Reviews November 2012 week two

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

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