“You weren’t over at that Judy Pilkington’s house again, were you? You know I don’t approve of her.”
“Aw, no, Mom! She got a court order! I’m stalking a new girl now, Vanessa Dobkin! You’d like her. She’s vulnerable!”
– The Murder Family from Evan Dorkin’s House Of Fun
The Silver Darlings h/c (£9-99, Blank Slate) by Will Morris.
The weather-worn fisherman gazes out past the sanctuary of the Scottish harbour walls, while out at sea rough waves swell and smash against impervious rocks, indifferent to the damage done.
You don’t mess with the sea. You respect its power, you respect its enormity and, as any veteran will tell you, you respect its ability to change favour at a moment’s notice. You certainly don’t double-dare it.
1967 on the west coast of Scotland, and Danny is about to pack his bags for college in Glasgow but has offered to fill in for a week aboard The Silver Darling, his father’s fishing vessel. These are difficult times: the herring hauls have been low, so superstitions run high. And sailors are a superstitious lot – maybe it’s their love of stories and storytelling. But Danny, seeing them attempting to exorcise the hold, believes he knows better and has other ideas:
“My Da’ would’ve believed anything other than the fact that the herring were drying up. The way I saw it, these superstitions were clouding matters… and I was determined to bring a spirit of enlightenment to the week ahead.”
To that end Danny takes it upon himself to break one of the cardinal rules of safe seafaring – no white-handled knives aboard – and smuggles on a white, bakelite-handled knife which he stuffs under his pillow.
“My plan was simple. Come the first decent haul, I’d produce the knife and expose the superstitions as a piece of nonsense. All the scheme required was a wee bit of patience and a little discretion.”
I’ve been wet with anticipation for many months now, and this book does not disappoint. It’s gently told, almost languidly so while the sea stays calm – such attention to detail! There’s a shot from below of Danny preparing to descend the cabin ladder which is perfectly composed, the stove, kettle and even soft-porn calendar all crisply delineated and gorgeously lit. When I first saw the figures and faces my immediate response was to compare the craft to Gipi (GARAGE BAND, THEY FOUND THE CAR, NOTES FROM A WAR STORY) and there are indeed a couple of panels where the washes are as loose as Gipi’s too. Overwhelmingly, however, the grey tones are both warmer and far, far cleaner. As for the underwater sequence where the herring converge to form a circling shoal, that took my breath away! Morris presents us with the perfect sense of the vastness of the ocean and the elusiveness therefore of any decent catch, then blind panic as the net closes in and the fish become trapped, wide-eyed and gasping in the mesh, only for someone to shout out, “Danny!”
For yes, from the moment Danny defies all known nautical wisdom with his act of hubris, however well intentioned, there is a worry which slowly and subtly builds and builds and builds. Maybe it’s a tension informed by The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, but you can’t shake the certainty, that terrible feeling in your gut, that this novice should have listened to his elders and betters and just done his job as they asked him to. After all, he’s not quite as smart as he thinks:
“Here, I tell you what. I was gonnae have you make the tea on board, but we’ll toss for it. Heads I win, tails you lose… Ach, it’s tails. Never mind, eh?”
He won every time.
I was gonnae have to check that coin.
Krishna: The Journey Within (£22-50, Image) by Abhishek Singh.
An arrestingly beautiful book which Dominique and I pored over for ages, thrusting our favourite splashes of colour and double-page spreads under each other’s marble-like eyes. The epic landscapes are dazzling tributes to the breathtaking beauty of nature and Indian architecture. The pre-historically gargantuan elephants, guarding the gates of Hastinapur while red flags flap between them and white water-birds take flight, are two of the most magnificent beasts I have ever beheld.
Then as the sun reluctantly rises on the dawn of battle, those same, sharp flags flying horizontally converge like opposing landmasses below a yawning sky the colour of which I cannot describe. The overall effect there, however, is Klimt. It really is. Meanwhile both the incredibly flexed body curves and some of the cartooning itself – right down to the light – put us both in mind of Kyle Baker during his King David / YOU ARE HERE period.
This, then, is the life and death of Krishna, as narrated by Krishna himself, focusing on but a few key moments of joy, companionship and conflict whilst meditating about the wider implications of the journey itself and the world one travels through. There are animals everywhere, patrolling the Indian undergrowth and ascending into mythology, mostly living in harmony until predators come along.
“The forces of life coexist… internally and externally in a… delicate balance…” muses Krishna, and the panel depicting that “delicate balance” is a sublimely composed piece of nature, a bird flying right with a strand of water plant it in its beak, as a fish below swims through more to the left. At its centre stands a couple of rocks reflected in on the pond’s surface, while the curling sweep of a larger green frond suggests the shape of a yin-and-yang symbol.
On the other hand (if it’s all about balance!) my one niggle with this book’s composition is the chopping of so many sentences into too tiny fragments dispersed between panels and then often pages which sometimes jars disjointedly. Also, some proclamations are more profound than others.
“A war is not about who is right… but who is left.”
That’s a brilliant play on words. I’m just not sure it’s entirely true. What does ring true is the senseless central conflict, so easily averted were it not just for man’s greed but also for what is so often his woeful lack of altruism: I will do that to you because I can; I will not do that for you because I do not have to, nor do you have the power to make me.
Amidst this all-too familiar ethical squalor and chaos and danger, Krishna shines like a beacon of hope and optimism, spreading both wisdom and serenity wherever he can, then standing up to be counted when he can’t. The extended death scene is powerful and poignant yet improbably tranquil for, whilst taking nothing for granted (oh, that is the very last thing Krishna does in this profound appreciation of life), he is, as I say, an optimist.
I entered into this graphic novel with very little knowledge of its subject matter and certainly no axes of my own to grind. This is not the place to set out one’s own stalls and debate the existence or nature of any afterlife. That’s when organised religion usually goes wrong. Instead I enjoyed the heck of out this thoroughly immersive experience and appreciated how much talent and dedication went into its sincere construction.
Also, for the first time in my life I know what the chant “Om” means, and why it is deployed. There’s a very handy glossary in the back.
House Of Fun one-shot (£2-75, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin.
More maniacal malfeasance from MILK & CHEESE, The Murder Family, Bad Rabbi, Shitty Witch And Crappy Cat, Myron The Living Voodoo Doll and – coming soon! – Hank Jenkins, Chronic Masturbator. (“Yes indeed. I spill the seed.”). No one packs in more to a page than Dorkin. His mind fizzes with lateral-thinking lunacy.
Read ‘A Day In the Life Of Milk & Cheese’! There’s a certain consistency to it. It’s the consistency of blood-curdled milk. See them sent a “Cease & Desist”, sued by the Disney Corporation! And here they’ve distracted themselves from burning down the house with the prospect of X-Ray Spex:
“I must say, it seems a little silly to send away for an item advertised in a decades-old comic.”
“The contrivance excites and delights me. It’s a gap in logic worthy of George Lucas.”
8-10 weeks later.
“Aha! Yes! This is it! Our eyes now have mad skillz!”
“I can see through everything now! Feng Shui! Scientology! ‘Family Guy’!”
“Science is wicked! What will it think of next?”
“Genocide boots, I hope!”
The Eltingville Comicbook Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Horror And Role-Playing Club have taken their self-destructive, one-upmanship shambles to the streets for an organised zombie crawl. But blasphemy strikes in the form of fast-moving-zombie fans, trampling over our True Believers’ nit-picking standards and indeed our True Believers. Also: The Murder Family (“The family that slays together stays together!”) is threatened by some late-night, extra-marital mutilation, but before then Ma Murder tries to set standards for son Dougie’s version of courtship:
“You weren’t over at that Judy Pilkington’s house again, were you? You know I don’t approve of her.”
“Aw, no, Mom! She got a court order! I’m stalking a new girl now, Vanessa Dobkin! You’d like her. She’s vulnerable!”
At the time of typing the MILK & CHEESE hardcover, a complete package of their rants and ransackage prior to these stocking-filler shenanigans is also in stock (adults stockings, please; and not elderly adult stockings, hole-ridden and wrinkled, either). It’s big and it’s heavy and handy for settling arguments.
Buy House Of Fun by crank-calling 0115 9508045 or attempting to type firstname.lastname@example.org on the keyboard you’ve just wrapped around your flatmate’s head.
People I Know (£12-99, My Cardboard Books) by Timothy Winchester.
“Do you want to know a secret?”
“You dress like a weirdo on purpose?! You are secretly a dude?!”
“Never mind.” *sobs*
Poor Timothy – he doesn’t half set himself up! He also sends himself up, over and over again, for everyone else’s pleasure in these daily delivered and determinedly silly short sketches. For that’s what this is: a quick-fire sketch-show drawn with all the smile-inducing minimalism of the great Matt Feazell himself. Its guest-stars include some decidedly wonky wizards, Toby, a gay green dinosaur with the most luckless love life in the world, and Christina, a slice of sentient toast.
“Toby, how do you eat so much cake… and stay so slim?”
“Well, I guess dinosaurs have fast metabolisms.”
“What a Jurassic Perk!”
Ha! It is indeed an eye-rolling exercise in the most painful punnery imaginable. As you can imagine, therefore, I am an unapologetic addict. It features cake (a great deal of cake), fashion (I use that term loosely or, in fact, abusively), magic, a morphing blob of mucus-coloured, mean-spirited goo, and a commendably undaunted determination to find our troubled Toby a boyfriend. I don’t know why it’s so difficult: he’s the loveliest person in here. Alas, the tears they flow – directly down like Niagara Falls unfettered by those crazy rock formations.
There’s also the odd flock of flying Caticorns: uni-horned cats with tails the colours of theSan Francisco rainbow. Timothy gave me one as a sew-on patch. I promptly stuck it in my jeans’ back pocket where the poor thing has been nuzzling my left cheek for a week. It doesn’t look very happy. No Brony points for me, then!
This lemon-yellow lovely comes signed and sketched in and – for the moment at least – with a free, full-colour mini-comic called TOBY’S FIRST ZINE. It’s not his first zine: we stocked that many moons ago, and its cover is reproduced in the back of the book itself along with ten other long-lost pleasures as part of the Secrets and Extras.
It is instead a cry-worthy catalogue of some of the 500-odd beastly boyfriends who have ditched our all-dating, ever-doting dinosaur over the many years. It’s like The Flight Of The Concords’ ‘Carol Brown’ (“…There must be 50 ways my lovers have left me…”) only with an extra dimension of diversity because the only thing these heartless hunks have in common is their gender. There are many… species to speak of. Some which must never be mentioned again.
Poor Timothy – I mean, Toby!
Felt Mistress: Creature Couture h/c (£24-99, Blank Slate) by Felt Mistress with various contributions.
Massive too – there are four hundred pages here of annotated photographs with extra interview sections. It’s nothing to do with comics – we are way off topic – but everything to do with inspiration, craft and cuddly monsters. Cuddly monsters! Just like our PAPERTOY MONSTERS craft kit, this could so easily have been “Ho-hum, you’ve seen it before and here are yet more” kidult toy designs. But no, this is genius: fully realised individuals cut out of whole cloth (and wool and corduroy and fur and felt) and brought to life with consummate style and impish glee.
Just turn to page 78 for exactly what I mean: blue-skinned Brunhilde with her black-and-white-striped, knee-length socks, antler-grey antlers, insouciant fake eyelashes and bright white hair curling below her faun-like ears and snaking up one of those antlers like thick, frosted ivy. She’s photographed multiple times like any other model, taking a stroll through her native sylvan territory in winter, her soft cloth skin contrasting with the brittle bark and leafless branches which have come crashing to the ground as if tossed in the hurricane of her wake.
“Brunhilde was private schooled in a hollowed-out tree trunk by an owl,” it is written before following her career via Tokyo. The feature subsequently details each element of her chosen attire including accessories, although teasingly we are told neither where we may buy them nor their undoubtedly extortionate cost. Some things, darlings, you may never be privy to.
Many, one feels, are the product of a misspent youth listening to too many Rolling Stones LPs (not possible) or having taken a wayward turn via Death Metal. I may be biased, of course (I am biased, of course) but the undoubted star for me is Pants Ant. Oh yes, Pants Ant as last seen LIVE AT THE BUDOKEN!
There are so many extra insertions written and design contributions from the likes of Jonathan Edwards, Jon Knox, Pete Fowler, Ben Newman, Jason Kirk, Jakob Westman etc and, oh look, there are even a cloth toys of Luke Pearson’s Hilda and John Allison’s The Mope! Yay!
Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind Complete Box Set (£45-00, Viz) by Hayao Miyazaki.
Gorgeous package for one of Mark’s all-time favourite comics containing the complete series in two hardcovers housed in a beautifully designed slipcase. The pages are toned in sepia, with eight rare full-colour pages per hardcover. There’s also an exclusive two-sided fold-out poster. Mark once wrote:
“Engrossing tale of a dying ecosystem centred on a young girl’s belief that the process can still be reversed. Sympathetic translators help to bring to life the many different, often warring, tribes. Simply one of the finest manga ever.Miyazaki’s art reminds me of a more organic Moebius.”
Viz Central wrote: “The earth is slowly submerging beneath the expandingSeaofCorruption, an enormous toxic forest that creates mutant insects and releases a miasma of poisonous spores into the air. At the periphery of the sea, tiny kingdoms are scattered on tiny parcels of land. Here lies the Valley of the Wind, a kingdom of barely 500 citizens, a nation given fragile protection from the decaying sea’s poisons by the ocean breezes, and home to Nausicaä.”
This is the only comic series by Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki, although please note we do stock the Studio Ghibli anime art books under “art, criticism and creating comics > art books > manga & anime”.
Revival vol 1 (£9-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton.
They’re not zombies, they’re fully sentient individuals with a new lease of life, and most are as chipper as ever. Others are distraught for reasons which will become painfully clear. As to the families… some will know new grief in the wake of these resurrections.
The snow-strewn rural community has been ringed in a strictly enforced quarantine zone: the C.D.C. has yet to ascertain if this “reviving” is a contagious disease and until they do, well, a whole country of people who simply won’t die…? Benefit claims would rocket through the roof. The religious right, by the way, are having a field day. Snap-shots:
Officer Dana Cypress, the sheriff’s daughter, is dressing for work while her son Cooper plays outside in the snow. Something drifts by – a bright white sprite with hollow black eyes. It notices him.
A half-zebra, half-horse has bolted out of the stables, its mouth spewing blood, collapsing quite dead on the virgin white field. Someone has fed it some tablets…
Officer Dana Cypress finds her sister Martha alone on a bridge. Her car has run out of petrol. Maybe. Dana really shouldn’t take her younger sister on a case: their father would be so very pissed if anything happened to Martha. What neither of them knows is than nothing can happen to Martha, and that’s not the only thing she’s hiding.
As the series progresses, the cast expands and their lies unfurl while others don’t get a chance to reveal the truth. There’s also a rogue element in the form of an exorcist called up to cast out the demons of a couple’s teenage daughter speaking in snatches of Latin. And she does have demons; but not necessarily the ones you’d expect. That made me smile, oh yes. Parenthetically, I don’t recall seeing the first four pages anywhere before.
Clean, sturdy and attractive art in the vein of Ron Garney as you’d expect from Mike Norton (HOPELESS SAVAGES, QUEEN & COUNTRY etc.) – perfect expressive too. But I’m giving nothing more away for now than this: there is one scene of excruciating horror that really made me wince involving the pulling of teeth. It’s not a torture scene, no, but it is exceptionally well played by both writer and artist and, oh dear, I don’t do teeth well at the best of times!
Punisher Max: Frank s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Steve Dillon.
“I don’t know at exactly what point I first became what it is that I am now.
“Maybe it wasVietnam. Maybe it was that day in the park.
“Or maybe I’d been that way all along.
“All I know is, once I finally embraced it, I quickly realised…
“… I was never going to stop.”
Okay it is official, in my eyes at least, that Jason Aaron has now matched Garth Ennis’ previously peerless Punisher Max run. This, the third book in Jason’s run, follows straight on from last volume’s epic physical and psychological confrontation with Bullseye and sees a battered and broken Frank cooling his heels in the State Penitentiary. As he’s laid up in the hospital wing, word spreads of his incapacitated condition and all the cons start sharpening their shivs and daring to dream about becoming a living legend by claiming the biggest scalp of all.
Meanwhile, as Frank’s body heals, he finds his mind wandering to his last days in ‘Namafter the climatic end to his third tour of duty in the hellhole of Valley Forge, and his subsequent attempt to return to civvy life before he lost his entire family in Central Park. As intense as Ennis’s PUNISHER MAX: BORN, this is Aaron’s attempt to further add to the mystery behind the transmogrification of Frank Castle into the killing machine feared, and maybe even a little revered, by the underworld. There’s a truly shocking moment too when, just before the fateful carnage in the park begins, we hear Frank’s final words to his wife. Highly recommended, and you could certainly jump straight in with this volume, then go back and read the previous two.
Judge Dredd #1 (J-Lo really doesn’t care) by them.
Sheesh. If the penalty for jimping – impersonating a Judge to you citizens who aren’t down with Mega-City slang – is twenty years in a cube, then I shudder to think what the punishment for impersonating a Judge Dredd writer is. Life in a kook cube perhaps. I fear Duane Swierczynski may well find out though. I had such high hopes for this title, I really did. What I wanted was something action-packed, yet totally completely deadly serious. Hard-boiled future fiction crime. What I didn’t need was yet more naff comedy capers. Surely, surely that is what 2000AD is for? Even though in 2000AD they have tackled relatively serious storylines before, in fact they’ve been some of the very best ones, such as the classic ‘America’ which is part of the wider ‘Democracy’ story, it’s relatively rare they tried to tell an ongoing story with real depth, which is partly due to the short length weekly format of the strip. When they do it’s great, but they can’t do that week in, week out.
Thus when I heard Swierczynski, a published crime writer, and whose runs on MOON KNIGHT and The Immortal Iron Fist I really enjoyed was going to be the scribe on this new monthly I got excited. But if this is really as good as it’s going to get, I simply shouldn’t have bothered. Why oh why they didn’t decide to play it as straight crime with a sci-fi twist, plus with the politics and intrigue of a Judge’s sector house thrown in for good measure I just do not know. This series as it is will tank so badly, particularly with our American chums. So it’s probably going to be another opportunity to make this character truly globally massive missed yet again. Shame.
Buy it elsewhere. We’re just relieved to be shot of our copies
Anomaly h/c (£45-00, Anomaly Publishing) by Skip Brittenham & Brian Haberlin.
It might be the longest but KRAMER’S ERGOT 7 was bigger, and it might not even be the longest if you string all of BUILDING STORIES’ contents together. Still, it is big.
And, yes, let’s stick to quantity rather than quality. I would too: I’ve seen the insides. The packaging’s cute: comes in a fold-out cardboard case.
“Earth 2717. A group of explorers become marooned on planet Anomaly. But when Anomaly sprouts synthetics-eating viruses, flesh-eating mutants and deadly magic, it becomes a race against which form of death will come first. Who will survive? Who will return? Join us on an epic adventure that reclaims our humanity and saves a world!”
Todd McFarlane raves about this, and that I understand. Bill Sienkiewicz also makes some very forthright claims, which baffles me completely. This is precisely the sort of computer-generated stodge I loathe almost as much as I do the biro-botherers, most of whom give self-published comics a bad name.
Of course I’ve not read it. Mark always said that the strength of my opinion on any given subject was inversely proportionate to my knowledge of it. I’ve always been delusionally proud of that, and if I’m going to change the habit of a life time it will take a greater draw than this. Dismissed.
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.
Skimpy Jim (£4-00, Freak Leap) by Joe List
Land Lubber (£4-00, Freak Leap) by Joe List
Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Anders Nilsen (with Cheryl Weaver)
Iron, Or The War After h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by S.M. Vidaurri
Chew vol 6: Space Cakes (£10-99, Image) by John Layman & Rob Guillory
Sharaz-De: Tales From The Arabian Nights h/c (£24-99, Archaia) by Sergio Toppi
Before The Incal – Classic Collection h/c (£33-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Zoran Janjetov
Darksiders II: Death’s Door h/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by various
Cursed Pirate Girl h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Jeremy A. Bastien
Halo: Fall Of Reach: Invasion s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Reed & Felix Ruiz
The Incredible Hulk vol 2 h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Jefte Palo, Steve Dillon, Pasqual Ferry, Tom Raney, Dalibor Talajic, Carlos Pacheco
Avengers vol 4 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Walter Simonson
Spider-Man: Trouble On The Horizon s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Chris Yost, Humberto Ramos
Invincible Iron Man vol 11: The Future h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Salvador Larroca
Invincible Iron Man vol 9: Demon s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Salvador Larroca
Captain Marvel vol 1: In Pursuit Of Flight s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Dexter Soy, Emma Rios
Wolverine: Back In Japan s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & various
Marvel Masterworks X-Men vol 5 (£18-99, Marvel) by Arnold Drake, Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich & Werner Roth, Jim Steranko, others
X-Men Legacy: Back To School softcover (£12-99, Marvel) by Christos Gage & David Baldeon, Rafa Sandoval
Wolverine And The X-Men vol 4 hardcover (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Jorge Molina, Chris Bachalo, Mike Allred
Fantastic Four vol 6 h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Mike Choi, Ron Garney, Giuseppe Camuncoli
FF vol 3 s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Juan Bobillo, Nick Dragotta, Steve Epting
Vagabond vol 11 VIZBIG Edition (£14-99, Viz) by Takehiko Inoue
Is This A Zombie? vol 3 (£7-99, Yen) by Sacchi
Awkward Silence vol 2 (£8-99, BL Sublime) by Hinako Takanaga
Profoundly affecting short comic by Jamie Smart In tribute to his Dad. Jamie’s better known for his ebullient bombast in comics (weekly now in THE PHOENIX) and effortless, up-tempo wit on Twitter, but he’s always been a thoughtful man behind it all, penning exceptionally level-headed essays on the comicbook industry. Big hugs to Jamie.
Here’s the latest storyline of Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie. Funny! More than a little Bryan Lee O’Malley in it.