places Dave McKean visits, paying tribute to their exotic inspiration. Please note: postcards not included.

SLH

Buy McKean: Postcards From Perugia and read the Page 45 review here

McKean: Postcards From Bilbao (£11-50, Hourglass) by Dave McKean.

Yet another hardback, pocketbook instalment of Dave McKean’s POSTCARDS series (so far six in total), and all copies here are SIGNED by the good man himself.

This one boasts the most beautiful, shiny, red and gold cover but – as we continue to advice – no actual postcards! These are sketchbooks.

Spain’s Bilbao is home to the legendary, gleaming Guggenheim Museum with its huge, ocean-liner profile, curved titanium-and-glass walls and, oh look, there’s Jeff Koons’ Puppy. Once more we are treated to those eating, drinking at chatting away, although I think my favourite might be the waiter looking across, arms hanging down, his chest thrust forward – immediate sense of weight. It’s either that or the empty bar stool and tall table at Café La Barmacia, which its delicately thin, single leg and knotted joints. I don’t know why; I just enjoyed the quality of the lines and could almost see it being drawn.

SLH

Buy McKean: Postcards From Bilbao and read the Page 45 review here

Aya: Life In Yop City s/c (£18-99, D&Q) by Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie.

An enormously fun and spirited fiction, this Anglouême 2006 winner tells of 1970s life on the Ivory Coast, “an Africa we rarely see – spirited, hopefully and resilient”.

Aya, 19, is studious and clear-sighted, with easy-going friends. Shame about the meddling relatives and neighbours.

For example, when not only is a baby boy’s paternity questioned but his maternity also, it leads to awkward bluffs and a quick return visit from the city to the family’s village in order to take photographs to show some family likeness. There aren’t any.

The thing is it is Adjoua’s baby boy (Bobby, named after Bobby Ewing – “I want him to be as kind as the one in Dallas”!), but it isn’t Moussa’s… which is a shame because Moussa’s parents are swimming-pool rich. But when Adjoua’s father, Hyacinte, continues to scramble round town frantically trying to find anyone resembling Bobby and claim him as a relative, he accidentally finds an almost identical match. Unsurprising since it’s the real Dad – but not the match he was hoping for!

This is charming on every level. Abouet neither patronises nor white-washes her cast: African men can be as unfaithful and manipulative (and women as gullible) as European and American men, but they can also have a heart of gold like Herv, a young man so skilled as a mechanic that the garage’s ailing owner wants to make him a business partner, if only he can learn to count and write. Also: African boys can have haircuts that enrage their fathers too!

Marguerite here makes a conscious effort to celebrate her native country’s people, their customs and kindnesses – particularly when it comes to the extended family of friends and neighbours who share the burden of nurturing children – whilst clearly showing the human traits and tendencies that we all have in common. It’s a thriving city too, not a dessert of famine and disease and gunmen out of control. It’s populated by roadside traders and the affluent middle class, and under Oubrerie’s crisp and detailed line it is both bright and beautiful with the most vibrant of colours, whilst his expressive cartooning lends the proceedings a comedic joy.

The dialogue is full of inflexions and exclamatory expressions delightfully different after reading thousands and thousands of comics set in America, Europe and Japan, and I thoroughly recommend a quick skim of the one-page glossary before proceeding so that you understand the wider social significance of words like “Tantie” and “Tonton”, which are indeed informal words for “Auntie” and “Uncle” but also “used to show respect or affection when talking to an older woman or man”.

There’s far more going on than that single strand involving Bobby and Adjoua – oh, there are secrets galore! – and, while this edition contains all three previously translated books, Drawn & Quarterly have promised a further bumper volume translating the fourth, fifth and six French stories for the very first time.

SLH

Buy Aya: Life In Yop City s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Dal Tokyo (£25-99, Fantagraphics) by Gary Panter…

Hmm, I should probably begin by first explaining precisely what Dal Tokyo is. Set in the distant future, Mars has been terraformed by Japanese and Texans (thus the Dal being appropriated from Dallas and the resultant cultural fusion – well, having been blended together by a 40-st food processor might be a more appropriate choice of words – is pretty much as you would expect: utterly insane. Thus the first four pages are transparent tracing paper showing, respectively, plans of the 1930 Tokyo Rail System, a map of the Upper Triassic Thethys Sea, a map of the Texas Highways (no date), a map of Martian canals as observed from the Lowell Observatory in 1896, all layered up over a sketch of Martian topography.

Mad.

If you’re wondering why Texan and Japanese, here is Gary explaining his rationale:

“Because they are trapped in Texas, Texans are self-mythologizing. Because I was trapped in Texas at the time, I needed to believe that the broken tractor out back was a car of the future. Japanese, I’ll say, because of the exotic far-awayness of Japan from Texas, and because of the Japanese monster movies and woodblock prints that reached out to me in Texas. Japanese monster movies are part of the fabric of Texas.”

Double mad.

This work collects the whole shooting match of strips from 1983 onwards and rather than begin to even try and explain Gary’s unique artwork, I’ve grabbed some interior art.

Triple mad.

The End.

Buy Dal Tokyo and read the Page 45 review here

The Manhattan Projects vol 1 (£10-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra.

“This is America… everyone gets a gun.”

It’s 1942 on the day the War Department hired child-prodigy turned physics-genius Dr. Robert Oppenheimer to join its quest to ensure that America is armed to the teeth. Officially tasked with building and deploying the world’s first atomic bomb, its actual avenues of exploration are far more esoteric:

“Dr. Seaborg and Mr. McMillan are currently mining something called pan-dimensional space for the fringe materials we need to build our impossible machines of expansion. For example – – We use divergence engines to recover mythological artefacts from discarded space. These are imaginary weapons made real through scientific exploration.”

That’d be the likes of Poseidon’s Trident. But they’re not the only ones who’ve been thinking outside the box, and as the War Department’s military commander enjoys giving thin, frail, white-haired Dr. Oppenheimer a tour of Base Zero (skipping swiftly past a familiar face locked in his own private laboratory), security is breached by a Red Torii gateway (“No doubt Zen-powered by Death Buddhists.”) delivered by a blazing Hinomaru and an automated invasion force sweeps in threatening to steal or destroy everything they’ve worked on so far. Entertainingly, however, the main action is intercut with the parallel lives of Robert and Joseph Oppenheimer, twins born six minutes apart, and their divergent paths through early study, experimentation and ‘areas of interest’ taking us right up to the present day. You’ll have to see why it’s so entertaining for yourselves. Neat punchline.

From the team behind RED WING, the art here displays a little bit of Frank Quitely, maybe a more fragile Geoff Darrow, while the terminology put me in mind of Matt Fraction’s CASANOVA. It’s not taking itself too seriously!

“Ever since the success of Pearl Harbour, the Emperor and his Warlords have gotten extremely aggressive. We’re even having to check every ream of paper that’s delivered to critical government offices after last month’s sentient origami incident. I saw the bodies, Doctor… Papercuts are no way for a man to meet his maker.”

True. If our Tom were a haemophiliac he’d be dead by now.

SLH

Buy The Manhattan Projects vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Incognito: The Classified Edition h/c (£33-99, Icon) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

Lavish hardcover reprinting both INCOGNITO and INCOGNITO: BAD INFLUENCES, with extras in the back designed like a secret dossier, complete with folder tabs. These include every one of the sexy, painted, wraparound covers in all their logo-less glory, the alternative cover to BAD INFLUNCES #1 presented with and without distressed wear and tear. Also included: the original two-page intro/advert previously unreprinted, the art for essays plus loads of preparatory sketch work. Basically, Sean had some from

From the creators of FATALE, CRIMINAL and Sleeper, then, we present Zack Overkill! The Black Death! Zoe Zeppelin! Ava Destruction! It’s that kind of a book. Or is it?

“Remember how Doc was always working on some device that could slow down time, but he could never crack it?”
“Sure, yeah… The Fluxinator or whatever…”
“Yeah, but you don’t need a machine for that… just an office job… Nothing slows time faster than having to punch a clock.”

Well yes it is actually, for in a surprise move the CRIMINAL team once again plunged one fist into the superhero stomach whilst keeping the other firmly in the underbelly of twilight crime. Three years ago The Black Death (not on the side of the angels, no) had finally been picked up and slung into prison, whence he still managed to organise his crime and in particular the elimination of several members of his crew he felt were a threat. That included Zack and Xander Overkill, preternaturally strong twins who shared more than just an affinity for each other: more of a psychic link which meant they shared sensations from sickness to sex and a certain level of power between them. Xander was killed outright, but Zack was picked up injured and offered Witness Protection. For this he has to take pills that reduce him to an ordinary human being and work in an office where he’s largely ignored and forced to fit in with this fellow, dull office minions. He’s finding it difficult…

“Become part of society… right. That’s easier said than done. Because the only society I ever belonged to was a secret one.”

When Zack starts taking recreational drugs just to take the edge off the ennui, along with something else in order to pass the urine tests, there’s an unexpected side-effect that arises stemming from the fact that he no longer shares his power but now has it all to himself. Now he’s back on the rooftops, getting his clandestine kicks at criminals’ expenses and it just feels good, you know? But when an office co-worker susses out what’s going on and who Zack really is, he wants his kicks too, vicariously. Blackmailed by that co-worker into hitting a bank, it’s only a question of time before he attracts the attention of both sides of the crime war. Then another test-tube is decanted…

Sexy, sophisticated, superhero noir with that customarily rich internal monologue you’ve come to expect from Brubaker, and the subtle expressions and powerful lighting you all love Phillips for. Plus, on the landscape covers reprinted here, big splashes of bolshy watercolour action. The cityscape backdrop to the fourth cover was simply stunning, and his professor was as mad as you like.

For BAD INFLUENCES, I think I was channelling ace American soap-spoof, ‘Soap’:

Second series of superhero noir this time dealing with the infiltration of a criminal organisation just like the creators’ magnificent Sleeper. But the infiltrator here doesn’t have to switch sides. Actually he does, because Zack Overkill is now working for the good guys but before that he was idling in witness protection after switching sides from the bad guys. Now that he’s working for the good guys they’ve sent him to work for some other bad guys because the first person the good guys sent to spy on the bad guys switched sides. Will Zack switch sides too?

Meanwhile Zack’s now sleeping with the enemy (if you consider his original position, anyway) but it’s emphatically not a relationship so far as Zoe Zeppelin’s concerned. Oh, and Zack is targeted by an aged bomber who mistakes him for one of the other bad guys who once sent him undercover with another lot of bad guys who sussed out that he was indeed a bad guy but not once of theirs. He was a sleeper so they put him in a coma…

For sixty-six years! Can you even imagine? Going into a coma in your youth, then the next thing you know you’re waking up in a body that’s 80 years old?! That’d be such a dive that I’d start bombing too.

SLH

Buy Incognito: The Classified Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Glory vol 1: The Once And Future Destroyer (£7-50, Image) by Joe Keatinge & Ross Campbell…

I should confess at this point that I was utterly unfamiliar with the Gloriana character prior to reading this, or indeed Ross Campbell’s art, never having read his own WET MOON or SHADOWEYES, which probably means I was not the ideal person to review this work!! Pressing on… you do get an ultra brief recap of Gloriana’s past, explaining her unique heritage and her previous run-ins with the likes of SUPREME, but this is definitely intended to be a new episode for the character, even though what has gone before has substantial ramifications in the here and now. Moderately entertaining, certainly nothing new or groundbreaking, but always nice to see a rather different art style employed on a ‘supes’ book.

JR

Buy Glory vol 1: The Once And Future Destroyer and read the Page 45 review here

Batman: Knightfall vol 3 ( New Ed’n) (£22-50, DC) by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant, Jo Duffy, Denny O’ Neil & Mike Manley, Graham Nolan, Bret Blevins, Ron Wagner, Tom Grummett, Jim Balent, Joe Rubenstein, Barry Kitson, Mike Vosberg, Mike Gustovich, Romeo Tanghal, Lee Weeks, Phil Jimenez, MD Bright, John Cleary.

“The third and final volume of the epic 1990s tale that broke Batman’s back, collected in full for the first time. Collects BATMAN #509-514, BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT #29-34, DETECTIVE COMICS #676-681, BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #62-63, ROBIN #8-13 and CATWOMAN #12-13.”

There you go: “The epic 1990s tale that broke Batman’s back”. Not only can DC’s hype-monkey type “1990s” in the correct fashion which eludes almost everyone else, but she or he picks out the only salient / selling point about this over-gorged gimmick stuffed by multiple broth-spoiling cooks. No word on its quality (wisely), just the bare facts which is what it contains. As you can tell from the list, these new editions are twice the size of the old ones, DC having previously ditched the bits which would have helped you create for yourselves at least some degree of dramatic tension as you wondered whether Bruce could indeed reconstruct his life and spinal chord.

I’ve left sticking my crab-creating oar in (I was rubbish at rowing) until the last volume so that those blissfully buying these books from our website could do so without my jaded churlishness and – oh, I don’t know – quality control.

SLH

Buy Batman: Knightfall vol 3 ( New Ed’n) 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 Adventures Of Julius Chancer: The Complete Rainbow Orchid (£14-99, Egmont) by Garen Ewing

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

American Elf vol 4: The Collected Sketchbook Diaries Of James Kochalka (£18-99, Top Shelf) by James Kochalka

Sekeris: Metamorfx: Art Of Constantine Sekeris (£17-99, DesignStudioPress) by Constantine Sekeris

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

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

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

The Chronicles Of King Conan vol 3: The Haunter Of The Cenotaph And Other Stories (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Doug Moench & Marc Silvestri, Ron Frenz, Alan Kupperberg, Ernie Chan

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

Dorothy And The Wizard In Oz h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Eric Shanower & Skottie Young

Green Arrow vol 1: The Midas Touch softcover (£10-99, DC) by Dan Jurgens, J.T. Krul, Keith Giffen & George Perez

Birds Of Prey vol 1: Trouble In Mind s/c (£10-99, DC) by Duane Swierczynski & Jesus Saiz

Brightest Day vol 3 s/c (£12-99, DC) by Geoff Johns, Peter J. Tomasi & Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Joe Prado, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark

Batman: Arkham City s/c (£12-99, DC) by Paul Dini & Carlos D’Anda

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

Uncanny X-Men vol 1 s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Carlos Pacheco, Brandon Peterson

Fear Itself: Secret Avengers s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, Cullen Bunn & Scot Eaton, Peter Nguyen

Essential Punisher vol 4 (£14-99, Marvel) by Mike Baron, Chuck Dixon & Bill Reinhold, Mark Texeira, more

X 3-in-1 Ed vol 3 (£12-99, Viz) by Clamp

Ikigami The Ultimate Limit vol 8 (£8-99, Viz) by Motoro Mase

One Piece vol 64 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

MAJOR GLEEFUL ANNOUNCEMENT: as of this Sunday original Page 45 member Dominique Kidd has joined Jonathan and myself as full-time co-manager! Even though she’s been with us – on and off – for nearly eighteen years, Dominique has never been full-time before, and we are beyond grateful that she’s stepped in permanently now that Tom has gone part-time to become the next Gordon Ramsay.

In celebration we reveal Dominique Kidd’s brand-new staff profile!

 – Stephen

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