Archive for December, 2012

Reviews December 2012 week three

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

“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.

“Tam, did you lose your boat to a storm?”
“I didnae lose her, son… I know exactly where she is.”

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.

SLH

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

Krishna: The Journey Within (£22-50, Image) by Abhishek Singh.

“The ones who are remembered are the ones who leave something behind.”

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.

SLH

Buy Krishna: The Journey Within and read the Page 45 review here

House Of Fun one-shot (£2-75, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin.

“When life gives you lemons…”
“Punch life in the fucking face!”

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.

SLH

Buy House Of Fun by crank-calling 0115 9508045 or attempting to type page45@page45.com on the keyboard you’ve just wrapped around your flatmate’s head.

People I Know (£12-99, My Cardboard Books) by Timothy Winchester.

“You look happy.”
“I went on a date!”
“You mean you made eye contact with a stranger.”
“Yes.”
“Well… it’s progress.”

“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!

SLH

Buy People I Know and read the Page 45 review here

Felt Mistress: Creature Couture h/c (£24-99, Blank Slate) by Felt Mistress with various contributions.

Oh my God, it’s gorgeous!

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!

SLH

Buy Felt Mistress: Creature Couture h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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”.

SLH

Buy Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind Complete Box Set and read the Page 45 review here

Revival vol 1 (£9-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton.

Wausau, Wisconsin, and the dead are coming back to life.

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!

SLH

Buy Revival vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

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.

JR

Buy Punisher Max: Frank s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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.

JR

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.

“This is the biggest original full color graphic novel ever produced.”

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.

SLH

Anomaly hardcover

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.

Four-page colour comic by Meryl Trussler & Marc Ellerby.

Here’s the latest storyline of Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie. Funny! More than a little Bryan Lee O’Malley in it.

Reviews December 2012 week two

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

THIS! Magnificent film footage of Hope Larson & Bryan Lee O’Malley’s 2012 signing at Page 45. See Hope and Bryan jam on a sketch in front of you! Witness that massive queue in its entirety before the signing had even begun! Superb!

 - Stephen

Hope Larson & Bryan Lee O’Malley 2012 Page 45 Signing Jam Print (£4-99, Page 45) by Hope Larson & Bryan Lee O’Malley.

PAGE 45 WORLDWIDE EXCLUSIVE!

Sleek, chic and printed on quality stock with a perfectly judged sheen, this is exactly the same size as our now-sold-out 2006 exclusive. Yes, they match! We think about these things. A3, since you ask.

At the time of typing we still have some copies signed by Hope Larson, and a very few copies signed by both Hope and Bryan! These are the copies we’re automatically allocating on a first-come, first-served basis.

It’s such a beautiful image that I took home a virgin copy home, myself, giving one last soul the chance for a signed copy instead. If that’s important to you, you can either ring 0115 9508045 to check or… you do know that you can add notes, instructions or qualifiers to any orders online, right? So just click to purchase and add a note saying: “must be a copy signed by at least one of them, please” or what have you. If there are no signed copies, we will then contact you to tell you so.

There you go: FAQ.

All proceeds (not just profits but proceeds) on the day went to Hope and Bryan who took a day out of their unpaid holiday to see you, but the rest is now ours:. Cough up, please!

SLH

Buy Hope Larson & Bryan Lee O’Malley 2012 Page 45 Signing Jam Print and read the Page 45 review here

Ellerbisms: A Sporadic Diary Comic (£12-99, Great Beast Comics) by Marc Ellerby.

Oh! This is a complete revelation.

It is extraordinary how much difference thirty new framing pages, further recollections filling in context, and some highly judiciously editing makes to the coherence of this story. For, yes, it is now a story. ELLERBISMS online (and in the form of three comics) was entertaining enough as a diversion: some beautiful cartooning and hilarious self-deprecation. But from “a sporadic diary comic” Ellerby has now fashioned a far more nuanced saga of a single relationship with a beginning, a middle and… well… you can certainly see the patterns now. Here’s how it begins:

“Gatwick Airport 24th July 2007. I don’t want to say I was being emo but that’s exactly what I was doing. Sitting in an airport thinking of girls…

“I’ve been keeping a comic diary for a few months and so far it feels a bit empty… like I’m missing out important parts and there’s more to discover. My love life and career choice have never felt so similar. (God, I’m going to combine the two, aren’t I?)
“I’m sitting in the airport. Overthinking everything.

We’re most of usprone of overthinking things – I can get myself into a right tizzy – but putting it down on paper for the world to see, a permanent record of temporary doubts and demons, however much they may rattle round your head for some time, adds weight to them. It’s almost like putting yourself on trail and there’s a whole stack of evidence here. At one point Ellerby starts fixating on death. And that’s not completely surprising given certain earlier experiences I’ll leave to startle you just as much as they did me – and Marc, profoundly. But there he is all the same, sitting quietly at home as his girlfriend watches television, gazing into her happy eyes but completely unable to let go of his morbid obsession about dying; about being unable to think, feel or touch, experience anything new or again or being left all alone. Forever.

“I’m 26 and I’m fast forwarding to the end. Pondering the inevitable. Letting it get in the way of right now.”

There’s also a great deal of mirth, kindness and empathy, like Marc wondering about the lady living opposite, whom he can see through their windows.

“She stays up until the early hours smoking and doing crosswords. I got it in my head that she was lonely because she was alone. The first time I saw her I could’ve sworn it was my mum. Same hair. Same build. Same height. That’s probably what sparked off my worry to be honest. Now and again I’d hear her phone ring and I hoped it was a son or daughter. No one should be truly alone. I hope I’m wrong. I hope she’s the happiest stranger I’ll never meet.”

As to the mirth, there are films, gigs, holidays; texts, phone calls, comic conventions and showing your pubes off at parties. Acts of random stupidity, as you do. Marc will make you laugh, cry and cringe; but who hasn’t come out with some banter which sounded perfectly playful at the time, but in retrospect afterwards seemed woefully inappropriate? Particularly when the recipients are your in-laws. It’s like Momus’ The Complete History Of Sexual Jealousy (Parts Seventeen To Twenty Four) in that I couldn’t help ticking the boxes: “Yup, done that; oof, done that; oh, dear Christ, I’ve never done that!”

But Marc can also find comedy even on the unlikeliest of days even if it requires a little interpretation. Here he visits the doctor after overheating, losing his vision then panicking on a train… and a certain degree of pain ‘downstairs’. The doctor looks at him disdainfully.

“… Right. Let’s take a look, then. Well, it looks okay to me.”
A while later…
“Nothing stands out as being wrong and I’m not going to invest my time to find out. Here’s a prescription.”

You just ticked one of your own boxes, haven’t you? Still chuckling.

His guest stars areall great value for money. From the comics world you might recognise Adam Cadwell, Lizz Lunney, Jamie McKelvie, John Cei Douglas and John Allison. But the undoubted co-star of the book is Anna, the girl from Sweden whom he meets early on while working together in Waterstones. I was going to type “goth girl” for so she’s described at first, but that limiting label does nothing to describe the breadth of her character and effortless charm. Otherwise someone as eclectic as Ellerby really wouldn’t have fallen for her.

Here’s Marc:

“Did that film make you want to start smoking again?”
“Oh yeah. I was sitting there getting cravings. C’mon. That newsagents is still open. We can get some there!”
“I don’t even like smoking.”
“Yes you do.”
“Oh.”

While his line refines over time, the cartooning – the range of expressions with instant communicative impact is right there from the get-go. There’s more than a hint of O’Malley and there’s a lot of Matt Groenig particularly in the faces and especially the eyes and profile. It’s all wonderfully elastic whether it’s blissed out happiness, uh-oh, OMG or tender, yearning looks of contrition. Best of best, maybe, both Marc and Anna’s freezers, glowering looks of withering grrr, are spot-on. He’s not immune to tears, either:

“I don’t know why Country Feedback affects me so much. Hearing it in person for the first time is an overwhelming experience. Maybe it’s the selfish lyrical aspect that I associate with low points in my life… (I need this) … but when Peter Buck glides through his guitar solo… it’s like he’s putting my past demons to rest. I never thought I’d ever hear it live… I’m so glad I’m sharing it with Anna.”

Over the course of more than 250 pages, Marc shares a great deal with Anna. The relationship is the core of the book. They live together, travel together, see friends together. They share food, films, laughter and secrets.

But hindsight is a cruel little monster.

Take May 9th 2009 and the simplest of scenes in a Toronto bar where the two sit gazing contentedly at each other in silence. Then Marc says, “If I had a ring on me, I’d ask you to marry me.” “If you had a ring, I’d say yes.” Then there’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival precisely one year and a day later. Ellerby’s with some friends on a panel, answering a question and addressing the audience.

“I guess, yeah. I want to end ELLERBISMS or at least stop for a while. But, hmm, I don’t know how to end it, like. The right strip hasn’t come along yet.”

This is where the context comes in: the new pages, and not just the prologue and epilogue. Already honest about his own drunken jealousy over the attention Anna receives from the comicbook industry by taking the time and trouble to talk to the likes of Top Shelf while Marc holds gingerly back – his outburst is vicious and ungrateful – it’s indicative of the new balance, context and coherence that the Bristol Comic Convention sequence from 10th May 2008 onwards (exactly two years earlier to the day) appears substantially altered in the book. Far from disguising his uncharacteristically mean-spirited misbehaviour, it instead emphasises its seriousness, the impact it had on Anna, and her far more forthright reaction. As originally presented the argument was more of an isolated outburst smoothed over between the couple comparatively quickly. Once you know how the books ends, with an impressively considered epilogue, it’s a great deal more halting.

I mention this because Marc sends out special thanks in the back “to Jeffrey Brown, James Kochalka, Liz Prince and Craig Thompson who do this sort of thing better than me”. And certainly they did, when Marc first set out. But with publication of this ELLERBISMS collection, with its range and heart and its tenderness and his weaknesses – as well as his outright buffoonery – Marc has earned his seat right alongside them. I’d rack this right between James Kochalka and Jeffrey Brown and rank it their thoroughly affecting equal both in insight and entertainment value.

SLH

Buy Ellerbisms: A Sporadic Diary Comic and read the Page 45 review here

Pocket Full Of Coffee (Signed & Sketched In) (£4-99, Retrofit Comics) by Joe Decie…

“How shall we brush them?”
“Brush them like Spider-Man.”
“Spider-Man! Spider-Man! Does wh…”
I do not know where my boy learnt so much about superheroes…
“No. Like the Hulk! You won’t like me when I’m angry!”
… or how they’ve become woven into our toothbrushing routine.

Heh heh. I am very much looking forward to introducing my daughter to superheroes, I must say. It will make a most welcome change from Winnie the Pooh and friends, who seem to be her chums of choice at the moment. That aside, this day-in-the-life story of Joe spending time with his son, whilst trying with varying degrees of success to perform other essential adult tasks, will ring many bells, a veritable cacophony in fact, with those people who have children. It certainly did with me. As commentary on precisely just how your daily routine will never quite be the same again after the introduction of your very own personal tornado into your life it’s absolutely bang on, even down to Joe’s slightly wistful observation that he doesn’t even have time to indulge in mild hypochondria any more.

What makes this work so beautifully amusing is Joe’s art though. The combination of such precise, well defined and indeed angular linework, all gently worked over with a light monochrome wash of tone, plus his own unique lettering are simply a pleasure to behold. The closest comparisons I could make would be to say I find him almost perfectly in the middle of Gipi (GARAGE BAND, THEY FOUND THE CAR, NOTES FROM A WAR STORY) and Guy (PYONGYANG, BURMA CHRONCILES, JERUSALEM, SHENZHEN) Delisle. And let’s face it, that’s not a bad place to be!

Now obviously those two have relatively disparate styles, but I mean it in terms of if Guy Delisle were to try and emulate the style of Gipi, he’d probably end up doing something exactly like Joe. Plus Joe’s matter-of-fact, gently resigned observations about his family life, are very much like Guy’s when genially reflecting on his own family: insightful, amusing and always heartwarming. I could, therefore, easily read several hundred more pages of his material and not be remotely bored. So come on Joe, let’s have some more please! One final thing to mention, this is a day-in-the-life story after all, so when you’ve read the last panel, just turn back and have a quick look at the first one again… Very funny.

[Editor’s note: all Page 45 copies come signed with individual sketches of household objects subsequently commented upon – brilliant!]

JR

Buy Pocket Full Of Coffee (Signed & Sketched In) and read the Page 45 review here

Grandville vol 3: Bete Noire (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Bryan Talbot…

“Please take your seats and we’ll get down to business.
“Business is what it’s all about, my friends, when all’s said and done. Business. It’s why we’re here.
“Business… industry… our reason to be, our way of life… our history and our destiny… is under threat and it is our patriotic duty to defend it… against the people. For the good of the people.”

Slimy Baron Krapaud (well, he is a toad), is the richest person in all the Empire, and he means to keep it that way. He and his fellow industrial plutocrats are highly perturbed by the recent overthrow of Napoleon XII and the establishment of the Revolutionary Council who intend to hold imminent elections that will give true power to the people – an obscene dictatorship of the people, as Krapaud puts it – so he intends to bring a very abrupt halt to the march of democracy indeed.

Meanwhile, there’s been a murder in Grandville of a celebrated artist. It’s your classic locked room case, where a life has been taken yet no one has apparently entered or left the crime scene, and unsurprisingly it’s got the police baffled. So much so that Chief Inspector Rocher of the Paris Prefecture feels the need to call in some outside expertise, in the form of Detective Inspector LeBrock and his faithful sidekick, Detective Sergeant Roderick Ratzi, of Scotland Yard. Given LeBrock left a little piece of his heart behind the time he visited Grandville, he’s keen to see if can he offer a helping paw… and perhaps pay a visit to a certain lady of the night to renew acquaintances whilst he’s there.

Part three of Bryan’s increasingly epic steampunk vision picks right up where volumes one and two left off, with socio-political intrigue and unrest, dastardly crime, slow burning romance, and more than a few fur-filled flying fists too! Yes, first and foremost this is a murder mystery as LeBrock once more brings his Holmesian deductive abilities to bear, but it’s also far more than that, as Bryan takes the time to make more than a few choice points about the current fiscal and political inequities in our own society, whilst also entertaining us once more with those humorously sly references to various pop culture anthropomorphic icons, which will inevitably tickle those of us of a certain age.

As ever there is so much to admire in the art too as Bryan pulls off that hardest of tricks, which only true masters of the anthropomorphic tradition such as himself and Juanjo BLACKSAD Guarnido can manage with aplomb, by making use of distinctive animal features for maximum dramatic effect, yet doing so in such an incongruous manner that you do completely forget at times it’s an anthropomorphic work, until of course their very animal nature is part of a rib-tickling punchline.

But whilst the anthropomorphic characters do indeed rightly form our central cast, there is as before one additional brightly shining star, the city of Paris itself, as Bryan quite literally goes to town with the impressive and imposing architecture of the jewel of the Empire. It’s the attention to detail that Bryan puts into all his works that makes them masterpieces, though: check out the parquet floor in the section set in the Louvre and you’ll instantly see what I mean. I look forward already to people asking, as we have had ever since the first volume was released, when the next volume of GRANDVILLE will be released! Err… and I’m one of them!

JR

Buy Grandville vol 3: Bete Noire and read the Page 45 review here

Deadbeats (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Chad Fifer, Chris Lackey & I.N.J. Culbard…

“You all right, Hank? You’ve barely said a word the whole drive.”
“Guess I’m not used to getting shot at.”
“Yeah, well, it’s never easy.”
“When were you shot at?”
“The war, France. You know that.”
“What? You were in the band. You never saw any action.”
“We were with the infantry. Things get boring out there. Sometimes the soldiers wanted to see us tap dance. Pass the time.
“You serious?”
“Wish I wasn’t.”

Ah, the life of jazzman, never easy. Still, things are about to get a lot tougher for Lester, Hank and Willie. And that’s even taking into account they’re already on the lam from gangster Tony Carbone after Lester gave him a knuckle sandwich at the mob wedding they were playing, all to save a damsel in distress. Cue a road trip to Riverside, Mississippi, as the lead started flying. It’s not a total bust, though, as they’ve got another gig already, playing a midnight funeral for a preacher’s wife. Despite Lester’s best attempts to convince Hank and Willie it’s all going to be a breeze, it very quickly starts to become evident this isn’t your typical send off!

Spooky spine-tingling art as one would expect from Ian Culbard fresh from his recent Lovecraft fright-fests (AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD, plus the equally excellent and soon to be collected zombie / upper crust mash-up NEW DEADWARDIANS) which actually provides some unintended genius misdirection, for me at least, in that I kept completely forgetting this was a comedy!

I was so focused on Ian’s portrayal of first the fisticuffs and car chases, then by the sense of foreboding that begins to envelope our happy go not so lucky trio as they head deeper into the boondocks to begin to prepare for their command performance, that every time Lester would whip out a tension-relieving (mine that is) wisecrack, I was ‘aha, yes it’s a comedy!’ And a very funny one too, actually. It’s not always the easiest task melding horror and genuinely amusing comedy, getting the laconically droll gags in yet still keeping the scary element sufficiently serious and creepy. Chad Fifer and Chris Lackey have done a sterling job here though: part Ealing Comedy, part Hammer House of Horror!

One final comment, I absolutely loved Ian’s faux-aged cover, I had to do a quick double take at the first copy I pulled out of the delivery to check there wasn’t a problem with the lamination on the cover… I do worry about myself sometimes… Minus 3 sanity points just for being a complete fuckwit…

JR

Buy Deadbeats and read the Page 45 review here

Steed And Mrs. Peel: The Golden Game (£12-99, Boom!) by Grant Morrison, Anne Caulfield & Ian Gibson.

“Checkmate, Mr. Steed. Welcome to Waddington Hall.”
“Mr Chance! I hope I’m not late!”
“Not yet.”

Life is but a game for Steed and Emma Peel, but the Avengers TV series had some pretty specific if outlandish rules: deadpan, pun-ridden, quick-fire badinage; elaborated choreographed and improbably orchestrated fight / chase scenes; larger than life villains; Alice-In-Wonderland-style surreal sets and death-traps and, more often than not, a jaunt into the countryside for something not-quite-right.

Grant Morrison knows those rules, and here presents us with an impeccable full house, while HALO JONES’ Ian Gibson plays the game too, camping it up with his cartooning just enough but not too much, just like the series itself. His are perfect likenesses, with body language as elegant as Patrick Macnee’s and Diana Rigg’s. His British churches with their bucolic graveyards (three funerals and a picnic) are absolutely beautiful.

So, the Department has unearthed a mole within. “Trust no one,” warns Mother, as he dispatches John Steed in search of Tara King who has evidently been abducted following the murder of wargame strategist Admiral Fanshawe. But there is one friend Steed can count on: former cohort Emma Peel. The trail leads them to the Metropolitan magazine’s Agony Aunt, The Palamedes for creators of card and board games, and the countryside estate of Admiral Fanshawe himself with its somewhat eccentric façade and conservatory.

“Ships in bottles that pass in the night.”

There are, of course, the requisite riddles to solve, ancient animosities to settle and I did love the Department’s temporary HQ hidden in a surprising clean sewer system whose facilities are accessed via a public toilet cubicle. It has quite the flush.

SLH

Buy Steed And Mrs. Peel: The Golden Game and read the Page 45 review here

Department O #1 (£3-50, Monkey Pipe Studios) by Jamie Gambell & Andrew Maclean.

Another Page 45 UK exclusive! At the time of typing Page 45 is the only shop in the UK to have imported this full-colour, nocturnal romp. It’s isn’t carried by Diamond, no. We have 25 copies – sorry, we have 23 cop – right, we have just 16 copies left so fans of HELLBOY, BPRD etc, get in there fast!

“Now, if I was a recently deceased body… where would I be?”

The art with gorgeous colouring by Heather Breckel sold it to me on the spot. “Oooh, Mignola!” I thought. Then, “Ah, Mike Oeming, “I swooned, “via Kirby” I realised, “maybe Cloonan?” I pondered.

There be monsters! Out on the icy, snow-swept Russian-Finnish border there is a great big monster, as the sole survivor of what was evidently an epic battle drags the dying, bloody remains of his cohort from the rubble-strewn fortifications of a now silent, blood-soaked city.

Cut to London, midnight, where Department O’s latest operation has just got totally tits-up, leaving Jack on the run from six gargoyle-like Springheels. Yeah, that doesn’t end well. All the more surprising, then, that Department O is immediately called on by the port-guzzling pipe-puffing toffs at the top for a particularly delicate mission: to provide protection for an asylum-seeking diplomatic envoy of most unusual overseas aristocrats who have personally requested the presence of Department O’s Lord Blutstein. Lord Blutstein is a giant of a man with long white hair and an even fuller beard. So why exactly is he bound in chains deep beneath the Tower of London? Also: Southend On Sea’s beach is about to be breached by some terrifying midnight swimmers, which is one way of dodging passport control.

It’s all so delightfully eccentric, including its storytelling and story structure which had me smiling throughout. Again, think Mignola, particularly in AMAZING SCREW-ON HEAD mode. I’ve left plenty for you to discover for yourselves, including Mr. Zeikel’s own extracurricular Department O initiative, quoted above, involving a bloodied corpse and fizzing electricity. I have no idea what is up with Lord Blutstein alone at night in his “quarters”, though.

Sold!

SLH

Buy Department O #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Fury Max vol 1: My War Gone By s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Goran Parlov…

“Cuba. Christ, what a clusterfuck that was.
“It was the agency at its most stupid and most arrogant. There were so many hidden agendas that the right hand lost sight of what the left was doing from the get-go. And it cost more guys their lives than… oh, sweet fuck.
“But it got me where I wanted to be: right back in the goddamned front line.”

Following on from the recent success of the non-continuity Max exploits of the PUNISHER, another trigger-happy Marvel stalwart gets his turn. Yes, everyone’s favourite monocular Machiavellian maestro, cigar chompin’ Nicholas Fury, steps forward and centre to recount his exploits in some of history’s most horrific hotspots, beginning with Vietnam and then Cuba in this first violence-laden volume.

Devotees of Ennis will know that war history is a true passion of his, with fictionalised versions of true events being plotted to near-perfection in his War Stories and Battlefieds series. And this work is no exception as Nick covertly inserts himself into two black ops which both end rather disastrously, primarily due to the idiocy and ineptitude of those further up the food chain flying desks and shining seats with their asses. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose eh? As the French colonials are the first to find out in French Indochina, or Vietnam to give it the rather more familiar and colloquially correct nom de guerre.

Nick is on the ground primarily in an observer capacity, just keeping an eye on the creeping red peril as the rising spectre of Communism threatens to become the big challenge to the US’ burgeoning political global hegemony, all under the auspices of democracy, of course. Except in Fury’s world observing usually means working out precisely whose head it would be best to put a bullet in next.

I am enjoying this title immensely, I knew I would right from reading the title of the first issue ‘While All The Planet’s Little Wars Start Joining Hands’ which is a line lifted from one of my favourite The The tracks, ‘Sweet Bird Of Truth’, about a soldier reflecting upon his role in the carnage of war as the aeroplane he is on is about to crash-land, almost certainly fatally, in the Arabian Gulf. It’s a song which sums up the younger Fury’s combat lust to perfection. Live to fight, and don’t worry about the when the day comes to face the consequences. He’ll learn, and I’m looking forward to Garth’s exploration of Nick’s journey from young hothead to becoming a far more wise, and indeed cynical, head on very weary old shoulders indeed.

JR

Buy Fury Max vol 1: My War Gone By s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers Vs. X-Men s/c (UK Ed’n) (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction & John Romita Jr., Oliver Coipel, Adam Kubert.

Revised review after re-reading and oh, this does read infinitely better as a collection. It’s also incredible value for money, containing all thirteen issues of AVENGERS VS. X-MEN (don’t panic, the thirteenth was #0) but, unlike the hardcover, not AVX VERSUS (the fights; well, more fights – the fists they basically flew) which you can buy as a separate softcover.

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 an unnecessarily stodgy 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? Also, while trying not to give a key development away, although arguments about the benefits brought by the Phoenix Force were well made, this wasn’t Neil Gaiman’s MIRACLEMAN.

However, however, I did like the Vision’s reaction to Wanda suddenly turning up at Avengers Mansion: instead of welcoming his wife back or even raging at her for his own destruction (see AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED, and you are encouraged to do so – magnificent and the very place to start reading the team’s modern era!) he demands why, out of all potential strategies, she used his android body to attack his friends and destroy their home? Also, the best bit? Wolverine trudging across Antarctica “wearing” a polar bear, following a trail of beer-can breadcrumbs left by Hope so he’d find her.

Plus, 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 as seen now in Bendis’ ALL-NEW X-MEN. My favourite exchange may have been between Thor and a character possessed by the Phoenix Force.

“Stand down, boy – or I will call the storm and tear open the sky!”
“You’re threatening me with weather?”

SLH

Buy Avengers Vs. X-Men s/c (UK Ed’n) and read the Page 45 review here

AVX Versus s/c (UK Ed’n) (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Rick Remender, Kieron Gillen, Jeph Loeb & Stuart Immonen, Adam Kubert, Steve McNiven, Ed McGuinness, Mike Deodato Jr., Jim Cheung, Leinil Francis Yu.

Companion piece to AVENGERS VS X-MEN featuring further fisticuffs. Far from essential or even consequential, it was surprisingly entertaining when the right writers came along. And they are a mixed bunch.

Jason Aaron’s Magneto vs Iron Man – and they are one-on-one grudge matches, with side-notes on where they fit in – was science-saturated, brilliantly so, as the pair square off and let rip their own monologues. Kathryn Immonen takes that an absurdist step further and with her hilarious, single-panel one-page ‘Science Battle’ free-for-all pencilled by husband Stuart in which our two teams’ top technicians (Hank Pym, Hank McCoy, T’Challa, Tony Stark etc) wrestle each other to the ground with quadratic equations and mathematical theory:

“Giant Man, there is no need to introduce Euler’s Identity at this juncture!”
“Sure, if you’re not interested in representing polar co-ordinates in the Complex Plane, Jeffreys. No need at all!”
“Hank, you can’t even spell e to the power of iπ +1=0 where I is the Imaginary Unit.”

Et cetera. That’s what happens to teachers with too much testosterone.

The best episode by far, however, was ‘Verbal Abuse’ by Bendis & Mahfood in which Captain America and Cyclops trade puerile and increasing close-to-the-bone insults until each breaks down in tears.

“I thought your mutant power was being shockingly less interesting than your girlfriends.”
“Why don’t you dress as Nomad again and watch your book get almost cancelled?”
“Why don’t you go and ask Emma Frost what to do and say next?”
“Why don’t you go dress Rick Jones as Bucky again and creep everyone out?”
“Hey man. That’s not cool.”
“Not so boring now, am I?”
“I don’t know. Why don’t we ask Jean Grey? Oh, that’s right…”
“Not cool, man!”
[Runs away crying like a big boy’s blouse]
“Avengers versus X-Men: won.
“Oh, Bucky. Sniff.”

SLH

Buy AVX Versus s/c (UK Ed’n) and read the Page 45 review here

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…

Memory is a funny thing. I bought all four components of this collection as they came out and what I hadn’t forgotten was just how completely average the middle two parts were, in story terms at least, although the art is damn splendid. What I had forgotten though was just how great the two main book-ending chunks were, both in terms of the story and the art. The basic premise is pretty simple, of course, and follows the standard conventions for any good heroic team-up. The heroes meet then have a punch-up before teaming up to defeat the bad guys. And this is no different, but it’s written with such comedic panache by Wagner and Grant that it just works perfectly. A pissing contest par excellence between our two alpha males that’s never really going to get settled definitively because in each of their heads, there’s no question who is the top dog. The fact that they have bad buys to deal with is merely the side-show…

I really had forgotten just how ridiculously funny this first story was. But what really takes it to another level compared to the finest 2000AD fare is Bisley’s painted art. Again, I had completely forgotten just how truly impressive it is. It’s totally over the top with Batman’s ridiculously pointy ears and near-infinitely long cape plus a Mega-City One that’s never looked quite so completely insane. But that is precisely what’s required to make such a totally unbelievable story like this work. There’s no point getting into explaining the plot overmuch; suffice to say it involves Batman, Judges Dredd, Anderson and Death plus the Scarecrow with excursions to both Gotham and the Big Meg. Cue much wise-cracking and headcracking as the lawmen vie for the last word just as much as the knockout punch.

Parts two and three are, well, pretty weak stories frankly, and definitely have the feel of more run of the mill weekly 2000AD type material than a special event. Both seem primarily to function purely as teasers for the fourth part that brings the Joker and the rest of the Dark Judges into action, and which as I did clearly remember, whilst it is good fun, it’s not quite as strong a story as the first one. And that may well be why, in part, it was the last excursion for our dysfunctional duo. I can’t say I’m desperate for them to revisit the premise again, though no doubt if this hardcover collection shifts enough copies they will undoubtedly do so.

JR

Buy The Batman Judge Dredd Collection 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.

 
Anomaly hardcover (£45-00, Anomaly Publishing) by Skip Brittenham & Brian Haberlin

Felt Mistress: Creature Couture h/c (£24-99, Blank Slate) by various, edited by Woodrow Phoenix

People I Know (£10-00, My Cardboard Books) by Timothy Winchester

Skeleton Key: An Alex Rider Graphic Novel (£9-99, Walker) by Anthony Horowitz, Antony Johnston & Kanako, Yuzuru

Revival vol 1 (£9-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton

Sonic Select vol 5 (£8-99, Archie Comics) by various

Elephantmen vol 5: Devilish Functions (£18-99, Image) by Richard Starkings & Axel Medellin, Shaky Kane

Parker vol 1: The Hunter s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Richard Stark & Darwyn Cooke

Journey Into Mystery vol 4: The Manchester Gods s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, J.M. DeMatteis & Richard Elson

The Incredible Hulk vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Marc Silvestri

Spider-Man: Danger Zone h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Zeb Wells & Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Steve Dillon

Deadpool: Dead h/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & Carlo Barberi, Ale Garza, Shawn Crystal, Salva Espin, Matteo Lolli, Filipe Andrade

Essential X-Factor vol 5 (£14-99, Marvel) by various

Spider-Men s/c (UK Ed’n) (£10-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli

New Avengers vol 3 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Deodato, Neal Adams

Carnage USA s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Zeb Wells & Clayton Crain

Punisher Max: Frank s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Steve Dillon

Captain America vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Alan Davis

Daredevil vol 2 s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Paolo Riveria, Emma Rios, Kano, Khoi Pham

Irredeemable vol 10 (£12-99, Boom!) by Mark Waid & Diego Barreto

Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind Complete Box Set (£45-00, Viz) by Hayao Miyazaki

Bakuman vol 17 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Strobe Edge vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Io Sakisaka

Rin-Ne vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

Bleach vol 52 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Bleach vol 53 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Kimi Ni Todoke vol 15 (£6-99, Viz) by Karuho Shiina

 
Interview with Steve Pugh spanning his entire career and including news about a second collection of HOTWIRE.

Reviews December 2012 week one

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

This woman is right up there with Simone Lia and that lunatic Lizz Lunney. Between them, they are the three comicbook creators who makes me smile the most. It’s the mischief and sheer exuberance of it all. Also, the underlying kindness. I think I’ve forgotten something..

Oh yes, ALL OUR COPIES ARE SIGNED AND SKETCHED IN FOR FREE!

 - Stephen on Philippa Rice’s Recyclost.

Heads Or Tails (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Lilli Carré >

HEAD OR TAILS is a collection of short stories, most of which have appeared in anthologies such as MOME. I had read some of her stuff there but on the strength of this book I am definitely going to have to ferret out some more because this is lovely! The art reminds me a little of Lynda Barry and the flow of the pages reminded me a little of Walt Holcombe in places, just in the way stuff sort of flows about and seems a bit bendy and floaty. The thing I enjoy most about Lilli’s work, though, is the way she weaves the absurd into the very normal with such a light touch that it seems neither silly nor confusing. She takes a seemingly ordinary snapshot of life and then diverts it so delicately that even the main characters don’t miss a step; they carry on towards befuddlement, trying their best to keep their footing.

The first story which really grabbed me was that of the man of principle who decides not to swerve from an oncoming car accident because he felt that, as a man of unwavering decisiveness, it would be out of character to do so. I loved the idea: his logic seemed so utterly stupid and yet to him you could see it made perfect sense. Similarly, the woman who finds her life has been stolen by an identical copy of herself just sort of accepts it and moves on to find a new life elsewhere. It’s not really in her nature to argue, better go with the flow, she figures.

All of which may sound a bit serious but it really doesn’t come across that way at all. Lilli’s style is so light that the stories have an air of playfulness and that touch of the absurd I mentioned earlier. In fact, I recently recommended this book to a customer who named their favourite film as Amelie (good choice!) precisely because it has that feeling of whimsy about it. So, if you like stories which look at life from a slightly different angle you may well enjoy this book. And if you do read it please let me know who you were rooting for, Heads or Tails?

DK

Buy Heads Or Tails and read the Page 45 review here

Soppy (£3-00, My Cardboard Life) by Philippa Rice.

Rarely have I been so immediately, directly and profoundly touched by a work of art.

There is a purity here both in the content and the lines which depict it: sixteen pages of shared domestic intimacy between Philippa Rice and fellow comicbook creator Luke Pearson, bound in a card-stock cover and sealed with a scarlet envelope to send to your loved ones. So you’ll need at least two, won’t you?

See them trudge through the rain hand in hand, P’s hoodie high while Luke buries his chin in his scarf! Oh, but there’s grumpy old pout on Philippa’s rosy-cheeked face! I defy you not to emulate it the second you see that page: it is infectious! Once home with Luke working late, Philippa pops her head round the door of his study then returns wrapped in an enormous, brightly spotted duvet. The next and final panel sees her face-down on the floor, sunk into the thick, billowing folds of the duvet which looks a big, furry carapace, only the top of her head poking out, tortoise-like, to read a graphic novel, hands-free.

Everything is so perfectly placed: the two of them shifting round their bed at night, back-to-back then wrapped round each other in rotating combinations. The curves there are delicious: the contours of Luke’s pants round his bottom and Philippa’s night shirt round her waist and chest. She has an incredible sense of form and body language. It’s actually very brave of both of them to bring such joy to the world by revealing so much of themselves. Though there was a bit of a misprint which revealed far more!

Far from cloying, this is above all gently comical. You might think you know all there is to know about Philippa’s craft from MY CARDBOARD LIFE, ST COLIN AND THE DRAGON and now RECYCLOST, but this is cut from completely different cloth, and it is absolutely beautiful.

Here’s Luke and Philippa on the couch in front of their television set which is filling the late-night living room with the most lurid scenes of gore and evisceration. Philippa shrinks into Luke’s shoulder, hiding behind his knee.

“If I got zombied, would you shoot me?” asks Luke later, his arms wrapped around her.
“No,” she replies looking up into his eyes. “I’d let you bite me.”

Luke presses his forehead into her hair, blissed out by the answer, but it’s the expression on Philippa’s face which does it: utterly aghast and taking the question quite, quite seriously.

SLH

Buy Soppy and read the Page 45 review here

Recyclost h/c (£6-99, My Cardboard Life) by Philippa Rice.

“When we know what makes it, we can work out what breaks it.”

Holy calamity, this is insanity!

More colours are deployed here than exist in our known universe. It’s as if someone has opened a fissure in space and – wait, that is precisely what has happened, and the result is a gigantic mutant ball of toxic debris that shouldn’t even be here! Worse still this rolling stone is gathering momentum, rampaging towards a heavily populated city!

Guess whose house it hits first? Poor Cardboard Colin! Naturally Pauline is beside herself.

“That was my friend’s house!
“He might have been in there.
“He might have had presents for me in there!”

Exactly! Priority is Pauline’s middle name.

From the surprisingly sane mind of Philippa Rice, creator of the autobiographical SOPPY (Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month December 2012), comes unhinged madness more akin to MY CARDBOARD LIFE and ST COLIN AND THE DRAGON, and once again fashioned from the very elements that constitute our real world: paper, cardboard, plastic and aluminium foil. Oh, the wit in their repurposing!

As our story kicks off Pauline has taken a data-entry job at what transpires to be the most dangerous office ever. A paper cut will be the least of her worries. Meanwhile poor Colin is waiting at home with a cake he has baked, iced with “Best Friend”, and a card that says “Good Luck With Your New Job”. I wouldn’t wait up, Colin, because Pauline’s going to need it and so are you, as your house and its contents are about to be swallowed by that big ball of goo which transmutes everything it touches into the alien and unknown. Someone needs to fathom it fast, and that someone isn’t going to be Pauline but…

I love, love, love Pauline’s boss. I don’t think she’s ever named, but she is ever so sassy. Hands permanently on action-station hips, she is unphased by anything this mind-boggling adventure throws at her, barking out orders, rewriting employment contracts at a moment’s notice, and as lethal with scissors as Philippa Rice herself. There are some truly spectacular action sequences here with eye-popping perspectives the likes of which you’ve never known from Philippa before.

This woman is right up there with Simone Lia and that lunatic Lizz Lunney. Between them, they are the three comicbook creators who makes me smile the most. It’s the mischief and sheer exuberance of it all. Also, the underlying kindness. I think I’ve forgotten something..

Oh yes, ALL OUR COPIES ARE SIGNED AND SKETCHED IN FOR FREE!

SLH

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

All Aboard The Good Ship Drunk As Fuck (£20-99, Drawn & Quartered) by Stephen El Holland.

“My credit card was killing me. Although to be fair, I was squeezing the life out of my credit card too.”

Autobiographical noir is a genre virtually invented by this drunk, delusional and self-obsessed reprobate, and for that we applaud him with all three hands and an empty bottle of Chardonnay. But clearly he has seen better days.

As torn and tattered as his battered black trenchcoat, and as addicted to alliteration as he is to the bottle, he roams the bleak and blacked-out British cities under Tory misanthropic rule like an Ancient Mariner, belligerently campaigning for quality and diversity wherever he stumbles, with all the charm and sophistication of a monged-out manatee on malmsey. I have honestly seen this degenerate with six cigarettes on the go, huffing and puffing about the “homogenisation of the High Street”. TM. Broken record. Pathetic, really.

Worse still, the only lines he can still draw with any precision or purposeful decision are those of cocaine and methedrine. His hands shake when coerced from a cigarette, and his eyes roll like the waves of someone whose tide has long since gone out.

On the upside: quantity rather than quality. This omnibus recollection (not something that comes naturally to this wine-addled wastrel) weighs in at just shy of two stone which, coincidentally, is how much he put on just last month. Oh, he has written! He has written and written and written over the last twenty years, but this is so telling: how many of his reviews of other creators’ comics are self-referential and self-aggrandising rather than tackling the material at hand?

Page 45 is reluctantly stocking this title. But it’s a sympathy vote, yes?

SLH

Buy All Aboard The Good Ship Drunk As Fuck by careering into the gutter and lying there dazed with the cruel revelation that you have fallen into our practical joke. Pull quote Stephen’s as tweeted to @duncanfegredo from @pagefortyfive. Original portrait by Rosalind Penfold of DRAGONSLIPPERS fame. It really is.

The Adventures Of Leeroy And Popo (£8-50, Nobrow Press ) by Louis Roskosch.

A nominee for the inaugural British Comics Awards 2012, this is a partly anthropomorphic tale about a bipedal bear with a quiet crush on a waitress, his hipper, more confident friend (dinosaur dude), and a friend they’ve been avoiding for over two years who arrives at the most inopportune moment imaginable. Crass beyond belief, Rick has had a social-skills lobotomy, replacing whatever passed for his brain with the worst thoughts imaginable which he externalises unedited.

“Leeroy, is this your girlfriend?”
”No!”
“No…”
“You always were a ladies’ man!”
“He was?”
“Just like myself…Although she’s not really my type. I prefer bigger boobs.”

She’s right in front of him.

“So how are you then, Rick?”
“…”
“…”
“…”
“Rick?”
“Oh sorry! I was just thinking about porn.”

Surprisingly, Leeroy gets his first date and it doesn’t go badly. What does?

Love the cartooning – there’s a confident fragility at play. Roskosch has chosen his creatures with care; plus only Leeroy and Popo are animals and, undisturbed, they make for great mates, genuinely caring and looking out for each other. Rick, on the other hand, will truly make you shudder. I also adored the rich colours, just not their opacity. It’s a personal thing, perhaps.

This is rife with smile-inducing videogames references, and the two Facebook pages were classic. Like!

SLH

Buy The Adventures Of Leeroy And Popo and read the Page 45 review here

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

Another luxurious family hardcover, this time set largely at night and, oh, but Andy’s nocturnal blue hues and purples are rich! This is some of the loveliest colouring in this particular style that I’ve seen, while the rainy daytime page with Owly in his bright yellow macintosh and hat put me in mind of E.H. Shepard. Which is odd. For a start Shepard didn’t do full-bleed illustrations – they hung in the air, framed by their own loose, watercolour edges. I think it’s the dashes and splashes of white. And the macintosh, maybe!

Like all OWLY books, this is a silent but symbol-strewn adventure to encourage family interaction and young minds to interpret what’s being said.

This one finds Owly and Wormy up in the tree tops with a telescope preparing to get all Patrick ‘monocle’ Moore. The problem with trees, unfortunately, are the leaves. Well, they are if you want to see the sky at night; otherwise they’re pretty essential. Fortunately Owl knows of a clearing in the woods right on top of a hill, so the very next day they set off with a backpack and the telescope and settle down for a picnic. Cue rain clouds, obviously, and a run for the caves but it’s very, very dark inside, and the caves are already occupied. Uh-oh!

Familiar themes follow: overcoming your fears and making friends with those who may seem a little strange at first, but have hearts of gold and are happy to help. Don’t knock it: those are fine early life-lessons. Also: an environmental subtext about light pollution buggering up the skies, rendering urban astronomy pretty darn impossible.

SLH

Buy Owly & Wormy: Bright Lights And Starry Nights! and read the Page 45 review here

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

Odd how literally just one solitary thing you read can totally alter your perception of someone. I am a big Jodorowsky fan, with works like THE INCAL and Madwoman Of The Sacred Heart how could one not be? But the combination of his 2010-penned foreword for this work, plus some of the actual content, have in fact me now re-appraising him somewhat. I won’t repeat it all verbatim here, but basically upon meeting Gal (the artist of this work) quite by chance at the offices of Metal Hurlant and Gal asking him if he could illustrate one of his stories, Jodorowsky first tells us that the meeting was so moving he “didn’t see the physical body in which his spirit dwelled. For me, Gal was an immaterial being. Even today, I still cannot recall what he looked like.”

Unfortunately he then rather makes a stupendous arse of himself, in my book at least, by telling Gal that he illustrates with “superhuman perfection” yet doesn’t feel they could work together unless Gal used colour. Gal, of course, being famous for only ever using India ink. Jodorowsky doesn’t quite put it like that though… “Your drawing speciality has always been India ink… I don’t want to ask for the same thing. However, if you shift gears and do something that you have never done before – express yourself with colours – then I would feel like I was participating in the awakening of a new facet of your talent. I believe that in the field of Art, there are two roads to take: you can be the best or you can be… different. You are already one of the best. When the day comes that you are ready to be different, I will be at your disposition.”

Surprisingly enough, Gal didn’t suggest Jodorowsky insert a baguette where the sun doesn’t shine but instead, six months later, presumably when he’d calmed down a bit, gave Jodorowsky a call on the phone. Here’s how Jodorowsky remembers that particular call… “Six months later, I heard his voice on the phone, but I didn’t recognise the tone. For me, Gal was an ethereal myth. It seemed as if I heard him not with my ears but rather by telepathy.”

Hmm, for me Jodorowsky is in serious danger of becoming a comedy sketch show character… Or perhaps in need of a fitting for one of those jackets with lots of shiny buckles on the back…

Anyway, onto the work itself. The art is beautiful actually, some of the finest ligne claire you are ever likely to lay your eyes on, and Gal’s use of colours is as one would expect of someone of his talent, absolutely breathtaking, but despite this apparently being a story of spiritually transcendence etc. etc. I found it just a weeny bit too sleazy in places. Yes, I know that is not untypical for this genre, but, well, it certainly isn’t Jodorowsky’s finest work for me. I really do much prefer his farcical material to his ‘serious’ stuff, I must say. Anyway, fans of Euro-titties will certainly approve.

If anyone knows of a similarly egomaniacal / delusional / just plain mentally ill foreword to a graphic novel please do let me know.

JR

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

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

It’s back! After something like five years absence the original NEON GENESIS SERIES VOLUME 13 has just been published, so Viz are going back to reprint the first twelve volumes, three at a time, in these omnibus editions.

Family intrigue, brainwashing, subterfuge, “angels” from space and city-trashing battles with massive mechs powered by child prodigies. 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 Omnibus vols 1-3  and read the Page 45 review here

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

Final, blood-soaked book of Boys.

We have loved Boys so passionately that between us we’ve reviewed every volume. Check out those reviews: there’ll be a lot more revealing than this one for obvious reasons. No spoilers here.

Following the penultimate, cataclysmic volume (with its key revelation I never saw coming) you might wonder what’s left to fight about. But for those paying attention, there have been worrying hints throughout, and if you’ve enjoyed your slack-jawed moments of shock and true revulsion up until now, I can guarantee you a finale which will leave you screaming in Accident & Emergency.

Neatly Ennis has stored up key quotes for Braun and Robertson to re-illustrate proving that it’s all been planned from the start. As the truth starts to dawn on our individual players, those past exchanges pop back in their minds with all the horror of hindsight. Perhaps they should have paid more attention too.

Premise in a bombshell: there are corporate-controlled superheroes in this world, being used as a merchandise and comicbook cash-cow. Never mind their eventual deployment. But power corrupts and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. And I don’t mean in an end-of-the-world kind of way (though that’s not entirely off the table). No, on your menu tonight: sexual abuse run rampant and often against each other, perpetrated by those held so high in public esteem that they thought they could get away with it forever, especially when protected by those same corporations and the collaborative media they manipulate. It’s all a bit relevant, sadly!

One man, galvanised by the most appalling experience imaginable, has had enough. He adopts then fosters others who would most empathise although they don’t know why.

And so it woefully goes, but not with a whimper, I assure you. *shivers*

SLH

Buy The Boys vol 12: The Bloody Doors Off and read the Page 45 review here

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

More exceptional, high-octane espionage action with one hell of a cliffhanger I never saw coming. I never see anything coming, do I? I shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Or cross the street.

Previously in WINTER SOLDIER VOL 1: two ex-Soviet sleeper agents, trained during the Cold War by a brainwashed Bucky Barnes then bought and brought to America, came close to starting World War Three. Two of them – and there were supposed to be three. Why didn’t the third one show?

The answer lies buried under San Francisco in an underground bunker where our Winter Soldier finds the shattered remains of that third sleeper agent’s cryogenic stasis tube. The whole place has been crushed. It’s as if a bomb went off or… when was the last time the San Andreas Belt shifted? Twelve years ago there was an earthquake and, as the saying goes, it woke the giant up. Unfortunately there was no one on hand to administer the reorientating drugs necessary for a successful resurrection or help acclimatise the walking, talking weapon of mass destruction as to where, when or who he was. He staggered naked to the surface, a lethal blank slate. So what’s he been doing for twelve years?

So good to see Michael Lark reunited with Ed Brubaker: this is beautifully choreographed and Bettie Breitweiser, one of my favourite colourists at Marvel or DC, remains on board for the majority.

The central cast of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sitwell, Natasha Romanov (the Black Widow) and Bucky Barnes himself are so well played. And I mean that in both senses of the word for, without giving the game away, the Winter Soldier isn’t the only one who’s spent many years in Russia. Natasha comes with her own insider knowledge, set of skills and experience. And they’re very much in demand.

SLH

Buy Winter Solider vol 2: Broken Arrow s/c and read the Page 45 review here

FF vol II #1 (£2-25, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Michael Allred.

“Our compass is curiosity. Our destination is the infinite.”

Goodness, that sounds profound. And it is! This is the Future Foundation we’re talking about, set up by Reed Richards to educate and galvanise the next fledgling generation of precocious science prodigies regardless of race, gender, species, and so set course for the future.

But, oh, how the children steal the show! The very first page is a scream, young Valeria Richards eloquently extolling the lofty ideals and far-sighted goals of the Future Foundation to their novice leader while older brother Franklin pulls all manner of faces behind her back like the sugar-buzz delinquent he is. No one but Allred could have done that full justice. Long have I loved him but that, for me, is his best comic page yet!

Speaking of children and delinquents, there is another classic Johnny Storm sequence during which – after each other member of the family has gone about dutifully, solemnly and responsibly attempting to recruit replacements while the family takes leave  – he wakes up in bed with his girlfriend, cannot even remember what is expected of him and so consults his mobile-phone reminders:

“Ask somebody about the thing.”

Yes, that’s the thing on your to-do list, not Ben Grimm The Thing. You’re supposed to ask – oh, why do I even bother?

“Cool. I have asked somebody about The Thing. Now let’s get breakfast.”

Absolutely delightful, and “delightful” isn’t a word you regularly associate with a superhero comic. You’d type “spectacular” or “gut-wrenching” or “jaw-dropping” or even “same old corporate crap”. If you had a mind to. This is genuinely delightful in the same way you’d talk about Simone Lia’s FLUFFY.

SLH

Buy FF vol II #1 by inventing a brand-new way of communication, possibly through wi-fi contact lenses or Medusa action dolls with extendable/retractable hair. Otherwise it’s 0115 9508045 or page45@page45.com or your foot in this very door.

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.
Department O #1 (£3-50, Monkey Pipe Studios) by Jamie Gambell & Andrew Maclean

Pocket Full Of Coffee (Signed & Sketched In) (£4-99, ) by Joe Decie

Grandville vol 3: Bete Noire (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Bryan Talbot

Deadbeats (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Chad Fifer, Chris Lackey & I.N.J. Culbard

Krishna: The Journey Within (£22-50, Image) by Abhishek Singh

Ellerbisms: A Sporadic Diary Comic (£12-99, Great Beast) by Marc Ellerby

Days Of Destruction, Days Of Revolt h/c (£20-99, Nation Books) by Chris Hedges & Joe Sacco

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 4 – The Devil’s Engine & The Long Death (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Tyler Crook, James Harren

Steed And Mrs. Peel: The Golden Game (£12-99, Boom!) by Grant Morrison, Anne Caulfield & Ian Gibson

The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz softcover (£18-99, Marvel) by L. Frank Baum, Eric Shanower & Skottie Young

Batman: No Man’s Land vol 4 (£25-99, DC) by Devin Grayson, Greg Rucka, Dennis O’Neill, John Ostrander, Chuck Dixon,  & Dale Eaglesham, Damion Scott, Rick Burchett, Roger Robinson, Jim Balent, Roger Robinson, Paul C. Ryan, Scott McDaniel, Greg Land, more

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9 vol 2: On Your Own (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Joss Whedon, Andrew Chambliss & Georges Jeanty, Cliff Richards

iZombie vol 4: Repossession (£14-99, Vertigo) by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred

Fury Max vol 1: My War Gone By s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Garth Ennis & Goran Parlov

Avengers Vs. X-Men s/c (UK Ed’n) (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction & John Romita Jr., Oliver Coipel, Adam Kubert

AVX Versus s/c (UK Ed’n) (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Rick Remender, Kieron Gillen, Jeph Loeb & Stuart Immonen, Adam Kubert, Steve McNiven, Ed McGuinness, Mike Deodato Jr., Jim Cheung, Leinil Francis Yu

Uncanny X-Men vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Greg Land, Carlos Pacheco

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Samnee, Sara Pichelli

Avengers: X-Sanction s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuiness

Moon Knight vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Umineko vol 1: Legend Of The Golden Witch vol 1 (£13-99, Yen) by Ryukishi07 & Kei Natsumi

Bunny Drop vol 7 (£10-50, Yen) by Yumi Unita

NGE: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project vol 12 (£7-50, Dark Horse) by Osamu Takahashi

Spice & Wolf vol 7 (£9-99, Yen) by Isuna Hasekura & Keito Koume

Souleater Not! vol 2 (£8-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo

Souleater vol 11 (£8-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo

Here’s one to share with your children: HILDA AND THE BIRD PARADE’S Luke Pearson on How To Draw Birds. Aww!

And here’s a gorgeously illustrated interview conducted by Elaine Aldred with Page 45 superstar Lizz Lunney whose cards you can find on our counter along with her tote bags and mini-comics, a whole SIX of which were reviewed in last week’s Page 45 reviews.

Finally a reminder of Elaine’s brand-new, somewhat different 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