Archive for November, 2012

Reviews November 2012 week four

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Now what you have to bear in mind is that those pieces aren’t designed to be seen; they aren’t the finished product. The finished product, the work of art, is the printed graphic novel you hold in your hands, preferably mere seconds before taking it to our till. … Viewing an original page, therefore, is a fascinating insight to the creative process, like x-raying a Leonardo Da Vinci to reveal the layers of paint beneath its surface.

 - Stephen in a brand-new Page 45 interview. Please see bottom of the blog, as ever.

 

August Moon (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Diana Thung >

Cute warning: this book has all the cute! Like, literally, all of it. It’s one that adults who liked things like BONE, perhaps MOUSE GUARD, or indeed Studio Ghibli stuff will enjoy, but is also suitable for younger readers. Though some serious themes are touched upon, in particular loss of a parent, it’s very gently done and I think I would have absolutely loved this at age 10 or 11.

Calico is a little town, unusual in that it is reachable only by bridge and is surrounded by thick forest. Life is fairly ordinary there, though: people work, go to school, buy food and treats from the many shops and street vendors. The kids seem to have a great time there too, racing around in a little rag-tag gang playing robots and singing songs. There are rumours and stories about the lights that you sometimes see dancing in the sky at night. Most believe they are the souls of the dead watching over the town as it sleeps but a few people, including Jayden the strange little street kid, know different. When events take a turn for the strange it’s up to newcomer Fi, mysterious Jayden and the Totoro-esque wielders of those dancing lights to save the people and the soul of Calico from a dark outside influence.

DK

Buy August Moon and read the Page 45 review here

At The End Of Your Garden (signed) (£4-00) by Lizz Lunney.

I am about to attempt six consecutive Lizz Lunney reviews in swift succession. After which I may need medical attention. And so may you.

“Things you might see at the end of your garden: Tigers…”

Need I type any further? Thank goodness Lizz Lunney didn’t compile any of the I-SPY books I bought when young: I would have burst into tears. Thankfully it transpires that the next five aren’t quite so challenging: moss (my entire lawn is a flawless carpet of moss), bonfires (I’ve lit a fair few), squirrels (not quite as angry as hers), elves (I wiped them out years ago) and remains (see ‘elves’. Also: ‘bonfires’).

Moss proves to be a major issue this issue, featuring heavily on the cover, dominating its reverse and, at the time of typing, Lizz has festooned for free Page 45’s copies of this mental mini-comic with original, signed sketches of said spore-spawning greenery. And we thank her for that, I think. Hers, of course, is an anthropomorphic moss – far from bipedal, though it does get around and appears to be overwhelmingly at one with itself: content, at rest, like some colour-blind Buddhist.

Also this time: beware The Box Of Unmentionable Stress, a cautionary tale for those of you with both an over-acquisitive and over-inquisitive sensibility. There are always life lessons in Lizz Lunney comics, and I seriously suggest you take heed.

‘The Girl With The Lion In Her Hair’ is an ode not dissimilar to Kate Bush’s gentle and tender ballad The Man With The Child In His Eyes… only decidedly less metaphorical in nature. There is, in fact, a girl with a lion in her hair. I may introduce it to the tiger at the bottom of my garden and see if we can’t get some hot, hinnie-like action going on.

Most of these jaw-dropping gems barely overstay one or two panels but ‘Bum Cats Go Out’ is a veritable two-page epic. There are in fact five panels. It is a quest (“Yippee!”) for presents (“Yippee!”) as two balloon-bottomed bozos of the feline persuasion get up off their arses then sit down on them again to take tea (“Yippee!”). Which two presents do they choose, dear reader? More importantly which two would you choose?

Someone should turn that into one of those internet personality evaluations: which two trinkets you choose (note: trinkets include a gigantic solar entity emitting 384.6 yotta watts of energy per second) will determine exactly what sort of lunatic you are. I’d like to see Lizz set up this interactive service, and then take the test herself.

SLH

Buy At The End Of Your Garden (signed) and read the Page 45 review here

Unicorns + Werewolves / Tubetastic (£2-50) by Lizz Lunney.

Belay your expectations, dear readers, for they will avail you nought in this ground-breaking and surely award-winning ethological study of three species so under-investigated by even Dame David Attenborough that some still consider them mere myth. Werewolf deniers: they shouldn’t be allowed.

Take the Tubes: they have it tough. Tougher than you think. Oh, they may be able to tumble up and down dell far faster than you and I, and I daresay they can straighten out an over-rolled poster with reverse physiology simply by wrapping it round their waists for half an hour. But they have only one aspect from which to view the world: from the end of their unyielding body, ever erect, so how can they see the wider world around when all they stare up at is the ceiling? I would ask students the same question.

As to unicorns and werewolves, I for one was profoundly moved by Lizz Lunney’s detailed documentary of the problems faced in their day-to-day cohabitation, albeit from opposite sides of the wood. It’s like Westside Story but without the high heels, flamboyance and tunes. All segregation – self-imposed or otherwise – makes me delinquent with wrath, but when it results in a love so forbidden on either side that, however requited, it may never be consummated or indeed celebrated by so-called friends and relatives… well, my stony heart breaks.

Admirable neo-classical art which put me in mind of sculptor Bernini, only flatter.

SLH

Buy Unicorns + Werewolves / Tubetastic and read the Page 45 review here

At The Planetarium (signed) (£4-00) by Lizz Lunney.

Arch neo-classicist Lizz Lunney does it again.

I am in awe of this woman’s perspective-perfect, photo-realistic, detail-driven art. The textures put me in mind of Guy Davis, Sean Phillips and perhaps even Jean Giraud AKA Moebius on a sensory sabbatical. I wonder if perhaps even Bryan Hitch shouldn’t take note from the curves and compositions on offer here. Unlike Lizz Lunney, he certainly doesn’t sign and sketch in his comics that come through our doors. And that’s slack.

‘Holiday Dinosaurs’ offers a radical but, to me, compelling new explanation for their mass extinction many moons ago: bone-headed stupidity. No sense of preparation, either. Dinosaurs would make rubbish Boy Scouts.

I was, however, far from convinced by the ‘Nut Wars’. I don’t recall them ever happening at all, and that’s a bit rich when you’re purporting to be the UK’s leading light in investigative comicbook journalism. I studied history to college level (oh wait — collage level, aged 5) and this simply doesn’t ring true. The border disputes and petty jealousies, yes, for it has long been established that these shortcomings aren’t restricted to human beings: cats and dogs aren’t immune, either. But I didn’t find it remotely credible that even a pre-shelled peanut could or even would crack under the stress and embark on a campaign of violence that makes my private collection of snuff porn look like Peter and Jane on a parentally supervised picnic.

Delightfully, however, AT THE PLANETARIUM climaxes at the planetarium itself in a crossover which puts Marvel and DC’s summer superhero events to shame. Guest-stars galore! Even Depressed Cat appears waiting despondently in line for the show.

Now… where are the commercially expedient (but morally bankrupt) five-dozen tie-in issues?

SLH

Buy At The Planetarium (signed) and read the Page 45 review here

Leopards In Leotards / Dust (£2-50) by Lizz Lunney.

This time the woman gone too far. I was outraged when I read the final dust page inside the dust jacket which does not exist at all.

Against all external advice and at the risk of several friendships, I have respected Lizz Lunney’s somewhat quirky world views which – once analysed with a clear head and an electron microscope, albeit unplugged and made out of potato – often turn out to make far more sense than your average Darwinian nonsense. Empirical evidence be damned!

But when Science Officer Lunney points out here that it may be a good idea to “buy some surface cleaner and a duster and go and clean your house before it takes over the world!” I was agog. Such sensationalist tripe!!!

I once saw a duster at Page 45 and it did me no favours at all. I see no sense whatsoever in letting that same kind of unnatural behaviour into my home, and I only discovered I owned a vacuum cleaner by breaking my own toe on it.

As to the rest of this epic (please set aside three hours to read it and a life-time to comprehend its complex, quasi-existentialist contents), I can only say “Yay!” and “Yippee!” Leopards in leotards could easily change their spots – which is handy when pin-stripe’s in fashion.

SLH

Buy Leopards In Leotards / Dust and read the Page 45 review here

Living The Dream Tote Bag (Pink Artwork) (£6-00) by Lizz Lunney.

Oh, he really is living the dream, settled comfortably on his settee.

And doing so in fuchsia. Fuchsia on a cream cloth measuring 15” x 16”.

I make no calls as to whether this will appeal more to men or women than its blue counterpart. I am categorically averse to the gender-specific marketing of commodity products which can scar our children for life.

I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside…! Give them a… sense… of pride… Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.

Sorry? Tote bag. It carries stuff.

SLH

Buy Living The Dream Tote Bag (Pink Artwork) and read the Page 45 review here

Living The Dream Tote Bag (Blue Artwork) (£6-00) by Lizz Lunney.

“Well, hellooooowwwrrrr… And how are youwwwrrr?”

This dude is totally like a black panther on your ass, albeit proud and purring, not popping one into your skinny white butt.

He is sleek, he is sexy, he is also demure!

Although I believe “demure” refers to women only. I don’t care. Let us not be hung up on colour, gender, sex and sexuality when we hang out with our fellow felines. I had a couple of cats called Max and Felix: they were both brothers and gay so, err, incestuous. You should have seen their mutual grooming!

Choose this or its equivalent in fuchsia. It’s a difficult decision, I know.

Tote bag in a creamy, dreamy cloth measuring 15” x 16” designed to carry your stuff. The stuff being comics, naturally; Lizz Lunney comics, obviously.

“Yippee!”

SLH

Buy Living The Dream Tote Bag (Blue Artwork) and read the Page 45 review here

Rachel Rising vol 2: Fear No Malus (£12-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

“Ah, I’m sorry to bother you. I’m Detective Corpell, Manson P.D.. Is this a bad time?”
“Yes. But, that’s not your fault.”

Beautiful, haunting and irresistibly alluring, this will confound your expectations time after time. Along with FATALE and SAGA it’s one of my favourite series in many full moons, and I would honestly submit that if you are currently captivated by any one of those three, then you desperately need the others.

Rachel has risen from her grave. She was buried under a dried-up river bed not far from her home in the sleepy town of Manson. Since then she’s been pushed off a roof so high above the pavement that she caved in the car top below her. She died. Again. So did the woman who knocked her off, but they’re both back on their feet and none the worse for wear. Meanwhile another blonde woman has been circling the town purposefully and a ten-year-old called Zoe has turned into a serial killer. Towards the end of RACHEL RISING VOL 1: THE SHADOW OF DEATH Rachel, her best friend Jet and the pragmatic Aunt Johnny picked Zoe up. They probably shouldn’t have done that.

“What’s wrong?”
“When we left the house on Sunday, we were in an accident.”
“Oh dear.”
“Jet was killed. Johnny’s in the hospital.”
“Oh no!”
“The thing is, Jet woke up this morning at the mortuary.”
“She’s alive?”
“No. She’s asking for you.”

This script is faultless, with beat-perfect timing. Terry Moore can wring comedy from the most unlikely scenarios as fans of his Strangers In Paradise know well. In the mortuary, for example, after Dr. Siemen and technician Earl have stitched and bolted together Jet’s virtually bisected body, Rachel holds the indignant Jet upright, cradling her broken neck both in front and behind like a ventriloquist and her doll while Dr. Siemens gives his divine diagnosis.

“You’re not zombies at all. Zombies are sad, empty shells. You girls are most certainly dead – but you’re also most certainly alive. Don’t you see? You’re angels!”
“>snort< Like I haven’t heard that line in every bar I played.”
“Dr. Siemen, your whole angel thing is just so… I mean… It’s like what you wish was happening but, it doesn’t fit. I’m not an angel, and Jet is the farthest thing from an angel I can imagine.”
“Screw you.”
“See?”

Jet in particular is a goldmine of deadpan, pithy rejoinders. She and Rachel make for the perfect tag team of intimate friendship born of frank understanding, which makes what follows all the more horrifying.

There is a reason, you see, why Manson’s dead won’t stay buried. It goes back three-hundred years to the last time that river ever saw water course over its muddy bed, and this innocent generation of individuals who care about one another is about to pay the price for another which didn’t. Worse still, there is a reason why ten-year-old Zoe is compelled to take lives, and that goes back further, to an age-old animosity between two parties whose ambitions are far, far broader than one culpable town in the middle of nowhere.

Rachel and Jet are about to find out the hard way exactly what that entails.

And the ground gives up its dead…

SLH

Buy Rachel Rising vol 2: Fear No Malus and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Terry Moore prints and other merchandise direct here

Terry Moore’s How To Draw (£12-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

From the creator of RACHEL RISING, Strangers In Paradise and ECHO, three of the most tenderly, dramatically and beautifully drawn series in comics, if I was going to take a comics art class from anyone, it would be Terry Moore.

The love – the heart and humanity – with which Terry Moore infuses his work shines through on every page, in every subtle piece of interactive body language and every single expression. That, above all, is what he has to teach you here. How to compose this, how to balance that and with which tools followed by how, practically, to get your comic printed, yes; but more than anything else, how to give your drawings soul.

Moreover he does so conversationally, entertainingly. Whenever we have a new Work Experience pupil join us for a week at Page 45 we spend the first day wandering round the shop and about town, discussing marketing, merchandising, customer service, the specific circumstances of the comicbook industry and Page 45’s personal approach to it all. That way each young lady or man understands why they are about they are going to be putting into practise all the key skills we will teach then, and have enormous fun doing it. “Why” is so important, and that is precisely what Terry does here, and then shows you how.

Take the power of universally comprehended – not culturally determined – expressions:

“Your character can touch the hearts and minds of anybody on the planet with her expressions alone. If her heart is joyous or broken, we will see it – and get it – before she’s even said a word. Expressions are that important.
“The girl of your dreams can look you right in the eyes and tell you what you want to hear, but if you don’t see it in her face you won’t believe a word she says.”

So it is with the human body and particularly female anatomy for which the man is renowned. And I don’t mean horrifically proportioned catwalk stick insects or over-endowed superheroines in ludicrous, low-cut bodices. I mean real women with real bodies, soft and sexy and curvaceous as anything with a little bit of give here and there.

“Sitting bottoms are not round. Most of the body weight is compressing the soft, fatty area.”

True fact! Yet how often so I see characters perched on chairs drawn as if their asses were made out of unyielding pottery or plastic.

There’s also an extensive class on comedy, and anyone who’s read Terry’s ECHO will expect an examination and artistic application of the ubiquitous Phi. What is Phi? It’s a letter of the Greek alphabet and an extraordinary constant in nature. It is a ratio. It is a revelation.

Also a revelation, “Tools, tip and specs”. Now, I haven’t been a professional artist in two and a half decades, I wasn’t much cop then, and I certainly never tried comics. Yet I found this chapter riveting and, Lord, will it save you so much time and frustration. We’re talking brushes which do and don’t hold ink, which papers bleed more than others, how to physically hold a brush for maximum control, printing proportions, the secrets of scanning and bitmaps and Greyscale, and why you should only use the top of your sheets for initial measurements: pads of paper aren’t cut at exact right angles shock! Here’s another surprise:

“That Q-tip is no accident. Q-tips are perfect for covering large areas with ink. I’ve seen Jim Lee use a tampon to draw Batman. I kid you not. And, it was one of the best Batman drawings I’ve even seen.”

SLH

Buy Terry Moore’s How To Draw and read the Page 45 review here

Tune vol 1: Vanishing Point (£12-99, FirstSecond ) by Derek Kirk Kim…

I’m starting to think that Derek Kirk Kim is either a hopeless romantic or just a very frustrated nerd. Following on from the re-release of his sweet and sensitive tale, SAME DIFFERENCE, which features an extremely slow-burning romance between two American Korean friends, we have this work which features an American Korean college dropout, Andy Go, who had been studying Illustration and who has, to his mind, a huge unrequited crush on his classmate. Except he hasn’t, as she’s thinking pretty much the same thing.

So far, quite literally, SAME DIFFERENCE then. Except, when given a week by his slightly stentorian father to find a job or vacate the family home, he’s forced to accept a very unusual employment offer indeed… to be an exhibit in a zoo in a parallel dimension… The pay is amazing, the holidays generous, and there’s even medical and dental cover! There is, of course, bound to be a catch, but Andy’s parents have left him in no doubt whatsoever that he’ll be out on the streets if he doesn’t find gainful employment, so he decides to sign on the dotted line.

Ha! This is great fun, swinging as it does back and forth between light-hearted romantic comedy and surreal sci-fi shenanigans. Story-wise it put me in mind of a few different things like Scott McCloud’s epic ZOT, Gene Luen Yang’s PRIME BABY (whom Derek collaborated on THE ETERNAL SMILE with) and also Jason Shiga’s EMPIRE STATE. The lovely, curvy, fine-line black and white artwork adds to the fun and warmth of this tale. Derek also writes and directs an online show called Mythomania which is loosely based on TUNE, so I can’t see him running out of plot any time soon, which is just as well as I get the impression he is intending this to be a somewhat soap-operatic multiple-volume manga-esque tale. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that when it’s done as well as this!

JR

Buy Tune vol 1: Vanishing Point and read the Page 45 review here

Start With A Happy Ending Vol 1 (£9-99, DMP) by Risa Motoyama >

This book collects a series of short stories along the same theme: you die and are met by the Cat God who tells you that you are being granted 7 more days on earth. This might be because of some act of kindness you performed towards a cat in your lifetime, or it could be at the request of your childhood kitty who wants to pay you back for all your love and attention. You can spend these 7 days any way you like: visiting loved ones, tying up loose ends, taking a trip you always longed to take, whatever. Oh, also you have to do it as a cat. Off you go! Wait, what…?!

And so we get a series of simple tales with simple, human meanings at their heart. The high school girl who felt she had no friends gets to listen in on her classmates mourning her passing. The busy office worker who had no time for anyone else gets to see what a great bunch of people she actually worked with. Some people are happy to just be a cat, being petted and loved by the people they left behind while others find ways to carry on with their lives and work, fixing the things they think need fixing and often realising where they went wrong during their human lifetime.

In each story we are told what the person’s earthly problems were and then watch as they seek a solution in cat form. After their 7 days are up we then get to see them make a choice; to be reincarnated in cat or human form. Some of the outcomes come off as a bit trite but others are actually quite surprising and touching. Each chapter is short and follows the same formula so there is no real subtlety in the structure and, as each story has a similar path, it can feel quite repetitive if you read the entire book through in one go. However, if you dip in a chapter or two at a time, maybe on the bus or on a coffee break, you may well find yourself drifting off into the kitty world and wondering what you would do with your 7 days. There is also a lot of manga-kitteh cuteness which is never a bad thing.

DK

Buy Start With A Happy Ending Vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

0-7 Ghost Vol 1 (£6-99, VIZ) by Yuki Amemiya & Yukino Ichihara >

We start off in an elite academy full of teenage boys who are all very, very good at fighting. They are doing something martial-arty but with added psycho-kinetic power bonus power added in – sort of like a Jean Grey Hadouken manoeuvre – very cool. A big final test is looming, with some of the best pupils being groomed to work directly under the top brass as their prodigies and eventually, one presumes, their successors. The guy we are following is Teito Klein, a very talented boy by all accounts but also something of a mystery. He has no memory of his past, no parents and bears the mark of a slave on his back. He evidently comes from the Raggs kingdom, a faction now defeated and consigned to the fringes of history. Nevertheless he is being lined up for a top role… until he overhears a secret which unlocks his memory and allows him to place the face of the guy he’s supposed to be working for. Yes, that would be the bastard who killed his father.

And so cue rage, fight scenes, arrest and eventual escape to the world below the academy; a world which at first bewilders and shocks our hero. However, it’s not long before his memory starts to return and the bigger picture starts to emerge. Guess what? The mysterious slave boy has a destiny…

Expect this series to offer lots of fast action, fight scenes, evil cackling baddies and silly side dialogue with the occasional inappropriate Bishop / Nun interaction. PewPew!

DK

Buy 0-7 Ghost Vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Trigun Maximum Omnibus vol 1 (£14-99, DMP ) by Yasuhiro Nightow ~

Of the original TRIGUN series, our Tom rather brilliantly wrote:

Vash the Stampede. That’s what they call him. He’ll come through your town wipe it off the map. Fear his name. Err, why? Vash, the poor sucker, has been held responsible for the total destruction of Third City. The result? A sixty-billion double-dollar dead-or-alive bounty on his head. Every man, woman and child on the planet is after his blood. Just one snag, he’s a pacifist.

And as he dodges bullets in a way that makes Agent Smith look like J.F.Kennedy, you realise it’s the chaos brought about by his attempted capture that give Vash his namesake. Until two women appear on the scene. The good news? They’re taking the bounty off his head. And bad news? He has been deemed a natural disaster. The two mystery ladies are insurance investigators. With guns. Is there a more frightening concept than that?

Now: “Vash the Stampede, the galaxy’s deadliest gunslinger, emerges after two years in hiding to help his beleaguered desert homeworld, Gunsmoke. But the Stampede’s many enemies have kept their motors, and they’re back on his trail and determined to bring Vash to ground-hard! And a new crowd of bounty hunters, badasses, and brain-cases are also looking to cash in the astronomical price on his head! Trigun Maximum Omnibus presents Nightow’s Trigun series in value-priced editions of well over 500 story pages! Contain Trigun Maximum volumes 1-3.”

TR

Buy Trigun Maximum Omnibus vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Stitched vol 1 (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis, Mike Wolfer & Mike Wolfer…

“They don’t say anything, there’s no chanting or praying or horror movie bollocks.
“They don’t light fucking candles.
“It’s that shit they pour into him, fuck alone knows where they get it or what they’ve done to it.
“Then they seal it in.”
“Seal…?”
“Bodily orifices. All nine.
“It’s a nightmare. It’s truly fucking horrible. But…
“There’s still nothing impossible about it. It’s a load of maniacs torturing some poor prick, but it isn’t anything more than that.
“And then… then it gets impossible.”

The conversation in question is taking place between three American soldiers, the survivors of a helicopter crash in remotest Afghanistan and a small squad of S.A.S. who’ve been operating deep behind enemy lines. The British special forces are recounting what little they’ve managed to learn about the near-unstoppable, wraith-like figures that have been marauding around the local villages killing indiscriminately. The S.A.S. have christened them the Stitched due to their horrific mutilated appearance, which it’s fair to say isn’t the tidiest bit of needle point you’re likely to see. Unless you’re one of the poor unfortunates who has had the procedure performed on them, then you’re not likely to see a great deal. Or hear, or smell, or taste, or… well… you get the picture.

There is of course nothing indiscriminate about what the Stitched are doing which is where we pick up our tale, as the military allies find themselves dragged deeper and deeper into a nightmare there’s certainly going to be no easy escape from. You may or may not be aware that this work is based on a short film Ennis wrote and which was released in 2011. That film roughly tallies up with the events of issue #1. Issues #2-#6 then pan out along the lines of what Ennis wrote as the full length screenplay, though that at present hasn’t been put into production. It is intended this will be an ongoing series though, and certainly this first arc poses considerably more questions than it reveals answers to about the Stitched, their origins, their motivations and who precisely are the evil bastards behind their creation. Fans of Ennis, particularly CROSSED, will certainly get their pound of flesh, but there is a fair bit more going on here than just out-and-out carnage. Appropriately disturbing art from Mike Wolfer, who may be familiar to people from his horror / magic collaboration GRAVEL with Warren Ellis. Surprised he’s not had his turn illustrating CROSSED actually, no doubt he will at some point.

JR

Buy Stitched vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Indestructible Hulk #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Leinil Yu.

“… TICK… TICK… TICK…”

KINGDOM COME by Mark Waid and Alex Ross was stunning. It’s one of those OMG moments which you never saw coming but which will last blasted into your superhero psyche forever.

Mark Waid is an ever-reliable veteran of superhero comics who can carry the corporate torch without sweat but who, like Busiek on ASTRO CITY, really comes into his own when the books are creator-owned. We’re talking IRREDEEMABLE. Go look at the latter: I compared the two.

Yet this is by far the most unexpectedly intelligent that the HULK title has been since Peter David twenty years ago and – I’ll wager – is destined to surpass even that. Waid has thought outside the box. Or rather, the man has gone rummaging in the box of past history and potential and found much that has been left to go mouldy there.

Don’t get me wrong: with Leinil Yu of SUPERIOR, SUPERCROOKS and ULTIMATE WOLVERINE VERSUS HULK fame, you are in for some wide-angled carnage on a teeth-grittingly, visceral level that will make your eyes pop out and your fingers pull out of each page mere moments before turning them over, lest anything vital be lost to the sheer weight of the collateral damage doled out here. But listen, Bruce Banner is a phenomenally intelligent scientist, yet all the plaudits have gone to Reed Richards, Tony Stark and even Hank ‘Smack-My-Bitch-Up’ ‘Who-Even-Am-I-Today?’ Pym.

“Meanwhile, I – I who, forgive me, have just as much to contribute – will be lucky if my tombstone doesn’t simply say, “Hulk Smash!””

Ever since his first catastrophic self-sacrifice transmuting him into the uncontrollable, cyclonic force of nature that is the easily antagonised Hulk, Bruce Banner has been hounded so incessantly that he has only had time to react to each and every onslaught. The perpetual victim, he has never been afforded the opportunity to take stock. Even during brief respites he has his own system perpetually pumping against him as a ticking time bomb which could go off during even the most minor, mundane malfeasance. Like a bump in the queue for spaghetti.

So it is today that Maria Hill, head of SHIELD and on covert surveillance in a common-or-garden diner for another mission she should be attending to more rigorously, is obsessively on the man’s case yet again and against all professional advice.

“It’s not as if he’s going to find us,” she texts.
“Hi.”

Well that had me won. But there’s more, far more, for Bruce has a plan both pragmatic and proactive.

“First, resolved: being the Hulk is a chronic condition, like diabetes or cancer or M.S. The secret to living with it isn’t obsessing over a cure. It’s in managing what exists. Being vigilant. Like, say, making contact lenses that monitor my vital warning statistics as an early warning system.

“Second: use Banner Time more productively. Invent things. Fix things. Improve things. The Hulk has caused immeasurable damage and heartache over the years. It’s past time that I started balancing the scales by doing as much good as possible.”

He presents to her a single canister.

“This? This is a purification unit that, if put into mass production, can eliminate all waterborne disease in the next five years, saving millions of lives.”
“That’s… Wow. Do you have a name for it?”
“Yes. Tuesday.”

Buy Indestructible Hulk by bellowing down 0115 9508045 or smashing the keys page45@page45.com. Alternatively sit down beside me at Ben’s Alley Café when I’m least expecting it.

Essential Wolverine vol 6 (£14-99, Marvel) by Larry Hama, Warren Ellis, Chris Claremont & Leinil Yu, various.

We do actually sell these black and white phone books of Marvel reprints – and do a roaring trade online – just not on the shop floor: they took up way too much room. So do ask whenever you’re in and we’ll grab stock from upstairs.

This collects WOLVERINE (1988) #111-128, #-1 and ANNUAL ’97, including ‘Not Dead Yet’ the storyline from a much younger Warren Ellis and Leinil Yu. It’s a fifteen-year-old take I’d totally forgotten, and the first thing to note is that Leinil’s art is far cleaner here, like a nascent Jim Lee, though not half as expressive as his work on SUPERIOR, SUPERCROOKS or ULTIMATE WOLVERINE VERSUS HULK, all three of them recommended in the highest possible terms. That will disappoint some yet please others. It also contrasts sharply with the latter because it came out before Marvel become comfortable with decapitation and bloodbaths. Takes a certain skill to show Wolverine dicing some sucker up without actually showing him dicing some sucker up.

Ellis is similarly restrained in this relatively straight-forward story, half of which takes place in Hong Kong ten years prior to the main event, at a time when Logan was dating the daughter of a film director and drinking into the early hours of the morning with a Scottish assassin called McLeish, known to the locals as ‘Gweilo’ or White Ghost. McLeish likes talking about himself, and Logan’s happy to let him, but it’s the little that Logan says which proves his undoing.

Flash forward to the present and Manhattan’s East Village, where Wolverine – during a period in which he’d been temporarily relieved of his unbreakable adamantium skeleton – finds himself on the receiving end of bombs laced with that same metal’s shards and bullets forged from it. Everything points to McLeish, but McLeish is dead. Or is he? Or isn’t he? Or is he?

A well written comic for those days at Marvel, but with none of the distinctive Ellis flourishes (okay, swearing) that you’ve come to enjoy.

SLH

Buy Essential Wolverine vol 6 and read the Page 45 review here

Captain America vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Steve McNiven.

“They’re the worst kind of enemy… They think they’ve been betrayed… And maybe they have…”

A shiny new start for Steve Rogers as Captain America with the ever-attractive, clean-cut, lotsa-light Steve McNiven (CIVIL WAR, NEMESIS, WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN) only interrupted for a few brief pages by Giuseppe Camuncoli. Don’t worry; you’ll barely register it, like a one-second power cut. New readers will find no prior subplots carried over, so there’s nothing to confound.

Steve Rogers is once more feeling his age. A soldier during World War II, he should by all rights be an old man by now, but his time in suspended animation and the anti-agapic effects of the supersoldier serum – the world’s ultimate moisturiser – have kept him relatively young, physically at least. Former fellow combatants have not been so lucky and today, in Paris, Nick Fury, “Dum Dum” Dugan, Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter have gathered together to bury Peggy Carter, Sharon’s aunt and Steve’s former girlfriend. Her work in the French Resistance was legendary but not all of their missions together were made public and some were more successful than others. When a sniper almost succeeds in targeting Duggan, Captain America gives chase only to recognise the would-be assassin as Codename: Bravo, missing in action since WWII.

Codename: Bravo was part of a covert attempt to thwart an allegiance between Baron Zemo and a new SS off-shoot called Hydra. To enter the Hydra base they were to use Jimmy Jancovicz, a bright young lad who had access to Slipstream Space, a dimension between layers of reality which he could enter, manipulate, and exit at will bringing whatever he wanted with him. For nearly seventy years now Jimmy’s been in a coma, but Bravo’s return can mean only one thing: Jimmy has just woken up.

Why is that exactly? What went wrong with the mission? And what does Bravo want now?

It’s a clever little number relevant to our times and perfectly accessible to newcomers. But for readers of Ed Brubaker’s early books (differentiated from this series with their subtitles) and veterans older still there’ll be some familiar faces and a blast from the past in the form of a ‘giant’ surprise. Refreshingly, some of the motives are far from obvious and the same could said of the objectives: they’re sowing the seeds of self-doubt. And doing so quite effectively.

SLH

Buy Captain America vol 1 s/c 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.
Soppy (£4-99, My Cardboard Life) by Philippa Rice

Recyclost h/c (£9-99, My Cardboard Life) by Philippa Rice

Diosamante h/c (£18-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Jean-Claude Gal

Spectrum vol 19 s/c (£25-99, Underwood Books) by various

Charley’s War vol 9: Death From Above (£14-99, Titan) by Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun

Owly & Wormy: Bright Lights And Starry Nights! (£11-99, Atheneum) by Andy Runton

Adventure Time vol 1 (£10-99, kaboom!) by Ryan North & Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb

A Flight Of Angels s/c (£13-50, Vertigo) by Holly Black, Louise Hawes, Bill Willingham, Alisa Kwitney, Todd Mitchell & Rebecca Guay

The Batman Judge Dredd Collection h/c (£25-00, DC & Rebellion) by John Wagner, Alan Grant & Simon Bisley, Glenn Fabry, Val Semeiks, Cam Kennedy, more

The Boys vol 12: The Bloody Doors Off (£14-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun, Darick Robertson

The Mighty Thor vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Pasqual Ferry, Pepe Larraz

X-23 vol 3 s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Marjorie Liu & Saka Takeda, Phil Noto

Uncanny X-Men vol 4 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Daniel Acuna, Ron Garney, Dale Eaglesham, Carlos Pacheco

Winter Solider vol 2: Broken Arrow s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark

Punisher Max: Untold Tales s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by various

FF vol 4 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Andre Araujo

One Piece vol 65 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol 13 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Eiji Otsuka & Housui Yamazaki

GTO: 14 Days In Shonan vol 6 (£8-50, Vertical) by Toru Fujisawa

Vampire Knight vol 15 (£6-99, Viz) by Matsuri Hino

Tegami Bachi – Letter Bee vol 11 (£6-99, Viz) by Hiroyuki Asada

Limit vol 2 (£8-50, Vertical) by Keiko Suenobu

D. Gray-Man vol 23 (£6-99, Viz) by Katsura Hoshino

Neon Genesis Evangelion Omnibus vols 1-3 (£12-99, Viz) by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

X 3-in-1 Ed vol 4 (£12-99, Viz) by Clamp
UK publishers reflect on British graphic novels in light of the Costa Book Awards nominations for Mary and Bryan Talbot’s DOTTER OF HER FATHER’S EYES and Joff Winterhart’s DAYS OF THE BAGNOLD SUMMER.

Le Supergrudge between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison is resurrected post-SUPERGODS, and I warn you now, it can be a dispiriting read and you always risk losing your wide-eyed sense of wonder when you peer behind any such industry curtain. On the other hand Morrison makes a fair few very fine points, not least being that Alan Moore is hardly comics’ finest ambassador in the media these days. In fact, I’d hazard a guess he doesn’t read any and hasn’t for years.

Lastly, there’s a brand-new, somewhat different and thoroughly uplifting Page 45 interview on the British Comics Awards and the craft of comics in which I am well and truly grilled by a devil’s advocate par excellence for a public new to the medium. I rather enjoyed that one. Hope it shows!

Cheers,

Stephen

Reviews November 2012 week three

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Okay, let’s start with a bold statement, then slap a couple of caveats on, to thus produce an odd semantic sandwich to chew over whilst we get proceedings started.

This is now my favourite wordless comic ever.

 - Jonathan on Adventures Of A Japanese Business from Nobrow Press

Tomine: New York Drawings h/c (£16-99, Faber) by Adrian Tomine.

“Idea: pathetic introvert attends high-class party, but instead of enjoying himself, endures a series of awkward encounters while maintaining a neurotic internal monologue.”

So writes Tomine, alone in the toilet after three pages of addictively excruciating comics.

During these our successful author and artist reluctantly accepts his invitation to mix with the famed and the famous at a swanky New Yorker do, slinks in, frets, freaks out and fails to mix or even find somewhere to park his coat. My, how I empathised! Not a party person, me.

The internal monologue is hilarious in its own right, Tomine in constant circulation like a lost, anxiety-struck, toothless shark so as not to look lost or anxious or… gummy. On top of the bumbling there are confessional, asterisked annotations – acts of self-denigration worth of Chris Ware himself. Brilliant!

From the creator of OPTIC NERVE, some of the finest fiction in comics full of behaviour so acutely well observed, comes this beautiful art book with some pages of comics thrown in, including one about Kindle you can’t read on Kindle or at least I bloody well hope not. There our Adrian is besieged by digital fanatics who won’t let their love lie, even after he concedes defeat. And then there’s his daughter:

“I had these visions of taking Nora to book shops when she got older… watching her browse… letting her stumble upon her own discoveries…”
“Well, with this new random feature, it’s exactly the same thing! You never know what — “

Oh, just smack him, Adrian!

Predominantly, however, this is as an art book featuring all the man’s illustrations for The New Yorker and more. Most of them are portraits. He likes drawing people: people captured in quiet acts of daily routine like stamping library books out, circling newspaper ads, reading books on the bus or sizing up shoes in a shop. And as accurately as the author in Adrian observes speech patterns and behaviour, he’s also adept when it comes to body language. Some the sketches come with notes:

“Mother and daughter tourists. Daughter seemed mortified when Mom got out the map.”
“Sweating profusely. Deep in thought (or maybe just staring at his expensive-looking shoes.”

SLH

Buy Tomine: New York Drawings h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Scene Of The Crime h/c (£18-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark with Sean Phillips.

Retrospect is a funny old thing, and what you have to remember is that this first appeared long before Brubaker and Lark’s GOTHAM CENTRAL, and indeed way before Brubaker and Phillips’ ultra-successful CRIMINAL enterprise. It first appeared when all we knew Ed Brubaker from was the autobiographical chronicle of youthful misdemeanours which was the COMPLETE LOWLIFE, Dark Horse’s ACCIDENTAL DEATH drawn by Eric Shanower and (maybe) THE FALL in collaboration with Jason Lutes, due for a colour-tinted resurrection soon.

It remains as fine as you’d expect – Bryan Talbot told me it was one of his favourite graphic novels of all time, and he’s quite choosy, our Bryan – but what may well surprise is the crispness of lines for both Lark and Phillips are better known now for their more textured, twilight styles. Glancing over the pencilled pages in the ‘extras’ section it seems to me that Phillips’ primary concern in inking here was fidelity to the originals rather than embellishment, and that’s fine – they really don’t need any – but of note all the same.

Also in the back, Brubaker casts his mind back both to this early stage in his career – quite the crossroads – and the development of the book itself, originally intended as a monthly series of three stories a year originally pitched as a revival of the HOUSE OF MYSTERY title. Some of those pitched pages are reproduced, as is the short story ‘God And Sinners’ which originally appeared in Vertigo Winter’s Edge” just prior to the mini-series itself.

Anyway, here’s what I wrote over a decade ago. The first sentence of the final paragraph does make me laugh now. Introduction by Bendis, about their days at Caliber.

Jack’s reasonably young for a private investigator, but he has a respected, veteran crime scene photographer as an uncle and plenty of contacts in the police force, some of which he’s loathe to use for personal reasons. Which is why he’s less than pleased to see Sergeant Paul Raymond (“We were like family, but in all the wrong ways”) who needs him to help a young woman with whom he’s having an affair. Her sister is missing, but she’s been advised not to involve the police; and excellent advice that turns out to be because, as the mystery unfolds, the entire family emerges as completely screwed, in more ways than two, by their involvement in a hedonistic cult which may not be as burned out as it looked.

Brubaker makes all the right moves: his protagonist is neither straight forward nor overly self-involved – he has a past but one which serves to enhance the story and its effect on the investigation, rather than drive it – and his conversational tone is both engaging, educational and entirely convincing on the subject of stake-outs etc.

The cast is wide and diverse and you just know that Ed hopes to write more. The extent of the connections aren’t remotely apparent until towards the conclusion, whilst along the way Brubaker and Lark manage to feed the clues and reveal the secrets (including some highly effective misdirection) with perfectly judged pace and timing.

SLH

Buy Scene Of The Crime h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Book One h/c (£14-99, vertigo) by Stieg Larsson, Denise Mina & Manco, Mutti, Brusco, Mulvihill, Wands, Bermejo.

Note: Fear not, people who have not read or seen this series yet, there will be no spoilers!

Adaptations, hmmm. Isn’t it almost always true that a story is most at home in its original medium? I think so but then again there can be something very exciting about seeing something familiar reworked by fresh eyes and hands. Or, yes, there can be something depressing about seeing something you loved distilled into an ever-less potent version of itself. So my first question when I saw the Millennium Trilogy solicited as a series of comic books was “I wonder if it will be shit?” Ever the optimist! The second question was “Where will they go with it?”, after all, we’ve had the books then two versions as films on top of that. And finally I thought, “Is there anything else left to say?” On reflection, knowing how utterly packed the Millennium Trilogy is with things to say, that last question was pretty stupid.

The more pertinent question is definitely “Where will they go with it?”  Compressing those three dense and fast-moving books into six average-sized trades must have been hard and I guess the first questions with any adaptation are: what do you keep, what do you streamline and what do you cut? Secondly, Larsson’s books (revolving as they do around an investigative journalism, murder, corruption and hacking) are packed with detail and intertwined plots. His writing guides us with ease and the comic book must live up to that.

And thirdly there is Lisbeth Salander, the very reason I resisted reading the Millennium Trilogy for so long and only came to it as a very late convert. Salander is a compelling character; damaged, awkward and reclusive but also moral, loyal and intelligent. She absolutely cannot be relied upon but there is no-one you would want at your side more in any kind of battle. She could be variously described as looking Post-Punk, Goth-Rock, Riot-Grrl, Queercore but she does not fit any label exactly, nor would she care to, or possibly even be able to if she tried. She is also skinny, uninhibited and pansexual… which was where the warning bells began to sound for me. I am so used to hearing that crap from publishers, film makers, whoever – “Check it out, she’s tough, she’s the hero, Girl Power, no really! “ – only to be presented with yet another story about a pretty, broken girl with Daddy issues who talks the talk for about fifteen minutes and then needs a kind, understanding, older man to come to her rescue. Cynical, I know, but it kept me away from the books for many a month. How glad I am then that I relented, because in Salander (and indeed in Blomkvist, the Vanger family and everyone that Larsson writes) we have a well defined, flawed, fascinating character with the power to make you care desperately about the outcome of the various stories.

So I read Book One with these questions at the front of my mind, interested to see how they turned out. In terms of “Where will they go with it?” Denise Mina seems to have done very well indeed, picking out the most compelling and important strands of the story and moving them on at a pace which is comfortable and engaging. The parts which are switched about or ditched altogether don’t jar, so if you know the story you are not going to be left annoyed and if you don’t know it you are not going to be left confused. It’s early days yet but so far the “changes” seem to follow the spirit of the original which bodes well.

With much less space for dialogue than in the prose the characters have nonetheless been given distinctive voices so you are able to quickly get a feel for them and where they fit in. The art is clear and attractive. There is no attempt to break comic art boundaries, sensibly, the art lets the story do the talking and only adds flourish where it is really needed. (As a side note I have to say they did themselves no favours at all with the cover, the pose is too garish and un-Salander like but thankfully things are much more subtle inside.) Salander is drawn well: rather than being an assembly of piercings, tattoos and kick-ass boots which might have been an easy trap to fall into, she is a human being with a spark in her eye which fits her character perfectly.

As for having something to say, the chapter breaks stay loyal to the original, listing some chilling statistics about violence against women in Sweden, so it seem that they will be sticking with this issue at least. There are a few other biggies explored in the books: corporate and financial fraud, society’s treatment of abuse victims, the vast holes in the mental health system; and how far we get into these remains to be seen. We may just stick with murder, family intrigue and violence which will still be enough to go on, I’m sure!

This feels like a good start to the six-part series and each book will certainly be towards the top of my reading pile. It perhaps doesn’t attempt to scale the heights of social and human commentary that the books did yet but it is still forming into a meaty and intelligent tale. Tempting though it is, I’m not going to say anything more about the story and what it holds for you, because what’s the point of a mystery if someone has already solved it for you? Suffice it to say, if you like a murder-mystery with a dose of conspiracy and politics (sexual and otherwise) thrown in, you will love this. Also, read the books, they’re awesome.

DK

Buy The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Adventures Of A Japanese Business h/c (£19-00, Nobrow) by Jose Domingo…

Okay, let’s start with a bold statement, then slap a couple of caveats on, to thus produce an odd semantic sandwich to chew over whilst we get proceedings started.

This is now my favourite wordless comic ever. Given that puts it in the company of works like Erik Drooker’s BLOOD SONG and Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL, I realise that could raise a few arched eyebrows, but this is quite simply stunning, inventive, ingenious and also absolutely utterly and ridiculously hilarious. So whilst it might not end up being your favourite wordless comic ever (THE ARRIVAL does take some beating, let us be honest about it, in fact I might have to amend that to joint-favourite heh heh) I am pretty confident it could end up being your favourite comedic wordless comic.

Semantics is a good word to invoke around wordless comics, I feel, given one of its usages is in the meaning or interpretation of words, sentences, or other linguistic forms. Comics are one of those other linguistic forms obviously, and wordless comics a very particular subset again which, to truly succeed, need above all for the story to be clear to the reader. Not that events shouldn’t require some interpretation on behalf of the reader, for is that not the sheer beauty of THE ARRIVAL, putting yourself in the place of the émigré, who suddenly finds himself in a literally incomprehensible place, trying to make sense of the unfolding strange, new world around him?

ADVENTURES OF A JAPANESE BUSINESSMAN is not that dissimilar, as the poor unfortunate and unsuspecting salaryman, who we first meet quietly waiting to cross the road, is about to embark upon an unwilling expedition to weird and wonderful (plus several not-so-wonderful) realms, and various states of being, not to mention existence, which together will all make for the ultimate bad day at the office!

Things start off not relatively implausibly to begin with, partly to lull us into a false sense of security, I’m sure, as he gets caught in the crossfire of two Yakuza trading lead at each other from limousines on opposing sides of the road, and barely makes it past them intact. Unfortunately he walks straight into some sort of incident involving a raging customer at a sushi stand who promptly gets flattened by the giant sushi roll which falls off the roof when he starts shaking it, cue much panic and hysteria as passers-by frantically leap out of the way. As the businessman ducks to one side he inhales some escaping fumes from a nearby Biotech company and promptly starts hulking out into some weird blue monster and then goes on the rampage. And so on, and so forth… And if you think that sounds surreal, believe me, it’s the absolute powder-coated tip of the iceberg!

So, what makes this truly nonsensical adventure shine then? Well quite simply, it’s the construction of the work itself and Jose Domingo’s art. It’s done in a strict 2 x 2 grid, aside from the occasional whole-page splash. The book being a lovely outsize edition, by the way, so each individual panel is pretty huge in and of itself. Which is fantastic because they are all positively crammed with detail, and each page forms a little, well, gag strip in itself, I suppose, with the businessman frequently extricating himself from his current predicament only to be immediately dragged into the next situation in the final panel of each and almost every page. (I did wonder if the format was a little nod to the Japanese pre-modern-manga tradition, when comics in Japan were pretty much just that, just one-page gag strips, before people such as Tatsumi started producing ‘gegika’ like BLACK BLIZZARD, proper stories composed of literally ‘dramatic pictures’. )

The art itself put me in mind of a neat and tidy Marc (HOT POTATOE [sic]) Bell, but rendered in beautiful full colour. (I have included a few interior pages for you to have a look at.) You may also see hints of others like Jim (CONGRESS OF THE ANIMALS) Woodring and Jason (ISLE OF 100,000 GRAVES) in there, though, not least because of the surreal nature of the tale puts them in mind. Each panel typically has the same viewpoint, perspective-wise, so the story really just seamlessly flow on from absurd scenario to even more absurd scenario, and just when you think you’ve reached the zenith, or nauseous nadir from the point of the businessman, something even more truly bizarre occurs. And yet, it always does make creditability-stretching sense in the context of what has immediately gone before, which is another genius element of this work.

The businessman does get a few brief moments of respite and false hope along the way to catch his breath, but they always turn out to be false dawns before the next nightmare swiftly commences! As absurdist fiction goes, I can’t think of anything comparable in terms of such a smooth, flowing read as this. The artwork is truly gorgeous as you would expect from a Nobrow book, of course, they really do seem to be managing to maintain a very high standard of output.

There’s even a hilarious little epilogue just to round things off nicely. Initially the businessman is firmly clenching his briefcase for dear life like a protective shield or talisman, but eventually he is parted from it. Just as I was finishing the story I was found myself wondering what had happened to it, and so was greatly amused to find its ultimate fate is revealed in said epilogue! Near perfection, this for me, which when it’s your wider comics debut, is clearly going to take some following up.

JR

Buy Adventures Of A Japanese Business h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Krent Able’s Big Book Of Mischief (£11-99, Knockabout) by Krent Able.

Be careful what you mutter in the sequestered confines of your living room, sweet readers, for there is a medical practitioner on the loose. He is high of brow and long of ‘tache, and as the sun doth surely set ’cross yonder blood-dimmed sky, a silhouette rides into town on a flea-bitten nag not long for the knacker’s yard. His name is Nick Cave M.D., and he is not above making house calls.

“Oooh! Me leg’s playing up again…”
“Poor thing…”
*DING DONG*
“Who could that be, at this hour? Doctor Cave! Oh, Lord ‘elp us…”
“God be with you, Madam… My crow tells me that there is an ailment in this house.. some poor soul a-sufferin’ and a-singing a sad song of woe… not unlike Lazarus.”

Lazarus: best running gag in the book, and Krent Able has nailed Saint Nick’s southern-gothic drawl. From the pages of the The Stool Pigeon, a free music rag I confess I’ve never read, stagger your favourite rock and pop stars, utterly desecrated for your delectation. If you have the stomach for it.

For this is far cruder than anything currently leaking from some ruptured oil tanker, although no animals were harmed in the making of these vile comic shorts – only within them. There’s Lou Reed having non-consensual monkey sex for a start. I’ve not seen so many vulvae since decorating my last boarding school study wall. (It was encouraged, by both parents and teachers alike; I am shitting you not.) On one page President Obama is using a winged one cloned from the DNA of Lady Gaga to communicate with Kayne West. Let us be plain: if the Venn Diagram depicting your sense of humour does not contain genitalia (male, female, animal, alien), excrement, dismemberment, bestiality, arseholes and body fluids of all flavours known to man, then this book is neither for you nor – I would suggest – your parents.

Victims include Iggy Pop, 20 Cent, Timberlake, Lily Allen, Brian Wilson, Pete Doherty, Kraftwerk and Morrissey whose hearing-impaired chauffeur takes him not, as requested, to see the film Avatar, but to an enthusiastically run and well weaponised abattoir.

SLH

Buy Krent Able’s Big Book Of Mischief and read the Page 45 review here

Building Stories: Multi Storey Building Model (Limited Edition – Signed & Numbered) (£99-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Chris Ware.

Basically, PAPERTOY MONSTERS for adults in a gigantic package, signed and limited thereby ensuring you never actually make the model. Which you should. Then send us photographs.

I haven’t even opened ours, making any meaningful review impossible. Still, I’ve yet to write one of those in over twenty years of flailing about, so that makes no difference to me.

Based on the bumper boxed set of Chris Ware’s BUILDING STORIES (some assembly also required, but only in your mind), this is the sort of intricate, tab-tastic affair Chris Ware has been dotting throughout his works for years.

We only have one and are unlikely to secure any restocks, which I believe is called the “hard sell”.

SLH

Buy Building Stories: Multi Storey Building Model (Limited Edition – Signed & Numbered)  and read the Page 45 review here

Scalped vol 10: Trail’s End (£10-99, Vertigo) by Jason Aaron & R.M. Guéra.

In which this sordid epic of love, lust, redemption and revenge on the seedy, run-down, drugged-up, corrupt and contemporary Indian Reservation concludes in a hail of bullets, Molotov cocktails and a pack of slavering dogs. Oh wait, you can forget the redemption.

There’s a fantastic farewell section in the back showcasing some unseen art from mainstay R.M. Guéra. The composite character sketch of a smoking Red Crow and Carol in particular, in white and watered burgundy on black, is stunning but I love each and every one of the Serbian artist’s portraits. Throughout the series he has given us heart and humanity and true individuality in a procession of characters depicted as… well, physical meat and bones. You can sense the skulls – and even feel them – under the swarthy layers of wizened, leathery skin.

I’ve loved SCALPED so much I reviewed every single volume, although admittedly the first one was brief. One book reduced me to tears.

Saddest of all, amongst all the twisted, wretched plotlines of multiple fuck-ups coming at each other from multiple angles, is that there are moments here which offer brief, tantalising and genuine glimpses of pure hope – of real joy. The promise of a future.

Does anyone make it out of this clusterfuck alive? If so, define “alive”.

SLH

Buy Scalped vol 10: Trail’s End and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 4: The Family Man (£14-99, Vertigo) by Jamie Delano, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Dick Foreman & various including Dave McKean, Sean Phillips, Timothy Bradstreet.

There really was nothing like Hellblazer when it first emerged as a spin-off from Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. Not in comics, not even on the television, really. It was like Billy Bragg writing Doctor Who for punks, Stephen King and Clive Barker readers. Vehemently anti-Thatcher during the years when, as Delano writes “the country — starving — ate out its own heart”, it was a rallying cry against the social ramifications of political callousness and thuggery, and against mass media manipulation of the truth. It felt like there was a war on and this was one of our weapons, albeit a plank of plywood with a rusty nail against a squadron of intransigent armoured tanks. It starred John Constantine, chain-smoking, mack-draped master manipulator, and dealt with the horrors of the occult against a backdrop of the horrors of real life.

Morrison’s two-parter is set in one of the many hundreds of social and economic graveyards which were once thriving local communities before coal became dole, and reflects the pervasive nuclear concerns of the day, along with America’s military foothold in what Matt Johnson called the “51st State of the USA”. He’s more economical with words than Delano, and the hideous procession of brain-fried villagers, enacting their latent desires like the diner scene in SANDMAN: PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES, is accompanied by a sort of primal poetry. And the villain of the piece? Microwaves. Lloyd’s smoky art leaves you feeling like you’ve watched the whole episode in the flickering light of a raging bonfire.

Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s ‘Hold Me’ was bursting with heart and ranks as one of my favourite Constantine sequences of all time. Mark hated it for the simple reason he’d had almost exactly the same story in mind to write himself! As to the meat of this book, ‘The Family Man’, I leave you in the hands of our Jonathan:

“An old German woman once told me that if you lie down in a field, cows will come and lick your feet. Seems they’re terrified but they just have to know. Futile old world, ennit?”

Sometimes when you read a trade paperback you’ve forgotten how good the original issues were, particularly if it’s taken such a long time for them to be collected. Jamie Delano really was on top form here in this harrowing tale of murder and revenge. And perhaps there was a novelty and freshness in the John Constantine character at that time that inevitably is no longer the case today. As ever, Constantine manages to stumble right into the middle of a full-blown shit-storm, which here isn’t even of the supernatural variety, but rather a brutal serial killer who specialises in murdering parents and children alike, earning him the somewhat ironic sobriquet of the Family Man. Constantine, of course, feels obliged to investigate, which unfortunately for him doesn’t go unnoticed by our protagonist, the consequences of which are more far reaching than even John could have anticipated.

Delano’s dissection of a chilling serial killer, his obsessions and his drives is impeccably written, and most disturbingly is completely believable. Similarly, his handling of Constantine, here out of his supernatural comfort zone but thinking quickly on his feet to stay just one step behind and sometimes only just one step ahead is compelling and riveting. As a bonus there are two more stand-alone issues as the end of the book, New Tricks about a junkyard with a particularly evil dog, and the aptly named Sundays Are Different where nothing is quite as it seems, only in a good way for a change!

SLH & JR

Buy Hellblazer vol 4: The Family Man and read the Page 45 review here

Fables: Werewolves Of The Heartland h/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham & Jim Fern, Craig Hamilton, Jim Fern…

“Can it really have been more than sixty years, Bigby? A lot of strange waters under the bridge since then, eh?”
“Sure. We’ve both led strange lives.”
“I wonder which of us has more blood on his hands in these long-lost years, though.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Fans of big bad wolf Bigby will probably lap this solo tale up, as he hits the road in search of a new location for Fabletown after recent ructions. Thus neatly informing us right at the beginning that this story takes place after the most recent events of FABLES VOL 17. What he unexpectedly finds has ties to his own past, when he fought on the side of the Allies in WW2, in the form of mundy (human) American special forces soldier Arthur Harp, who by rights ought to be very long in the tooth by now.

Well, he is… but only because he’s now a werewolf, whereas in his human form he doesn’t seem to have aged a day since Bigby last saw him, when they were on a covert mission together to blow up Castle Frankenstein and foil a fiendish Nazi plot. It turns out that the mortally wounded Harp received an accidental transfusion of Bigby’s own blood, which unbeknownst to either of them, restored the soldier to life amongst the ruins of the castle several days later, as a werewolf. Roll forward 60 years and there’s now a whole community of werewolves, living as humans in their own town, Story City, in the middle of nowhere.

Bigby’s first unwelcome discovery is that the lycanthropes were until recently receiving regular covert cash from Bluebeard to assist them, much like the Fables, in living hidden from the rest of humanity. But, absolutely no other Fables were remotely aware of them, so it’s clear it’s probably not going to be a happy get-to-know-the-family tale for Bigby and his by now somewhat extended family tree of over twenty thousand descendants, most of whom view him as a near-divine being.

Lovers of FABLES will undoubtedly enjoy this, despite the extremely – searching for the precise word here – cursory probably covers it best, art. It’s decent enough but just looks in several places like it could have done with some more inking over the pencils, it’s a bit sketchy is what I think I’m trying to say. Given one person has done the layouts, two others the pencils, four people the inks and finally someone else the colours, I am not wholly surprised that are some… disparities, despite I think, the intention being for it to be a continuous style throughout. Anyway, that grumble aside I also certainly don’t see the need or justification for Vertigo to put this out in a hardback, it could actually easily just have been another FABLES arc, but then Christmas is coming, I suppose.

JR

Buy Fables: Werewolves Of The Heartland h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Spider-Men h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli…

“Kid, tell me. Is Peter Parker dead?”

I’m welling up again! I shed a few tears reading THE DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN arc covering as it did the very sad and untimely demise of the Ultimate Universe’s Peter Parker, and I don’t mind admitting I was struggling to keep a dry eye during this too, in several places. Errr… pretty much throughout, if I’m honest.

I’ll freely admit that I winced when I initially saw this solicited in Previews. I figured it was going to be a textbook example of the typically pointless car crash ‘event’ that Marvel loves to wheel out up at least once a year, but actually it’s easily the best thing which Bendis has written recently. All you really need to know plot-wise is that the regular Marvel Universe Peter Parker unexpectedly finds himself in the Ultimate Universe, and quickly learns that his younger, Ultimate counterpart is no more. But this book really isn’t about what occurs to cause that dimensional hopping or indeed the stereo web-slinging action sequences that stem from it, entertaining as those are. No, this is all about the conversations which are inevitably going to arise from such an occurrence. Peter and Miles… Peter and Gwen Stacy… Peter and Aunt May.

It’s abundantly clear that the Ultimate Peter Parker and Miles Morales (as well as the regular Peter Parker whom Bendis just loves writing witty non sequitur dialogue for in NEW AVENGERS) have a very special place in Bendis’ heart. Here, he has crafted a tale that is all heart. We know, gimmicks aside, Marvel will never, ever kill off the mainstream Peter Parker. He is one of the bedrocks upon which Marvel itself is built, part of the veritable spandex firmament. I guess therefore we all presumed that the Ultimate Peter Parker would enjoy comparable safety of tenure.

During THE DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN arc, even after the Punisher had accidentally shot Peter, even as Osborn was ruthlessly beating him down, I figured there was going to be the inevitable happy ending. Or that the title would somehow mean that Peter would retire as Spider-Man, maybe continue as another character for a while, then probably come back. In other words, just another story arc. I never actually expected Bendis to kill him. Even now, I wonder, jaded as I am by the endless cycle of superhero death and inevitable resurrection, whether it is indeed the last we have seen of Peter. As much as I miss him, I hope we don’t, because Bendis achieved a gravitas and dignity, particularly covering the aftermath of Peter’s passing, that I just never expected to see in a superhero comic. He wrung emotion from the most unlikely and unexpected places, such as J. Jonah Jameson. But at the epicentre of all the grief, as you would expect, was Aunt May.

Ah, bless her, the Ultimate Universe Aunt May. If the mainstream one is a tough old bird, then the Ultimate one is a veritable battleship. Liberated by her knowledge of Peter’s arachnid activities in the Ultimate Universe, she always fought Peter’s (and her other charges’) corner like a ferocious tiger. Even so, when the Marvel Universe Peter – rocked by what he has learnt and not knowing where to turn – decides he needs to pay her a visit, it’s quite, quite understandable she’s more than a little disturbed and indeed initially disbelieving, about just who it is she sees before her. What follows as everyone sits down inside Aunt May’s house is so incredibly moving, as she finally gains some sort of closure, and begins to understand more than ever that her Peter was a very special person indeed. But that conversation wasn’t even the most tear jerking for me! No, that was reserved for Gwen’s over-excited grilling of an understandably wary Peter…

“Hey! Wait! Is there… is there a me…. a Gwen in your world??”
“Yes.”
“Is she cool?”
“Insanely. But…”
“But?”
“But… but older. You know, uh, my age.”
“Okay, well, wow. Can I ask a question without sounding weird? Are you dating her?”
“You didn’t let me answer if you could ask me something without sounding weird. And it’s… boy, uh, it’s a whole thing.”
“ You’re dating MJ aren’t you?”
“Is… is there an MJ here?”
“Oh you better believe it…”
“Like, your age?”
“Yeah.”
“Yikes. Is she a model yet?”
“A model?”
“In my world she’s kind of… a supermodel.”
“SUPERMODEL??!! Are you kidding me? A supermodel with red hair and glasses?”
“Well, she wears, y’know, contacts.”
“She gets to be a model? What am I then??”

Whew… In terms of dialogue this book is the perfect example of how to write engaging, moving, dare I say, profound conversations. Marvel really should hand this work out to every single new writer, and more than a few of the existing ones, as the example to follow. As I mentioned, whilst the real content of this book are the people, there is still a superhero story to be told, and Bendis tells it with aplomb and relish, working in Nick Fury and the Ultimates for good measure, plus even finding time to finish up with an absolute killer of a cliff-hanger that leaves no doubt whatsoever there will be a sequel to this tale. I’m looking forward to that already! I’ve just realised I haven’t even mentioned Sara Pichelli’s art, which is superb, just the perfect foil for Bendis on this title. I could easily wax lyrical about it for several paragraphs as well. Instead I’ll leave the final words to Peter and Miles who are of course, a natural comedy double act…

“Surprise!!”
“It’s your super villain retirement party!!”
“Good one.”
“Thank you.”

JR

Spider-Men hardcover

New Avengers vol 4 h/c (£20-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Deodato.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”
- Stan Lee

If you’ve already forked out for the massive Avengers Vs X-Men hardcover, these were my favourite tie-in issues, exquisitely drawn by Mike Deodato. His ancient, elusive city of K’un-Lun is a mountainous marvel, its details like the pagoda-side pond and scrying pool so breath-takingly beautiful. But wait until you reach the half-way point where its full, sylvan tranquillity is revealed, surrounded by oriental awnings and ghostly, crisp-leafed Acers to die for.

Then there is the final sequence with sombre, shadow-strewn art like those rare pages of John Byrne inked by Kyle Baker, some of the very best seen in superhero comics. I cannot believe that’s a coincidence. And as to the pyrotechnics as psionic force takes on psionic force – the dragon and the phoenix – holy eye-blistering hell!

This title always seems to contain the real heart and soul of any such affairs, and although at the risk of lost revenue I habitually and quite actively warn you off most tie-ins to major events for fear of them diluting your enjoyment of the central storyline, in this instance I actively commend this to you, for it is where Hope receives her training in the mystical city K’un-Lun, physically from the likes of Lei Kung and Iron Fist, spiritually from the likes of Spider-Man (it works – it really, really works) and historically from Master Yu Ti. In fact without this I fail to comprehend how you will comprehend precisely how central Hope’s role is to proceedings.

I mentioned “heart” but I also meant personality: Luke Cage, Hawkeye and Spider-Woman incarcerated by the X-Men. Incarcerated by the X-Men: a very telling sequence. Do you know what the biggest difference is between the X-Men and the Avengers? One team has the monopoly – and an extensive one at that – on one particular attribute. Think on that.

There are also lovely little tie-in touches to Jonathan Hickman’s ultra-modern but oh-so-neoclassical S.H.I.E.L.D. but perhaps best of all is the desperate, dispirited and staggered meeting of what’s left of the Illuminati, almost all of whom at one point or another have been Avengers, who know they have lost the war. Against all other counsel Captain America maintains his faith in Namor: whatever the regent’s current affiliations to the mutant cause he will attend, for they have been brothers-in-arms both in recent history and during World War II.

And if not? Well, they have in their possession the Infinity Gems, you know.

“Power corrupts. Absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.”
- Lord Harold Acton

Oh dear. That’s what happened to Jean.

SLH

Buy New Avengers vol 4 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Fantastic Four #1 (£2-25, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Mark Bagley.

Communication is not this family’s strong suit, is it? Someone’s always failing to speak up, failing to listen and – frankly – failing to tell the truth. Also, Reed and Sue: worst parents ever! So far for Franklin they’ve hired a nanny who they knew was a witch, replaced her with a fleet of steel automatons and lobotomised the poor boy. By the looks of the opening salvo here they are about to do something else incredibly stupid… after failing to listen, failing to speak up and failing to tell the truth! Here’s Reed:

“Journal entry. Timestamp. Nth encryption on closing, please.
“There’s something very wrong with me. The unstable molecules that have created my elastic physiognomy seem to have reached some point of cellular entropy. They’re breaking apart – I’m breaking apart. At a molecular level. My concern is that the others are affected too – or will be very soon. My powers are dying, and they’re taking me with them.”

Six pages later: “Susan. I’m fine. Trust me.”

Funny, though. Not that bit, but Dragon Man’s muffins and Johnny Storm surpassing his own stupendous record for vacuous egomania. Here he is with girlfriend Darla, making up for his errant ways with a private candlelit dinner in the Negative Zone (while war rages all around them!) and talking at her about cars and bikes and fame and… oh, Johnny!

“Well, Jacques here owed me for saving his place during the last New-York-Gets-Levelled events…”
“’Allo.”
“He’s great. Italian, probably.”

Moving swiftly on…

“Baby, this is me now. Johnny Storm, not the Human Torch or the – Darla, I brought you all the way out here to the Negative Zone tonight so I could tell you that I… see, Darla, I don’t just like you, I…”
“Ohhh….”

He slips out a tiny jewellery box and opens it.

“Oh.”

It’s his phone number. *sigh*

SLH

Buy Fantastic Four #1 via Nth-encrypted email (page45@page45.com), communicator (0115 9508045) or visiting us in the Positive Zone.

All-New X-Men #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen.

SPOILERS: If you plan on reading Avengers Vs X-Men and then Gillen’s AVENGERS VS X-MEN: CONSEQUENCES, I would suggest you stop reading now. I’ll give you another paragraph for that to sink in.

I like this new dynamic: Ororo, Kitty Pryde, Bobby Drake and Hank McCoy feel like a family once more. And I like them as written by Bendis. I don’t know who the core team will be eventually, but so far this a refreshing combo of the more caring members of the first two generations of mutants to came to the original school for gifted children. And they will need all the compassion and level-headedness they can muster for in the wake of the titles above, things have gone decidedly pear-shaped.

Mutants are now feared and hated like never before, but to Cyclops’ mind the ends still justify his means; the ends being more mutants. They’re popping up all over the place and to Ororo’s alarm Cyclops is beating her own to team to tag them, rescuing them from potential harm at the hands of humans but doing so with violence, on camera and in the company of fellow renegades Magneto, Illyana and Emma Frost. They are on the run, yes, but they are far from worried about it. And that’s the other dynamic I like: this seems a perfectly natural trajectory for Scott Summers to have finally taken.

Bobby and Henry, of course, know exactly what the Scott Summers they first met would have thought of the man’s current actions: they were there at the beginning, and Hank is now desperate enough to complete one final act of atonement for the sins of his peers that he will break a law of science he knows should never be broken in order to set things right: he’s going to beg Scott Summers’ help – young Scott’s help, back in the original school for gifted mutants. That’s what the cover’s all about. Why is Hank desperate? I leave that for you to discover on the first few pages here. Oh dear.

See Warren Ellis’ SECRET AVENGERS VOL 3 for McCoy’s time-travel reticence.

SLH

Buy All-New X-Men #1 by teleporting via Limbo in gimp-suited person or through low-level telepathy/suggestion.

Lobster Johnson vol 2: The Burning Hand (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Tonci Zonjic, Dave Stewart…

“Yesterday we find dead gangsters dressed up as Indians, all of them with that claw mark on their heads. Today we got a couple of stiff gangsters dressed as gangsters, again, with the mark. Makes you wonder what we‘ll find tomorrow.”
“That’s easy. Dead Indians dressed as gangsters.”
“That’d be the logical progression all right.”

Beware the lobster’s claw! The enigmatic and supernatural crustacean fighter of crime is back. Well, he’s not actually part shellfish, but he certainly is scary, leaving as he does his mysterious mark singed on the forehead of deceased villains wherever he finds them. This time around it’s some straight-up gangsters he’s battling with, to begin with at least, before an equally spooky protagonist that might be at least partly familiar to readers of BPRD itself, makes a dramatic appearance.

Then the gloves are off – which is just as well as they do tend to get in the way of claws – as  the two face off to the death. Given Lobster’s foe isn’t exactly alive to begin with, that might just give him a somewhat unfair advantage! Still, a little thing like overwhelming odds isn’t something to get the Lobster in a lather, he’s used to finding himself in hot water and has the skills, gadgets and resourceful chums to help him save the day, and the damsel in distress of course.

I do like old Lobster, he’s got a hard exterior, but he’s just a big softie underneath it all. He’s clearly a blatant rip-off of THE SHADOW (check out Ennis’ recent reworking of said character, by the way) but Mignola and Arcudi throw in considerably more humour, plus the overall setting of the wider BPRD universe always adds a little something to the bubbling pot. With that said, it is the usual scenario for me personally, in that I do typically prefer the team dynamic of BPRD itself, where there’s just so much more going on, than these one-offs that focus on the individual characters, though there are some brilliant exceptions to that rule of claw… errr… I mean thumb… like the first volume of WITCHFINDER and now, the two BALTIMORE books.

JR

Buy Lobster Johnson vol 2: The Burning Hand 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 Leeroy And Popo (£8-50, Nobrow Press ) by Louis Roskosch

Tune vol 1: Vanishing Point (£12-99, FirstSecond ) by Derek Kirk Kim

Upside Down: A Vampire Tale (£7-50, Top Shelf ) by Jess Smart Smiley

Walking Dead vol 17: Something To Fear (£10-99, Image ) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard

Terry Moore’s How To Draw (£12-99, Abstract Studio ) by Terry Moore

Rachel Rising vol 2: Fear No Malus (£12-99, Abstract Studio ) by Terry Moore

Saucer Country vol 1: Run (£10-99, Vertigo ) by Paul Cornell & Ryan Kelly

Stitched vol 1 (£14-99, Avatar ) by Garth Ennis, Mike Wolfer & Mike Wolfer

Fairest vol 1: Wide Awake (£10-99, Vertigo ) by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges & various

Angel & Faith vol 2: Daddy Issues (£13-50, Dark Horse ) by Christos Gage & Rebekah Isaacs, Chris Samnee

The Marvelous Land Of Oz s/c  (£18-99, Marvel ) by Eric Shanower & Skottie Young

Sonic The Hedgehog Legacy Series vol 2

Essential Wolverine vol 6 (£14-99, Marvel ) by Larry Hama, Warren Ellis, Chris Claremont & Leinil Yu, various

Secret Avengers vol 2 h/c (£22-50, Marvel ) by Rick Remender & Renato Guedes, Matteo Scalera

Fear Itself: Deadpool & Fearsome Four s/c (£14-99, Marvel ) by Christopher Hastings, Brandon Montclare & Bong Dazo, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Ryan Bodenheim, Simon Bisley, Ray-Anthony Height, Tom Grummett, Henry Flint, Timothy Green

Uncanny X-Force vol 5: Otherworld s/c (£14-99, Marvel ) by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini, Billy Tan, Phil Noto, Dean White

Captain America vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Marvel ) by Ed Brubaker & Steve McNiven

Trigun Maximum Omnibus vol 1 (£14-99, DMP ) by Yasuhiro Nightow

The Hentai Prince And The Stony Cat vol 1 (£9-99, DMP ) by Sou Sagara & Okomeken

Honey*Smile (£9-99, DMP ) by Yura Miyazawa

Saturn Apartments vol 6 (£9-99, Viz ) by Hisae Iwaoka

Bokurano Ours vol 7 (£9-99, Viz ) by Mohiro Kitoh
Congratulations to Luke Pearson whose Hilda And The Midnight Giant was voted best Young Readers’ graphic novel by actual young readers in Leeds at this year’s British Comics Awards Here’s Luke Pearson’s website rammed full of beautiful art including plenty of previews.

The other awards went to NELSON (hurrah!), John Allison (hurrah!) and Josceline Fenton (hurrah!) while the lifetime achievement went to Raymond Briggs. Magnificent nominations, faultless results!

Last note: the Lord Harold Acton quotation above? Chris Claremont – like so many others – misquoted him during the first Phoenix fandango – it really is “…tends to…”

- Stephen

Reviews November 2012 week two

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

You know those dreams where you are hopelessly lost in a large building but then the wall opens up and you step inside what appears to be your own womb except it is full of trees and tiny sad babies who won’t leave you alone? Well, I am happy to report that this is one of those kind of books.

 - Dominique on Pachyderme

Remarkably in so many ways, I also refer you to Dominique’s review of Batman: Odyssey!

That (£5-99) by John Allison…

“Which is best for danger? T-shirt and shorts or dress?
“I suppose danger situations carry a strong risk of people seeing your underpants.
“Leaps, falls, sexy peril time ‘encounters’.
“DRESS IT IS!”

Everyone’s favourite children’s author and part-time sleuth is back! Yes, Shelley Winters is in Heaven. Quite literally, in two senses of the word, as she’s in the USA doing a book signing tour where the next stop up is… Heaven, Arizona. A town, in Shelley’s words “…so good they named it once. But after something really nice.”

Heaven is a pleasant kind of place for the middle of nowhere, where usually there’s not a great deal going on, but Shelley’s stay just so happens to coincide with the town’s annual Lemon Festival, where the delights of the sour citrus are celebrated with zest. Murder She Writes was one of my favourite self-published comics of last year and, I felt, a real step up for John with its zingy, rapid-fire one-liners and witty dialogue, not to mention beautifully illustrated full-colour art, and THAT is most definitely more of the same.

I was initially slightly disappointed not to see Shelley’s tween sidekick Charlotte* this time around, who I felt stole the show in Murder She Writes, but her absence simply allows the limelight to remain firmly focused on Shelley as she wisecracks her way through non-stop danger as… errr… giant moths descend upon the festivities like an X-Files version of Hitchcock’s The Birds. Not so much a out and out whodunit this time around, therefore, more of a low budget sci-fi B-movie homage, with a good wedge of fruity farce thrown in for good measure, as Shelley finds time to flirt outrageously with the local mechanic, even whilst narrowly avoiding disaster, in a manner that wouldn’t seem that out of place in a Carry On film! Bawdilicious!

That’s not to say there isn’t some detective work which ought to be done, it’s just that everyone is rather too focused on simply surviving the rabid attack of the killer moths to wonder what, or more precisely who, might be behind their sudden appearance. As a big fan of crime fiction from Sherlock Holmes onwards, I did have my suspicions quite early on I must say, though other readers might not find this case quite so lemonentary…

* Fans of Charlotte, fear not, as John assures us that a collection of the online BAD MACHINERY material in which Charlotte stars is on the way!! You can check out her most recent smartarse sleuthery from the beginning of the CASE OF THE UNWELCOME VISITOR arc.

JR

Buy That and read the Page 45 review here

Pachyderme h/c (£22-50, Self Made Hero) by Frederik Peters

You know those dreams where you are hopelessly lost in a large building but then the wall opens up and you step inside what appears to be your own womb except it is full of trees and tiny sad babies who won’t leave you alone? Well, I am happy to report that this is one of those kind of books.

I love a circular tale; a story that seems to make sense, then begins to crack, becoming implausible before finally being resolved into a satisfying, edifying whole. Here the tale begins with a woman on her way to a hospital to see her husband who has been in an accident. Her car breaks down and so she decides to continue on foot; the first of many decisions which seem reasonable in isolation but which, when you step back and think about it, seem a bit off.  That’s another thing I love, the surreal aspects of a story being introduced skilfully, building the sense of off-kilterness slowly. There is no “weird for weirdness sake” here, every event flows from the last in a seemingly reasonable fashion but with a growing edge of not-quite-rightness. Thus, when the strangeness really kicks in it does not feel jarring or contrived, it just draws you along with it.

Though all we seem to do is follow a confused woman around a hospital there are a few meaty issues to this story. Post-war paranoia is one: the book is set in Europe in the ‘50s so memories are still fresh and bitter. The role of the wife is another, also the frustrated artist, the barren woman, the political ideologue, the wistful Imperialist are all touched upon but not in a heavy-handed way. The pervading sense of weirdness in the story means that the book stays engaging and interesting as we are never quite sure what will turn up around the next corner.

The book is a translation into English which also lends it an extra edge of quirkiness, for want of a better word. Little things like sound effects and background chatter are written in a slightly different way to that which you would see in a native English book and I really liked that. For me it added to the sense of otherness and bewilderment as we wander round an unfamiliar place, trying to make sense of stuff that just does not seem to fit together right, looking for a reasonable conclusion.

If you like David Lynch films and other such strange journeys I think you will find PACHYDERME a very enjoyable and satisfying read. Plus the cover recommendation is by Jean Moebius Giraud which speaks volumes!

DK

Pachyderme hardcover

The Moomins And The Great Flood h/c (£9-99, Sort Of) by Tove Jansson.

“I’m in a deep, dark forest full of desolate sounds with Moomintroll and Moominmamma. Being brave.”

That’s what I tweeted last Saturday morning, so transported was I by this, the very first MOOMIN adventure, long before there was the comfort and community of Moominvalley. Instead, this wondrous prose illustrated with haunting, sepia-tinted paintings full of strange creatures whose shine bright in the shadowy night, finds Moominmamma leading a very young Moomintroll through fearful forests and dangerous swamps in search of the sun, and a Moominpappa missing for so long now that Moomintroll barely remembers him.

Moomintrolls, you see, used to live behind tall stoves in human houses, but now they’ve started to wander is search of their own homes. “We’re not happy with central heating.”

Moominpappa, a natural nomad, took off with the ever-itinerant Hattifatteners who are most invisible, though you may hear them scuttling under your floorboards. They have no attention span to speak of, so have probably abandoned Moominpappa many moons ago. It’s really quite important that they find him.

Along the way they will encounter a timid “little creature” who will later be known as Sniff, the blue-haired Tulippa whom they find in a flower and whose locks glow eerily in the dark, some strange modes of transport and others they must make for themselves.

The designs, even so early on, are glorious, the Hattifattener coming off like tubular sea anenomes or small, bipedal axolotls. There’s one particular painting which filled me with awe, as a sea-troll steers their boat “into a black ravine where the storm howled between the enormously high faces of rock”. The fragile craft leaps over dark, frightful waves the size of Hokusai’s tidal giants, into the unknown. Also, the Moomins are far, far smaller than later on and so look far more vulnerable. Moominmamma, however, is quietly determined, the voice of constant reassurance even when startled herself.

“At first Moominmamma was frightened too, but then she said soothingly: “It’s really a very little creature. Wait, and I’ll shine a light on it. Everything looks worse in the dark you know.””

Here she is the ultimate mother, forever resourceful, pulling from her capacious handbag whatever could possibly be required – including, for Moomintroll, a pair of dry socks. Which is funny, since he’s not wearing anything.

SLH

Buy The Moomins And The Great Flood h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Scott Pilgrim vol 2 h/c Colour Edition (£18-99, Oni Press) by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Just in time for our third – yes THIRD – Bryan Lee O’Malley signing, behold: the second full-colour volume of Scott Pilgrim, that seminal series about the most sensitive, caring, sharing boy in Christendom.

“Um, listen… I think we should break up or whatever.”

WHAT?! No level-up points you, young Scott!

Nathan Fairbairn has done the impossible: taken Page 45’s all-time favourite black and white series and enhanced it with colour. Oh, the blasphemy of it all. But it looks so good and it feels so right. Witness that rain-soaked night with the puddles on the pavement: you can almost hear the downpour and smell the wet-dog hair! And then there’s the subtle reflection of Ramona’s fuscia leggings!

Extras unavailable in the black and white equivalent this time include the 8-page ‘Monica Beetle’ missed opportunity in which the galaxy’s sharpest ever flying saucer CRASHES, SLICES and CUTS its way across town and our dumb-struck hero totally fails to ask the heroine out (hmmm), the cover to the Japanese edition, the designs behind The Clash At Demonhead, and comparison photos for the startlingly futuristic Toronto Reference Library, Casa Loma and those lethal steps and railings. Also, some funky fashion items our favourites nearly wore, but thankfully didn’t.

Anyway: Kim Pine. Beautifully portrayed in the film – I don’t think you could have cast a better Miss Mardy glowering over the drum kit – but woefully cut in terms of screen time. Well, it would’ve all have gotten too complicated! Here: IT GETS COMPLICATED!

Previously in  SCOTT PILGRIM VOL 1 COLOUR EDITION: to continue dating Ramona, Scott must defeat her seven evil exes in combat, levelling-up Nintendo-stylee as he does so. BUT: Ramona isn’t the only one who’s had a complicated love life, and – Knives Chau aside – they all seem to end up in bands! Plus: is Scott finally going to ditch Knives Chau? And if he does so, did he actually pay attention to her name? In fact does Scott pay attention to any one or any thing ever?! Scott…?

Oh, good grief. Too busy fussing about his hair, I expect.

SLH

Buy Scott Pilgrim vol 2 h/c Colour Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Spaceman h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso…

“This batch… I came cross some primo chemo… tweeked the playlist. Strong like bull, so go eez. Little tastes or your head’ll come off. You ear me, Orson?”
“I ear, I ear. Lil tastes.”
“You kno yer funs are low…”
“Kno, I know. Why I’m goin out beyond the Rise tonight.”
“Say?”
“Couple junkers been fishin there, bringing in significant hauls. New currents, draggin out the good shit.”

The duo behind the complex crime classic 100 BULLETS return, this time with a grimy post-apocalyptic piece set in the deprived fringes of a coastal city, where the rich live in splendid isolation high and dry behind a huge protected wall, and everyone else is pretty much left to fend for themselves amongst the flotsam and jetsam, left behind by the rising sea levels that have flooded most of the original city and indeed coastal areas all around the world.

There’s a thriving society there, but it’s populated by as many lowlifes, whores, junkies and crooks as honest people, it seems. In other words, a tough neighbourhood! Good job, then, that our hero Orson was bred, or more precisely engineered for an even tougher one, Mars. Designed for the rigours of prolonged space travel, he’s one of a handful of so-called Spacemen, who have more than a touch of the look of Neanderthal about them. He’s a sensitive soul deep-down, though, and when he finds himself caught up in the midst of a kidnap plot, he takes it upon himself to try and do the right thing. Bad idea…

Excellent story from Azzarello which definitely has a feel of a William Gibson book about it. The dialogue is entirely done in an extremely credible future dialect too, which is part phonetics, part contracted (well, strangulated) slang, which is an extremely hard trick to pull off successfully. All too frequently this type of linguistic trick distracts or irritates, but I found myself drawn in even further to the story by it here. Clearly, this is primarily a crime caper, even though also a worryingly plausible future fiction, and that is something Azzarello knows how to do perfectly as he sets out his suspects, then muddies the already muddy waters a little further still. Risso’s art compliments the writing perfectly as ever, capturing the inequities and equalities that exist everywhere in such a polarised, dystopian society and he easily demonstrates Orson’s Caliban-like personality and charm.

It wouldn’t be Azzarello if there weren’t a few convoluted twists and turns before the typical not-happy-for-everyone end, but that’s half the fun, agonizing as Orson is put through the mill by foe and faux-friend alike.

JR

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

Sandman: Annotated Sandman vol 2 h/c (£37-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman, Leslie S. Klinger.

Second hefty 12” x 12” black and white hardcover reprinting SANDMAN #21-39 in full, with extensive panel-by-panel annotations on either side.

You will learn secrets, direct from the horse’s mouth, for there are excepts here from Neil’s original scripts which illuminate both key moments in the comics and Neil’s thinking behind them, plus minutiae you may never have known were worth looking for. Little details, like the first glimpse of Morpheus’s gallery as his siblings assemble – all bar one whose portrait is shrouded. Go check: it really is! Also, did you realise that unlike the rest of the family, Death is never called “Death” by her fellow Endless, only “sister”? This was entirely deliberate, and I do like the explanation proffered by Hy Bender.

But it’s Neil’s descriptions to his artists I found particularly fascinating this time. Hell, for example, is far from the one presented almost ubiquitously in fiction. (Well, where else would it be presented? I’ve certainly seen scant signs on Ordinance Survey maps, though I do tend to steer clear of Mansfield.) Gone are the labyrinthine, midnight caverns illuminated only by the fiery pits below.

“Let’s look instead at what hell means to us: for me it’s concentration camps – endless bleak camps of flat, jerry-rigged buildings, ‘shower rooms’ which are gas chambers, huge ovens for burning bodies: Hell is living there, Hell for me is knowing that one day you’ll go for your shower, Hell is really knowing what’s going on in Auschwitz, or Dachau, or Belsen, but pretending to yourself that you don’t because that makes it easier to get through the following day.”

As to Delirium, there are suggestions for haircut and clothing, for sure, but these are almost parenthetical because, tellingly, Neil turns what could have been a simple series of descriptive notes… into a story! And it is no mere yarn of Delirium herself, but an extrapolation, a sideways glance of who she might be if mortal. It is a tale of underage sex, drug use and police busts; of parental nostalgia and denial. It is absolutely fascinating.

For a more detailed overview of the sort of contextual, social and literary material you can expect in these editions, please see ANNOTATED SANDMAN VOL 1.

For an overview of the series itself, please see SANDMAN VOL 1: PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES.

SLH

Buy Sandman: Annotated Sandman vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sandman volumes 1 to 10 Slipcase Edition (£150-00, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & various.

Morpheus is the Lord of Dreams, his family are The Endless. Each of them is older than you can comprehend, though some are older than others. They are as gods to mortals – though they can surely die – and they can change as we change, for they are reflections of our everyday existence.

Destiny, cowled and quiet, holds in his hands the book of all that is, all that was, and all that will ever be. Dream, his skin as white as the moon, his clothes the colour of midnight, is remote and cold and unforgiving, meticulous in his duties, obsessive when in love. By contrast, Death, his older sister, is kind and compassionate and far better company than you’d image, though one day you’ll discover that for yourself. Desire is fickle but irresistible: he/she will appear as the most beautiful woman or man you have ever seen, whereas its twin Despair is terrible to behold and terrible to endure. Delirium doesn’t know what she is for most of the time, but in her rare, lucid moments she remembers many things, most tragically, perhaps, that she used to be Delight. They are a family, like the Greek gods, and like most families they fall out. One member of the Endless is missing. Who that is, I will not tell you, nor why he went away. All I will impart is that one member of The Endless is playing a very dangerous game, as another is going to find out…

Over the course of ten books Gaiman introduces us to The Endless, and their roles in Morpheus’ story. This will draw him to Hell and back via ancient Africa, the East and Greece, Elizabethan England, the dreams of cats, an American serial killer convention and a city preserved in a bottle. You’ll meet Norse and Egyptian deities, demons and angels, Lucifer, Shakespeare, Barbie and Ken, Orpheus, the Faerie, and a host of contemporary individuals as they come into contact with Dream and his siblings. For The Endless have always played a role in our lives – often benign, sometimes less so – and they’re not above making mistakes.

Overwhelmingly this is a story about stories, about decisions and consequences, responsibility, growth and the power of dreams. It opens in Britain in 1916 where an obsessive occultist, Roderick Burgess, is planning to live forever. To do that he must capture Death herself. He fails. He captures someone else instead, which has ramifications all over the world, until his son makes a fateful error in 1988…

This slipcased edition contains all ten volumes, the slipcase itself therefore costing you a shiny ten-pence piece. You can also buy volume Sandman vol 10: The Wake (New Ed’n) plus Slipcase at £16-99, or Sandman vol 10: The Wake (New Ed’n) by Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli, Jon J. Muth, Charles Vess separately for £14-99.

SLH

Buy Sandman volumes 1 to 10 Slipcase Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Neon Genesis Evangelion vol 13 (£7-50, Viz) by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto.

It’s back! After, like, five years absence, the original NEON GENESIS SERIES.

Massive mechs powered by child prodigies and, oh I can’t remember too much about its crazy animated series except a) the theme tune and b) that somewhat arresting bed-side scene in which young Shinji visits a fellow pilot comatose in hospital, leaves her a sticky white token of his adolescent affection and declares, “I am SO fucked up.”

Come again…?

[You are totally and utterly fired – ed.]

SLH

Buy Neon Genesis Evangelion vol 13  and read the Page 45 review here

Bedlam #1 (£2-75, Image) by Nick Spencer & Riley Rossmo.

“We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to let you know I have just killed… well, a lot of people. I didn’t count. I apologise. To make matters worse, most of these people were children. Which I know you’re gonna say is somewhat below the belt. But I have tried many things, and you are all… Well, you are a pretty stubborn bunch. So now that I have your attention, we should talk about what comes next.”

In which a psychopath torments his audience, captors and the wider public in general – even from behind bars – and does so with such viciousness and at such punishing length that DC would never have published this as an Arkham Asylum book.

Sorry…? Well, if this wasn’t originally intended to be a Joker book, I’d be hugely surprised, and for some reason I’ve decided that’s the equally ill-adjusted Norman Osborn administering the sedatives. Quite the crossover.

With a softer but suitably grimy colour palette to differentiate between time frames, this is mostly told in black, white and red with a cracking design for Madder Red’s Chain Chomp mask. Jonathan mentioned Ashley Wood as a comparison point, and I wouldn’t disagree.

As to what does come next… oh, it’s far from straightforward. I love a good contingency plan, and I am far from alone. From the writer of MORNING GLORIES, THIEF OF THIEVES and so much more.

“I am Madder Red, and I live to surprise you.”

SLH

Buy Bedlam on the grounds of diminished responsibility and the property of Page 45. Alternatively make a pre-recorded phone call to 0115 9508045. page45@page45.com will also work or tweet me senseless @pagefortyfive

Batman: Odyssey h/c (£22-50, DC) by Neal Adams >

Let’s start with the fairly sensible version: people are messing with the Batman, trying to get inside his head and throw him off his formidable game. On the one hand they are trying to make him explode with all that pent-up, I-saw-my-parents-murdered rage, while on the other hand they are trying to get him to see the bigger picture and join up the dots like the master detective we know him to be. And along the way these various interfering agencies bring up some good points.

For example, in a world full of “normal” crime, terror and violence why does  the Batman spend a large chunk of his time rounding up crazies like The Penguin and The Joker, only to see them leave Arkham once they are declared “sane”, or released on a technicality, or sprung by some other crazy or whatever? That’s a lot of energy to expend on a revolving door. Does he not suspect that he might be having his strings pulled, and if not, why not? He is a master detective after all…

And then there is the “no guns” thing. Batman won’t use guns and he won’t kill. Gadgets, cudgels, fists, feet, martial-arts beatdowns, speeding cars, all these things he is down with, but he won’t shoot you and he won’t kill you. It’s a noble position for a masked vigilante to take and totally understandable given his origin, but slightly inconvenient when you think about it…

And then there’s the rage. Seeing his parents gunned down by a mugger in a totally random attack set the Batman on his path. It was random, wasn’t it? Ra’s al Ghul was on hand to train the Batman and under that mentorship he became arguably the most accomplished martial artist on the planet. That was nice of Ra’s wasn’t it? Such a shame they parted ways but no hard feelings I’m sure…

The plot thickens, it really does.

Now the less sensible version: Riddler isn’t really the Riddler and Batman sort of realizes this subconsciously but still walks into the trap. Joker isn’t really the Joker; well some of the time he is but then some of the time he is Boston Brand, Deadman, hopping in and out of bodies trying to make Batman see the big picture. Man-Bat is various people at various times, Aquaman has a flying black killer Manta Ray which is pretty cool, and then we go to the Underworld where, of course, we have to ride dinosaurs and stuff. Ra’s al Ghul needs Batman’s help, Talia al Gul is generally crazying around, crossing, double-crossing and being fabulous, Robin and Commissioner Gordon are  finding the whole thing quite disturbing and Alfred has been spotted using the Cappuccino maker, I kid you not.

Oh, and also there is a bit under Arkham that no one knew about where a mysterious fellow conducts experiments on the crazies. Remember I said earlier that Batman was arguably the most accomplished martial artist on the planet? Well this guy is the argument.

The plot thickens!

This book is mental, frenetic and absolutely full of *stuff happening everywhere*!!! But, being by Neal Adams, the art is always crisp and satisfying. I really liked the structure too: you are being told the story by Bruce Wayne and each chapter starts with him sitting across the table from you, passing you coffee and then launching into the next, insane part of the tale. As he takes you through each pertinent incident his thinking is revealed and we get to see his detective side, his keen mind as well as his awesome prowess in combat. It’s a brilliant way to present such an insane story. In fact it’s just like you and Batman are old friends, catching up…

DK

Buy Batman: Odyssey h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Daredevil: End Of Days #1 and 2 of 8 (£2-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack & Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz.

If you need a review after a creative line-up like that on a title like this, then I don’t believe I can help you. The finest-ever writer of DAREDEVIL with three of its greatest artists.

And the art is absolutely extraordinary, whether it’s the sheer sense of space in the Daily Bugle office in a double-page spread whose interior windows I stared at for ages, the breathtaking glimpse of the Kingpin at night, brooding as he stares out the neon-blazed city he ‘owns’, or – and this is what swung it for me, quite strangely – two separate panels of gritted teeth in issue #2’s dark, dank, behind-the-bar alley, the first coming off like Byrne at his best, the second perfectly recapturing the glory days of Frank Miller as inked by good Klaus Janson, present and correct on pencils.

Matt Murdock is dead. He was beaten to death in full view of the public, and the ugly images were transmitted uncensored across the nation, across the world, to an audience transfixed by their grotesque brutality. And I do warn you right now that Klaus and Billy have ensured that it is very uncomfortable viewing. It’s supposed to be.

But if you were to listen closely on playback, if you were to turn up the volume and really, really concentrate, you would hear a single word muttered by Murdock as his last breath past his lips. Bugle veteran Ben Urich, once one of Matt’s sole confidants, heard what was said and will not let it lie. Disgusted by the sensationalism, he is equally confounded by the circumstances of Matt’s death and the events leading up to it during which Matt seems to have alienated all of his peers. But Ben is nothing if not dogged, and determined to do his old friend one last kindness. Unfortunately no one is pleased to see him.

It was the second issue that did it for me, as we begin to revisit Murdock’s past and those who populated it; where the depth and scope of this story gradually unfurls and one starts to comprehend – like Urich himself – the extent of the silence he’s up against. It’s not a wall as such, but a void. An evasion.

Out of the shadows steps someone who should know what happened; someone who is old and angry and claiming that Urich’s best lead, the Black Widow, is dead. Then into the shadows steps Urich when he tracks the license plate of an SUV from Matt’s funeral, ill-attended apart from the media vultures, to a park where children are playing soccer.

“It’s very brave of you to come here, Mister Urich. You remember me when I had nothing to lose… Imagine what I’m like now.”

Fuck. Good intentions underfoot, destination Dante.

SLH

Buy Daredevil: End Of Days sight unseen by standing too close to the till when my fingers are itchy, or employing your phonomobail devices appropriately.

Avengers Vs. X-Men h/c (£55-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction & John Romita Jr., Oliver Coipel, Adam Kubert.

A great big brick of a book containing every comic ever published by Marvel! Or something.

It does at least contain all thirteen issues of AVENGERS VS. X-MEN (don’t panic, the thirteenth was #0) AVX #1-6 (the fights; well, more fights – the fists they basically flew), AVENGERS VS. X-MEN: INFINITE (no idea; online only, I suspect, but we sold all our copies within seconds of publication and I’m writing this from memory) plus material from POINT ONE.

In X-MEN: THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA we witnessed the gentlest of souls, Jean Grey, corrupted by the limitless power of the Phoenix. No one and nothing could stop her. She ate a whole sun for breakfast and so destroyed an entire solar system, committing mass genocide in the process. It didn’t end well, but it would have been worse if she hadn’t stopped herself – if she hadn’t committed suicide in front of her lover, Scott Summers.

Now Scott Summers is in charge of an endangered species. During HOUSE OF M mutants were virtually wiped out in the blink of an eye, and it’s only since X-MEN: SECOND COMING that there’s been any sign of blessed relief in the form of young Hope whose manifestation seems to have gradually triggered new mutants. Still, it has not been enough.

Now the Phoenix force is heading back towards Earth, its target Hope herself. To a desperate, beleaguered and increasingly militarised Scott Summers AKA Cyclops this could be the key to kick-starting the mutant race, the one and only opportunity he may ever be offered, and though he has danced with the devil before he is determined to make it work.

And it all. Goes horribly. Wrong.

Oh, I just sent shivers up my very own spine.

I wish they were merited, but honestly? Way too many cooks made for a unnecessarily insipid broth. Apparently a major player died, but it took a customer to tell me because I couldn’t even tell. I thought he was merely hungover. Or was that me? Visually the storytelling was confusing, and way too many opportunities were squandered by the writers for some seriously big moments. The whole Wanda thing was… ugh… what a waste.

Don’t get me wrong, it all made sense in terms of the trajectory of key characters – particularly Scott Summers – and the fall-out in the form of AVENGERS VS X-MEN: CONSEQUENCES written by Mr. Gillen gives us a credible and potentially thrilling new dynamic.

Also, I was and remain and enormous fan of the revenue. Thanks for all that, by the way.

SLH

Buy Avengers Vs. X-Men h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Absolute Final Crisis (£75-00, DC) by Grant Morrison & J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Doug Mahnke, more…

Okay, before I reproduce my review of the FINAL CRISIS softcover which costs £14-99 let’s establish what extras you get for your additional sixty quid and a penny. Errr… not a lot actually, much like most of the DC superhero Absolute editions frankly. This, exactly like the softcover, only contains FINAL CRISIS #1–7, FINAL CRISIS SUPERMAN BEYOND #1–2, and FINAL CRISIS: SUBMIT #1. Given there was also FINAL CRISIS 1: DIRECTOR’S CUT, FINAL CRISIS: REQUIEM #1, FINAL CRISIS: RESIST #1, FINAL CRISIS: SECRET FILES #1, FINAL CRISIS: REVELATIONS #1–5, plus the four 5 issue FINAL CRISIS AFTERMATH titles: ESCAPE, RUN, DANCE (really, I kid you not) plus the possibly ever more improbably named INK, you might have thought they could throw a few of those in. But no. What you get is apparently a few extra story pages in the SUPERMAN BEYOND bit, many J.G. Jones sketches and some Morrison commentary. Larger pages, nicer paper etc. But that really is it. Is it worth splashing the extra cash therefore to risk tipping you in FINANCIAL CRISIS? Well, that as ever, is your choice. Anyway, here’s the review of story itself which is great…

“There! Can you hear it Superman? So small and far away. That’s the sound of you failing everyone you promised to save!”

As an unabashed Grant Morrison fan I will state now that I read and really enjoyed FINAL CRISIS, although like many other people, it seems, I can’t quite bring myself to proclaim it a true masterpiece. A slightly flawed masterpiece, I think, would be a fair verdict. There are brave and bold ideas aplenty in the creative writing we’ve come to expect from Morrison and heroism on a truly meta-epic scale and yet, and yet, something just holds it back from being perfect. I’m quite sure people will still be picking up FINAL CRISIS in years to come unlike some of the many previous CRISIS variants, but whether it will ultimately acquire the status of works like KINGDOM COME and THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS remains to be seen.

So why should you read FINAL CRISIS? Quite simply because it’s Morrison writing superheroes in his own unique way that stretches and probes your mind and posits questions about your understanding of our own universe, and of course ultimately entertains as well. Let us make no mistake, FINAL CRISIS is never ever dull, nor is a single panel wasted with pointless fight sequences, instead it is plot, plot, PLOT and BIG ideas with many, many stand-out moments of brilliance, including some poignant ones. This is superheroes for intelligent adults with something to say, and thoughts to provoke.

So what’s the problem (if any)? Well, the extremely intense nature of the plot,* coupled with the strange and somewhat jarring order of the additional issues within the main body of FINAL CRISIS itself in this collection means this is probably not something that is going to reap the maximum reward on your first pass. But then again, why should it? Think of it as a super-compressed version of his writing on ALL-STAR SUPERMAN with you the reader sometimes fighting desperately not to get sucked over the event horizon and into a black hole of plot impaction. You will need to re-read this work to get the most enjoyment out of it, but it is very much worth persevering with. There is some very clever and witty writing to be savoured. Plus you will also find out the ultimate fate of Bruce Wayne…

*I’m not even going to attempt a plot summary or we’d break the record for the longest review ever, I think.

JR

Buy Absolute Final Crisis and read the Page 45 review here

Deadpool Now #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn & Tony Moore…

New title, same old shit as Marvel continues its mission to make every last comics reader well and truly sick of the merc with the potty mouth. The cover, by Geoff Darrow, is easily the best thing about this comic by a light year, never mind a country mile, featuring as it does Deadpool and Godzilla, breathing what appears to be not flames but a plethora of cute kittens, engaged in a battle above the city. I had, therefore, foolishly high hopes when I opened this comic up.

A real shame that a) the story inside is nothing to do with the cover, but some banal drivel about zombie Presidents which the might of S.H.I.E.L.D. apparently feel only Wade Winston Wilson can possibly deal with (really?) and b) the interior art whilst by Tony WALKING DEAD Moore is just neither here nor there. I would say read UNCANNY X-FORCE instead where Deadpool is used sparingly to perfection for comedic relief by Rick Remender, except Marvel have decided to change the line-up of what was, in my opinion, one of the best X-titles, and replace them with a bunch of boring duffers instead for the Marvel Now Reboot. Which, Deadpool himself tells us, the  readers, ‘I know what you’re thinking but – IT’S NOT A REBOOT!’ in an oh-so-hilarious letter at the end of the issue. So, if you’re not rebooting something, why you would restart all your titles at #1 then, many of which Marvel only reset to #1 recently anyway? To totally confuse readers with a completely pointless marketing exercise of course! The things these idiots need to remember about the moving conveyor belt that is monthly superhero comic fiction is that it’s actually just as easy to jump off as it is to jump on… Byeeee….

JR

I really wouldn’t buy it.

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.
At The End Of Your Garden (signed) (£4-00) by Lizz Lunney

Living The Dream Tote Bag (Pink Artwork) (£6-00) by Lizz Lunney

Living The Dream Tote Bag (Blue Artwork) (£6-00) by Lizz Lunney

Unicorns + Werewolves / Tubetastic (£2-50) by Lizz Lunney

Leopards In Leotards / Dust (£2-50) by Lizz Lunney

At The Planetarium (signed) (£4-00) by Lizz Lunney

Star Wars: Agent Of The Empire vol 1: Iron Eclipse (£14-99, Dark Horse) by John Ostrander & Stephane Roux, Stephane Crety

Clive Barker’s Hellraiser vol 4: Hell Hath No Fury (£14-99, BOOM!) by Clive Barker, Mark Millar & various

The Savage Sword Of Conan vol 12 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by various

Scene Of The Crime h/c (£18-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark, Sean Phillips

Tomine: New York Drawings h/c (£16-99, Faber) by Adrian Tomine

Lobster Johnson vol 2: The Burning Hand (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Tonci Zonjic, Dave Stewart

Prison Pit Book 4 (£9-99, Fantagraphics) by Johnny Ryan

Sonic The Hedgehog Archives vol 19 (£5-99, Sonic) by various

Hellblazer vol 4: The Family Man (£14-99, Vertigo) by Jamie Delano, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Dick Foreman & various including Dave McKean, Sean Phillips, Timothy Bradstreet

Scalped vol 10: Trail’s End (£10-99, Vertigo) by Jason Aaron & R.M. Guera

Fables: Werewolves Of The Heartland h/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham & Jim Fern, Craig Hamilton, Jim Fern

Krent Able’s Big Book Of Mischief (£11-99, Knockabout) by Krent Able

Sailor Twain hardcover (£18-99, FirstSecond) by Mark Siegel

Spider-Men hardcover (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli

Avengers vol 3 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Daniel Acuna, Renato Guedes, Brandon Peterson

New Avengers vol 4 h/c (£20-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Deodata

Journey Into Mystery / New Mutants: Exiled s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Carmine Di Giandomenico

Start With A Happy Ending vol 1 (£9-99, DMP) by Risa Motoyama

Loveless 2-in-1 Edition vols 1 & 2 (£9-99, Viz) by Yun Kouga

Blood Blockade Battlefront vol 3 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Yashuhiro Nightow

Cross Game vol 8 VIZBIG Edition (£10-99, Viz) by Mitsuru Adachi

07-Ghost vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Yuki Amemiya & Yukino Ichihara
Oh dear, I haven’t prepared anything for you here. I was very tired last night. I’m quite tired today.

How are you? Getting much sleep?

I might now I’ve finished Breaking Bad Season 4. I basically took on all four seasons in a fortnight.

So I’m quite tired today.

Stephen

Reviews November 2012 week one

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

There are vast scenes of ancient ritual, carnal lust and very modern warfare transcending time just as they were always intended.

 - Stephen on the Lost Art Oh Ah Pook Is Here by William S. Burroughs & Malcom Mc Neill

Please see bottom of the blog for Page 45 on BBC Radio Nottingham!

Multiple Warheads #1 of 4 (Image) by Brandon Graham.

“Reconnaissance Comics: check this shit out.”

Design heaven and pun-haters’ hell, I’ve rarely read a comic in which its creator is having so much unapologetic, delirious, rip-roaring fun. Brandon is dashing off more ideas per page than most can muster in an entire mini-series. “Drawn with fire because paper burns.”

It’s lo-fi sci-fi with sweeping landscapes, toppled statues, call-a-flower seeds (whistle and they grow; cool in a crunch), mini-marts infested with strange little critters scampering ‘cross aisles, self-heating root vegetables like Turnip The Heat, a palace born on the back of a perambulatory, six-legged ‘saurus, its face a feudal façade… and waiting within, a dandy of a duke who’s dotty, decadent and totally divine!

“Is this going to be a ransom sort of a thing, then?”
“I’m going to sell your body.”
“oOOOOoh. Prostitution!”
*clap-claps*

It’s all so very sexy, with two main strands: a blue-haired bounty hunter called Nura out on the frozen plains, lobbing off all heads whenever something sticks its neck out; and – negotiating the Northlandz, Soutlands and Neither Landz in between – an ex-organ smuggler Sexica and her wolf-tailed boyfriend called Nikolai. And by “tail”, I mean, you know… He has very strange dreams. At the heart of all this lies the Dead or Red City whose propaganda is direct and to the point:

“We are right!! You are wrong!! (and fat)”
“Also, don’t be too smart – - Nobody likes that!!”

I know for a fact that Jamie McKelvie is allergic to puns but I equally know he loves Brandon Graham, so I took joy imagining the PHONOGRAM artist desperately trying to reconcile the two and wondering if he’d ever be called on it.

From the creator of KING CITY and the writer of PROPHET, then, a clean-lined, brightly coloured beauty which bleeds right to the ends of each page before crashing through your window and skewering your eye with its sword.

“I love the taste of drama.”

SLH

Buy Multiple Warheads #1 by any means necessary. We’ve got your number and you should have ours by now.

The Cartoon Utopia h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Ron Regé Jr.

“Believe only your own consciousness and then act accordingly and abundantly.”

I thought only my step-mother could make black and white dazzling, but Regé is back with a spiritual manifesto and ode to creativity: a singular, secular vision delivered with all the fervour of a religious sermon. It’s a call not to arms but to peace and perception unshackled from the conditioning of ages, exhorting all to see new possibilities, infinite possibilities, so enabling one’s full potential to be realised in both senses of the word.

The result – from the creator of SKIBBER BEE BYE, AGAINST PAIN, THE AWAKE FIELD, YEAST HOIST etc – is empowering and positively euphoric.

It’s also mesmerising. I love the way that the lettering is fully integrated into the art, often delineated with exactly the same thickness, the hollowed capitals precisely the right size, totally at one with each page and its constituent panels. I’ve never been allowed to review a book by Ron Regé Jr before. I found it profound, inspirational and beautiful to behold.

Alternatively: a great big colouring book for adults.

SLH

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

Ghosts one-shot (£5-99, Vertigo) by Joe Kubert, David Lapham, Paul Pope, A Ewing, Rufus Dayglo, Gilbert Hernandez, Jeff Lemire, more.

Extraordinary.

This anthology contains the last-ever work story written and drawn by the legendary Joe Kubert who died this August, and it could not be more apposite as a fond farewell. Why that is, I will leave you to read for yourselves to discover; but it has nothing to do with the title of this anthology, just the content and conclusion of the story itself.

It was commissioned by Karen Berger especially for this anthology and, thankfully, was written, pencilled and lettered in full when the great man passed away. Kubert would have gone on to ink it, certainly, but I have always preferred the man’s pencils and here they are haunting.

Al Ewing and Rufus Dayglo’s ‘The Night After I Took The Data Entry Job I Was Visited By My Own Ghost’, however, is a riot in ectoplasmic green. In it the newly installed office worker is haunted by the aspiring musician in him, playing Ladytron riffs all night long on his keytar, enthralled his friends with stories from the other side (“Ian Curtis? Yeah, we jam.”), and soon charming his way up the corporate ladder too, neatly leap-frogging his living self for promotion by spouting “team synergy” claptrap. Dismayed by what has become of his phantasmagorical counterpart, he quits in protest. The punchline is absolutely brilliant.

You can always rely on Gilbert Hernandez, and this particular tale would be far from out of place in LOVE AND ROCKETS itself, but what about the piece conceived by HEAVY LIQUID’s Paul Pope, scripted SILVERFISH’s by David Lapham and then drawn by Paul Pope himself?

Don’t expect a conventional ghost story in any way shape or form. Instead ‘Treasure Lost’ is the sort of space-faring yarn you’re more likely to encountered hard-covered on the continent as an eleven-year-old prince and his sister are kidnapped for ransom by a brutal race of stellar pirates who have no idea how intransigent their father is likely to be. An act of sabotage from within the spaceship gives both brother and sister, who have long since stopped seeing eye to eye, the opportunity they need to set the factions they’ve ingratiated themselves to against each other, but the ironies, they will abound…

Fab. Right, I’m off to read the rest of this.

Also by Joe Kubert, and highly recommended: YOSSEL: Joe’s heart-rending story of what might have become of him had his parents not left Poland just before the Second World War.

SLH

Buy Ghosts through means of a Ouija board. While the glass moves through 0115 9508045 or page45@page45.com you may feel the eerie sensation of a hand on the wallet in your pocket. It’s only me.

The Lost Art Of Ah Pook Is Here h/c (£29-99, Fantagraphics) by William S. Burroughs & Malcom Mc Neill.

When something happens is infinitely less important than what actually happens, how long its effects last, and indeed what those effects are.

At least, that’s what I scribbled at the top of my notes for this book, along with “see Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s FROM HELL”. Anyone who’s read that will know exactly what I mean.

Ah Puck is the Mayan god of death – our co-conspirators merely changed the spelling to make it phonetic. The Mayans believed in reincarnation, so death is definitely not the end. But we’ll get to that! Let’s pull back a bit.

Malcom McNeill was an art school student who founded the magazine Cyclops, illustrating the comic strip THE UNSPEAKABLE MR. HART written by sentence-fragmenter William S. Burroughs. When the magazine folded, they began working on a graphic novel starring that unspeakable Mr. Hart and, on visiting the British Museum, saw the facsimile of the Dresden Codex, one of the four Mayan books that combined pictures and text to survive annihilation – like the rest of its culture – at the hands of European Christianity. And so it goes. And very much went.

I know all this only because Malcom Mc Neill has taken the time to put this eye-frazzling book of art – some of it sequential – into context, for the work itself is very much lost. Not only was it abandoned, but it was then effectively buried or disappeared by an exhibition proclaiming itself to be the definitive gallery of art works inspired by the words of William S. Burroughs… which contained not one image from this massive body of art. In fact it wasn’t mentioned once, even as a footnote, in the accompanying 192-page catalogue.

That is extraordinary enough given that the art wasn’t merely inspired by Burroughs but created in direct collaboration, but when you see what I see in front of me – all these thumbnails, elaborate storyboards, sketches, full pencils, Mayan-inspired line drawings, and then fully painted sweeps of integrated sequential art which have stretched the entire length of an art gallery wall – you will shake your head in wonder and dismay. There are vast scenes of ancient ritual, carnal lust and very modern warfare transcending time just as they were always intended.

The script was released thirty years ago without any images. This time the images are published without any words, thanks to Burroughs’ estate who forbade it. The resurrection therefore isn’t quite complete: for a full comprehension some assembly is required.

I mention that because while Mc Neill is an eye-popping artist, he’s not the most lucid of writers, making some reasonably simple ideas seem more complex than they need be:

Words are alchemical and writing is an act of magic, able to affect change in people’s minds and so the very world around them. We know this: we have read Alan Moore’s PROMETHEA.

Everything has already happened therefore time-travel is possible, if not inevitable, as is a form of telepathy – a communication shared through Ideaspace. We know that too: we have read Alan Moore’s interview by Eddie Campbell in A DISEASE OF LANGUAGE:

“An eloquent communicator of even the most complex metaphysical concepts, Moore elucidates on his notion of a shared Ideaspace and its topography of hot-linked associated thoughts, as explored in PROMETHEA and which he convincingly offers as a possible explanation not only for telepathy, but for ghosts and the otherwise inexplicably synchronous arrival of thoughts or inventions in ostensibly unconnected minds like steam propulsion.”

That’s from my review. Anything else we should know? Oh, yes, the plot. Here’s Malcom:

“Using sacred books of their own, Mayan mutants travel back and forth in time, contact young guys in the future, and bring down the whole show. Biological weapons burst over the cities of the world, breaking down species barriers and shutting down the human condition forever. Hart dies. End of civilisation, heroes sail off into the sunset…”

All right, then!

SLH

Buy The Lost Art Of Ah Pook Is Here h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Supercrooks h/c UK Ed’n (£14-99, Titan UK Ed’n) by Mark Millar & Leinil Yu…

“Here comes the pain, dick-bag. I’ll beat so hard your ancestors are gonna bleed!”

No, not Stephen finally catching up with a standing order customer who has left us in lurch with several months of uncollected comics and just disappeared without a trace… but some choice dialogue contained within the latest excellent offering from the self-styled “your chum, Mark Millar” (your chum being his lettercol sign off which, combined with the chin stroking picture, always makes me chuckle) and his artsy Millarworld pals, in this case, beat-down artiste extraordinaire Leinil Yu.

There is much to be said for the limited series format Millar seems to be concentrating on these days, with NEMESIS, SUPERIOR, KICK-ASS and the forthcoming SECRET SERVICE plus the much anticipated JUPITER’S CHILDREN. Firstly, it allows him to get his pick of artists like Yu, Romita Jr., Dave Gibbons and Frank Quitely schedule-wise, and secondly he can really concentrate on cramming in a ridiculous amount of ideas and action into each story without worrying about continuity. Also, given that last point, his cast of characters tend to be somewhat more… disposable… than those of Marvel and DC, which always helps up the ultra-violence-ante a welcome notch or two.

I have heard it espoused that he also likes to write this type of self-contained, high-octane yet relatively “simplistic” plots, because they are just begging to be adapted into films, but I don’t personally believe that is his primary motivation at all. I just think he’s found a groove of writing style he’s really enjoying, and has decided to run with it, simple as that. And with this material and indeed much of his current output, he is once again beginning to hit the levels of sophistication of superhero storytelling he achieved with WANTED (note: now available again without the horrific and ill-advised movie cover).

So, all you really need to know about this work, for me to avoid spoiling it in any way, is that a group of super-villains lead by the charismatic Johnny Bolt are planning a very audacious heist, to get their old school chum and mentor, The Heist, out of a rather tight spot. He’s racked up huge gambling debts with the vicious Salamander, who is planning on wiping out said debts by wiping out The Heist, unless he can settle up pronto. But the gang of veteran villains know that they’ve pretty much got no chance of pulling a huge caper off in the USA these days, where the myriad law enforcement agencies, not to mention dearth of superheroes, have made their profession somewhat untenable.

Therefore it’s off to sunny Spain, to target one of their own, the now retired ‘daddy’ of all super-villains, richer than Croesus – and you don’t get to be that wealthy without keeping both eyes firmly fixed on your stash – The Bastard. And errr… as you might expect, he hasn’t earned that name for his sunny disposition and forgiving nature. Cue a classic (super-)heist caper that has heart and humour, plus more than a little fisticuffs to boot… and boots to the head too.

JR

Buy Supercrooks h/c UK Ed’n and read the Page 45 review here

Secret Avengers vol 4: Run The Mission, Don’t Get Seen, Save The World s/c (£14-99, DC) by Warren Ellis & Jamie McKelvie, David Aja, Michael Lark, Kev Walker, Alex Maleev, Stuart Immonen.

Bang, bang, bang. Science fiction at its swiftest.

Like Ellis’ own GLOBAL FREQUENCY this contains six self-contained bursts of frantic covert activity which rely not one jot on any previous knowledge of this series or who these people are.

As drawn by Moon Knight’s Alex Maleev, the time-travel episode starring the Russian superspy Black Widow was so jaw-droppingly clever (and funny, and sad) that I read it three times, each time gleaning an extra nugget of clever. I think there may be one crucial panel missing – or at least a button that needed pressing on camera – but still…

It’s all gone catastrophically wrong: against overwhelming odds and some seriously high-tech weaponry, the Secret Avengers have failed. Sharon Carter, Steve Rogers and War Machine are dead. Reluctantly the Black Widow retreats – five years into the past – taking with her a responsive time-travelling device seemingly designed to tease her to death with hints about what she can and can’t do. What she cannot do is materialise behind the bad guys three minutes before she left with a bloody big gun.

“The flow of time must be preserved.”

What she can do is use her knowledge of the past to her maximum advantage and change time in such a way that it appears not to have changed at all… to fill in the gaps, as it were, with what she wants to happen. It is, as I say, ridiculously clever, right down to where the Shadow Council originally sourced their high-tech weaponry from. It’s all so self-fulfilling, Natasha cleaning up after herself beautifully. On top of that there’s a stand-out sequence of three-panel daily syndicated newspaper strips called ‘The Black Widow’ designed to look time-aged and repurposed with new captions in the word balloons just as Natasha herself is “repurposing” history.

In addition, Michael Lark provides some magnificent city snow scenes in Symakaria (borders on Latveria, Serbia and Transylvania, geographical fact fans) with the sort of rough textures we all loved in GOTHAM CENTRAL, while at the other end of the spectrum Jamie McKelvie (PHONOGRAM, SUBURBAN GLAMOUR, X-MEN: SEASON ONE) delivers a subterranean, futuristic cityscape on a breathtaking scale with the clairest of lignes imaginable.

SLH

Buy Secret Avengers vol 4: Run The Mission, Don’t Seen, Save The World s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Superman: Earth One vol 2 h/c (£16-99, DC) by J. Michael Straczynski & Shane Davis…

“’Who has the guns makes the rules’. And since you have the guns you think they give you power. You have no idea what power is. Let me show you.”

Cue Superman disintegrating the despot who has just presented him with a severed arm and informed him they will keep on coming, unless Superman leaves his country immediately. He hasn’t melted the dictator with his heat vision, of course, but that’s exactly what he’s wishing he’d said and done when reflecting upon the confrontation later on. Superman would never do that, though, would he? Well, this is Earth One, where things are… different. Except with the ever suspicious generals who are paranoid that they need a plan to stop this apparently benevolent alien, in any dimension, alternate or otherwise of course! Cue the entry of one resplendently hirsute Lex Luthor…

But, but, that is all merely a very small sideplot to set up what will presumably be volume three of Straczynski’s variation on a theme of ole big blue. I must say, I was actually expecting a direct follow on to the events of book one, given the legend on the front cover -’The Sequel to the #1 New York Times bestseller’ – and especially given the ending of said volume which was practically screaming sequel itself. This however, merely continues the adventures of Clark in Metropolis and introduces the new Earth One version of a classic villain, the Parasite. I shouldn’t say “merely” actually, because it is a great read in its own right, but I hope JMS will return to that initial storyline at some point as it was brilliant.

It is everything about the differences between the mainstream and this world’s Clark Kent that really makes this book though. It just works and feels natural and up to date in the way that Morrison’s recent reboot of ACTION COMICS also does. They both really focus on the struggles of Clark Kent the person in trying to act, if not feel, human, when he knows deep down he’s anything but. Which is why, of course, he finds his own unique solution to the dilemma of the despot, and it’s probably not one that the mainstream Clark would approve of but, hey, that’s what Earth One, when it’s done well, should be all about.

JR

Buy Superman: Earth One vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wolverine And The X-Men vol 1 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo plus others.

“Whiskey!”
“Whiskey!”
“Whiskey!”
“Come back here, you stupid blue rats!”

In which a visit from the Department of Education school inspectors passes without incident. <snort> Everything that could possibly go wrong does go wrong on the first and possibly last day of term at the new Jean Grey School For Higher Learning, and teachers will surely empathise. There is, however, a great deal more that can go wrong in a school full of mutants which boasts the most dangerous boys’ bathroom in history. Also on the roll call: a junior Shi’Ar warrior, a young and studious member of the alien Brood, a mini-Apocalypse and the spawn of Krakoa, the Living Island.

“Is it a him or a her? Can a walking island have a gender?”
“Figure at some point it’ll come in handy to have school grounds that can fight back in need be. Plus I’m trying to teach it to turn our ponds into beer.”

And then there’s the infestation of tiny blue Bamfs out to steal Logan’s liquor. It’s an anarchic mix of misfits which makes the pupils of St. Trinians look like paragons of dutiful obedience, calm and conformity. That Kitty Pryde is headmistress is not unexpected; that Wolverine’s the headmaster is insane. The Toad is their janitor, by the way, and will be spending some considerable time cleaning up that bathroom later on.

Following directly on from the mini-series X-Men: Schism wherein Cyclops and Wolverine stopped seeing eye to eye, there has been a mass evacuation from the X-Men’s island of Utopia, Wolverine opting to educate the children rather than allow them to fight. Joining their faculty is the Beast who stopped enjoying Scott Summers’ increasingly militant company quite some time ago plus Iceman, Rachel Grey, Cannonball, Chamber, Husk, Karma, Frenzy, and Doop. Yes, Doop. He of the translatable alien language.

The schism was engineered by Kade Kilgore, school-aged son of a wealthy arms manufacturer, who’s forcefully inherited a fortune and multiplied it considerably by selling Sentinel technology on the back of the some pretty successful worldwide scare-mongering. It also secured him his seat as Black King of the Hellfire Club. His next move, then, is something of a surprise.

Writer Jason Aaron (SCALPED) appears to mainlined raw, liquid sugar, for the whole, frantic fiasco is played purely for laughs, and long may that continue. There’s even a couple of pages of school twitterfeed and a school prospectus in the back complete with extracurricular activities, special events and the proud school motto, “The best there is at what we do”. Courses include “Algebra Sucks: I Know, But You Still Have To Learn It” which is, naturally, delivered by Professor Bobby Drake who couldn’t even spell ‘quadratic equations’ let alone solve one.

Chris Bachalo (DEATH, SHADE THE CHANGING MAN, GENERATION X) plays the perfect co-conspirator with cartoon comedy postures, expressions and hyperkinetic action against backgrounds with an enormous attention to detail, injecting background and even foreground jokes galore. That he’s managed to make Apocalypse Jr. look cute is extraordinary.

Meanwhile the unruly Mr. Quentin Quire, Kid Omega, starts as he means to go on, dripping with attention-seeking sarcasm.

“The Wolverine Home For Wayward Boys. I can’t wait for that scene in the third act when your tough love finally breaks through my thorny exterior to reach the frightened, lonely little boy underneath. There won’t be a dry eye in the house. Should we just skip the drama and hug it out right here?”
“Shut your face, bub, before I cut it off. How’s that for tough love?”
“I’m feeling the magic already.”

SLH

Buy Wolverine And The X-Men vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Assassin’s Creed vol 1: Desmond, vol 2: Aquilus, vol 3: Accipiter h/cs (£8-99, Titan) by Corbeyran & Djillali Defali

“Ah, Ezio, ciao bene! And look what you have for me: yet another page of the Codex. Just what I always wanted! You couldn’t have brought prosecco and panini, eh…?
“No matter, let’s see… Hmmm…
“If I transpose the letters for numbers, the directions for plumbers, and the lint in my belly for the leaves in my tea… Yessss… It is perfectly clear to me now! It is essential that you assassinate every minstrel in town. You will gain nothing, but I will be rid of my headache.”

Minstrels: do NOT be pestering me with your luting, fluting jibber-jabber.

I love Assassin’s Creed. After the Italian Baroque, the Renaissance is my favourite era of Art History and Venice my most treasured city in the world. To scale then dive-bomb off the all the Florentine landmarks was a dream come true. It was certainly one way to conquer my crippling fear of heights, and I could not believe the lighting. On the other hand I quickly developed a Pavlovian reaction to each city’s minstrels: come anywhere near me with a lyre and I will garrotte you. You couldn’t commit a worse crime if you’d cried for a team hug. It doesn’t matter if I’m executing the final few seconds of an intricate, fifteen-minute stealth-athon, it’s a “Hey Nonny No!” from me.

Imagine my relief, then, to enter Constantinople in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. No minstrels! Oh, there are the begging women who get in the way and spoil my stride, and I can’t kill them ‘cause they’re laydeez. But see, they’re not strumming and humming the same stupid tune on a loop that makes me see red.

So what do we have here? Well, it’s emphatically not what came out of Wildstorm. This is a brand-new trilogy of graphic novels with a beginning, middle and end written by XIII’s Corbeyran, each more in synch with the games themselves. For a start they star Desmond, held prisoner under high-security at that mysterious… well, I think “laboratory” is the wrong word. It’s a bit like referring to Buckingham Palace as “detached”. Anyway: secrets buried in DNA (check), Animus reactivated (check) and it’s off to relive lives past (check).

Book one sends Desmond back to the marketplaces of the Holy Land during the Third Crusades; book two sees him checking out Gaul under Roman occupation; and by book three it’s a full-on quest for a revenge – destination Rome! Meanwhile, in the present day, things are really heating up.

Confession: I haven’t read them, no. I skimmed for the sake of synopses. Me, I’d rather immerse myself in the computer games themselves, then write spurious reviews extrapolating real-life potential from their game-play. In the spirit of which…

Mission: read all three book on the bus without being spotted, causing a disturbance or being called a big geek. Could be a tricky one: hardly designed for stealth, the Assassins’ garb. For full synchronisation: using your eagle vision, identify the miscreant playing X-Factor downloads on their iPod, gather their headphone wire from behind and silently strangle them before missing your bus stop. Make sure they’re dead. Seriously, take no chances. Destroy that fucking iPod.

Further missions available throughout Nottingham City Centre (see map):

a) Poison anyone pissing in our doorway over the weekend. This unlocks Page 45’s shopfront, and so ‘b’ and ‘h’ below.
b) Protect Page 45 from stumbling junkie theft.
c) Assassinate a traffic warden (stealth not required: no one will come to their rescue).
d) Investigate why Nottingham’s Mayor is allowed to park on the pavement outside Natwest Bank between 10-30am and 4pm when the whole of the city centre is out of bounds for those legitimately delivering to retailers and so keeping their life-blood flowing.
e) Read Page 45’s other game tie-in graphic novel reviews especially SILENT HILL.
f) Tweet these review to your gaming friends/colleagues.
g) Show me how to successfully defend a den. I’ve not managed it once yet. I’m thinking of trying something more basic first, like Mr. Bob-san’s cat flap. I fear we will have intruders.
h) Populate your villa / student bedsit bookshelves by collecting all 7,000 different graphic novels from Page 45. The more you collect, the more visitors you will receive, the more graphic novels will go missing and… oh, I love this mission!

Are they making a graphic novel of Skyrim soon? I hope so. I want to show off my Clopsy.

SLH

Buy Assassin’s Creed vol 1: Desmond h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Assassin’s Creed vol 2: Aquilus h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Assassin’s Creed vol 3: Accipiter h/c 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.

 
That (£5-99) by John Allison

Sandman volumes 1 to 10 Slipcase Edition (£150-00, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & various

Sandman vol 10: The Wake (New Ed’n) plus Slipcase (£16-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli, Jon J. Muth, Charles Vess

Sandman vol 10: The Wake (New Ed’n) (£14-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli, Jon J. Muth, Charles Vess

BPRD Plague Of Frogs vol 4 h/c (£25-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis

Spaceman h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso

Building Stories: Multi Storey Building Model (Limited Edition – Signed and Numbered) (£99-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Chris Ware

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo h/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Stieg Larsson, Denise Mina & Leonardo Manco, Andrea Mutti

The Shadow vol 1: The Fire Of Creation s/c (£14-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Aaron Campbell

Sonic: Genesis (£10-99, Archie) by various

Sandman: Annotated Sandman vol 2 h/c (£37-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & Leslie S. Klinger

Adventures Of A Japanese Businessman h/c (£19-00, Nobrow) by Jose Domingo

Scott Pilgrim vol 2 h/c Colour Edition (£18-99, Oni Press) by Bryan Lee O’Malley

The Moonins And The Great Flood hardcover (£9-99, Sort Of) by Tove Jansson

Strontium Dog: The Life And Death Of Johnny Alpha – The Project (£14-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner & Carlos Ezquerra

Rogue Trooper: Tales Of Nu-Earth vol 2 (£16-99, Rebellion) by Gerry Finley-Day & Cam Kennedy, Brett Ewins, Steve Dillion, Robin Smith, Boluda, Trevor Goring

Mass Effect vol 4: Homelands (£13-99, Dark Horse) by various

Red Hood And The Outlaws vol 1 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Scott Lobdell & Kenneth Rocafort

JLA: Earth 2 softcover (£10-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely

Avengers Vs. X-Men h/c (£55-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction & John Romita Jr., Oliver Coipel, Adam Kubert

X-Men: The Curse Is Broken s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Victor Gischler & Al Barrionuevo, Jorge Molina, Will Conrad, Salvador Espin

Fear Itself: Hulk and Dracula softcover (£18-99, Marvel) by Jeff Parker, Victor Gischler & Elena Casagrande, Gabriel Hardman, Ryan Stegman

Avengers Academy: Second Semester s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Christos Gage & Sean Chen, Tom Raney, Tom Grummett, Karl Moline

Strawberry Panic: The Complete Manga Collection (£10-99, Seven Seas) by Sakurako Kimino & Takuminamuchi

GTO: The Early Years vol 15 (£9-99, Vertical) by Toru Fujisawa

Psyren vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Toshiaki Iwashiro

Psyren vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Toshiaki Iwashiro

Bleach vol 50 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Bleach vol 51 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Rosario + Vampire Season II vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Akihisa Ikeda

Claymore vol 21 (£6-99, Viz) by Norihiro Yagi

Blue Exorcist vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato

Naruto vol 59 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

Punch Up! vol 2 (£8-99, BL Sublime) by Shiuko Kano

Neon Genesis Evangelion vol 13 (£7-50, Viz) by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

Triage X vol 1 (£10-50, Yen) by Shouji Sato

Pandora Hearts vol 12 (£8-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki

Black Butler vol 11 (£8-99, Yen) by Yana Toboso
Here’s something to frazzle and dazzle you: the astounding art of Tomer Hanuka. You can buy his OVERKILL from here, yes!

Joanthan Cape Graphic Short Story Prize 2012 Winners are up!

And Page 45 was on BBC Radio Nottingham again this Tuesday morning. Normally I am a gibbon but I really do think I nailed this one. 2 hours, 43.30 minutes in. Feel free to laugh at me – I can’t hear you from there!

Finally, you’ve seen the blog about the Page 45 December 2012 signing with Hope Larson & Bryan Lee O’Malley, right? We’re not going to shut up about it.

Have a preview of the SCOTT PILGRIM VOL 2  COLOUR EDITION!

- Stephen