Reviews December 2012 week one

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

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