Archive for January, 2013

Reviews January 2013 week five

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

He glided across the street to the fenced perimeter of Central Park and slipped between its bones like a knife.

 - Warren Ellis, Gun Machine

The Books Of Magic: The Deluxe Edition h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, Paul Johnson.

“Magic grants no freedoms, friend pupil. Everything it buys must be paid for.”

“Science is a way of talking about the universe in words that bind it to a common meaning. Magic is a method of talking to the universe in words that it cannot ignore.”

In which Neil Gaiman explores what magic means and what it can do; the myriad legends that it has already created, to which Neil now adds another. With almost impossible dexterity Gaiman gently folds DC’s established tall tales and occult-orientated characters into the wider mix of fantasies outside that specific setting, and binds them together while embracing all aspects, all variations on a theme, so that Christian stories of Heaven and Hell with their angels and archangels and its celestial city sit comfortably and compatibly alongside Egyptian, Chinese, Greek and British mythologies as well as DC’s own demons and The Dreaming et al. It’s a pretty neat trick to pull off.

Magic is the power of man’s imagination so, as ever with Neil Gaiman, this is also about stories: about the art of storytelling by conjuring carefully chosen words, so shedding light on the darkness. It’s about communication, and there is a great deal to be communicated here with some sense of urgency, for a young boy called Timothy Hunter has been identified as the most powerful mage of modern times, potentially. Whether he will be a power for creation or destruction is unclear, which is why the Phantom Stranger, Dr Occult and Mister E have taken it upon themselves to educate Tim Hunter, and dragged a reluctant John Constantine in too.

“Just what the world’s been waiting for. The Charge of the Trenchcoat Brigade.”
“I heard that, John Constantine.”

Constantine absolutely makes the book, so well is he played by writer and artists alike. DC’s cheeky chappie and ultimate rogue, he is neither a team player nor strong on reverence. He is reckless, he is dangerous, but in some ways he’s the safest pair of hands you can imagine. Although try telling that to the ghosts of his friends. Such is his history that he’s made welcome nowhere here except by Zatanna, and there’s a single-panel, snort-inducing sight-gag by Scott Hampton, which if you blink you will miss, after John visits the restroom and returns with a stinging, livid-red slap on the cheek.

A pomposity-puncturing iconoclast who rankles at authority, Constantine is immediately drawn to Tim Hunter’s cynical, sceptical and spirited defiance: Tim’s initial instinct is that his new mentors are a bunch of mack-wearing pervs. It is John’s role to introduce Tim Hunter to the contemporary cast of the DC universe: the Spectre, Jason Blood, Madame Xanadu, Baron Winter (Boston Brand AKA Deadman introduces himself, several times over, in a riotous running joke), and all of them have something to say about magic including Dr Fate, he of the hungry helmet:

“The imposition of order on formless chaos, the release of joyous chaos into the grey monotony of order… This is the true magic. All else is shadow.”

Hmm. I’d caution against judging until you learn the destiny of Fate.

This is the DC readers’ crowd-pleasing chapter, without once alienating those who’ve never bought one of those books before. Instead Neil neatly slots these characters into the story he wants to tell within its own context. Painted comic art was relatively rare in those days, so that helps set the alternative tone too. Almost everyone he encounters has dire warnings for Tim about the price he would pay, as do they all in the past.

The past is the province of the Stranger, illustrated by John Bolton who did a bang-up job of maintaining yet blending the pair’s physicality with the limbo-like nature of what they half-glimpse around and beyond them. There are layers and layers of painting art here, executed long before they could be all shot separately then blended by computer like ALICE IN SUNDERLAND. So much of it will have been in the script but not in the dialogue, so letting your eyes wander pays dividends.

As to Charles Vess who depicts Tim’s journey with Dr Occult through the rule-ridden, trap-laden land of Faerie, his line is as solid as his washes are ethereal; his colours so soft, yet as sharp and bright as you like. There is a spectacular, shepherd-delighting, early evening sunset over a lake that goes on forever; his Goblin Market is as fine as anything you saw in STARDUST; and Queen Titania’s palace is an exemplary essay in architectural jade.

Gaiman is perhaps at his finest in Faerie. Its appearance in SANDMAN: DREAM COUNTRY won him a World Fantasy Award in 1991, while he returned to the etiquette involved in INSTRUCTIONS, both also illustrated by Charles Vess. There’s something about Neil’s writing when it comes to these legends and lore which is far from portentous but Demanding You Pay Close Attention – a bit like capitalised phrases in AA Milne’s Winnie The Pooh!

It is here that a naïve Tim makes his most worrying mistakes, proving beyond doubt his need for both education and guidance; and it is here that we return to the vital aspect of magic as mind-altering alchemy in the hands of wordsmiths worldwide. Here’s Queen Titania:

“You wish to see the distant realms? Very well. But know this first: the places you will visit, the places that you will see, do not exist.
“For there are only two worlds – your world, which is the real world, and other worlds, the fantasy. Worlds like this are worlds of the human imagination: their reality, or lack of reality, is not important. What is important is that they are there.
“These worlds provide an alternative. Provide and escape. Provide a threat. Provide a dream, and power, provide refuge, and pain.
“They give your world meaning. They do not exist; and thus they are all that matters. Do you understand?”
“No.”

No, Tim doesn’t, not yet. He may never get a chance to understand if other forces succeed. He’s yet to see the future – his possible future and those far beyond – but he’ll be led there by a blind man fixated on the darkness around him: the darkest aspects of the human heart. You’ll be alarmed by whom Tim meets in his future; but you will love it when you see who turns out the lights. Who does turn out the lights at the end of the universe? It’s not necessarily who you think, but sleep tight.

Comparisons have been made between this and the subsequent Harry Potter books by JK Rowling. Some would say “consequent”, but not me. Not in those scolding terms, anyway, for both writers have been charitably generous and, besides (totally besides), this too is a book based on (and informed by) stories which have gone before. That is its whole raison d’être.

Searchers will see by just one look that the opening sequence shows the two poles apart. However unloved, Harry Potter is lured from his relatively safe suburban surroundings into the privileged life of a boarding school, whereas Timothy Hunter is first seen skateboarding alone and vulnerable round the concrete jungle of a deserted industrial-estate market, its closed shops desperately crying about “Crazy Price Clearance” sales. It is bleak, it is barren, and the jaws of its pitch-black underpass gape wide.

Into the abyss, Tim Hunter. Into the abyss.

Timothy Hunter will need to make some smart and swift choices, not least of which will be whether to accept magic at all. He will hear conflicting stories of fortune and free will. He will see things which no fourteen-year-old was ever meant to see. And he will need to make those choices informed not by The Truth (for there is no such singular thing) but by truths, and by stories.

As Uncle Alan Moore once famously pronounced, “All stories are true”.

SLH

Buy The Books Of Magic: The Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Gun Machine (£13-99, Mulholland Books) by Warren Ellis.

“He glided across the street to the fenced perimeter of Central Park and slipped between its bones like a knife.”

Behold the hunter, a predator subsisting on what little is left of Manhattan’s nature, a man more in tune with its past. The present is virtually toxic to him. He is a creature of ceremony, of meticulous preparation and exact execution, successfully stalking both the streets and his targets undetected for years. He is a man with a mission, and it has just been rudely interrupted.

Detective John Tallow has been jaded and weary but he’s waking up now with a start. His partner’s had his head blown off by some random naked guy with a shotgun. Another blast strayed and sprayed into an apartment wall through which John can see guns: hundreds and hundreds of guns arranged in a precise pattern of rows and spirals and… there appear to be gaps yet to fill. They’ve all been used. They have all done their duty, the purpose for which they have been precisely selected. And now they are Tallow’s problem. He should be on sick-leave on compassionate grounds, but for some reason his Lieutenant has kept him on the case. He’s being set up to fail, and he’s now on the hunter’s radar.

John Tallow is in deep, deep shit.

If you love your language, you’re in for a treat. What struck me very early on was that Ellis has changed voices for this second prose novel, not altogether but enough to set this apart from CROOKED LITTLE VEIN and indeed almost all of his comics to date bar Planetary. The one sequence that did put me in mind of CROOKED LITTLE VEIN was when Tallow snaps on the police radio to shut everyone up, and it surely does.

“All at once, horror tumbled out of it.”

Crime after almost inconceivably grotesque crime floods from its speakers in a relentless slurry of casual sadism and cruelty. It’s like a condensation of FELL: FERAL CITY. But beyond that the lurid sex-talk and angry bombast which amuses me no end has been set aside for now, replaced by two alternating narratives, one following Tallow, the other the hunter.

It’s as much about observation as anything else, for here we’re presented with two preternaturally perceptive individuals able to read the world and the people around them, albeit in radically different ways. I doubt my tells would get past either of them.

“Emily seemed to be sliding into a state of… he wouldn’t say emotionlessness, but certainly distance and apathy. Her voice came from somewhere deep inside her, somewhere dusty that was a long drive away from being present in the world. The same remote point that he has sometimes, in rare self-aware moments, heard his own voice coming from over the past few years.”

The dialogue is as deft as you’d expect, for which Ellis supplies two new assistants, albeit slightly less filthy that TRANSMETROPOLITAN‘s, except when Tallow’s just bought them coffee:

“Oh my God,” Bat prayed. “I love you. I would let you have sex on me and everything. But I am very tired and would prefer not to move.”
Scarly killed a cup lid with feral fingers and chugged a third of the container. Her eyes flexed weirdly in their sockets. “Oh, that’s the stuff,” she said. “That really is the stuff.”
Bat was weakly pawing at the lid of the cup nearest him. Tallow reached over and took it off him, abstractedly wondering if this was what fatherhood felt like.

The history and geography of Manhattan lie at the book’s heart, and possibly its future too, for there’s a very neat use of security cameras. Above all else, however, I can promise you a killer the likes of which you’ve never encountered before, and I hope you never will. There’s probably one out there waiting, though.

SLH

Buy Gun Machine and read the Page 45 review here

Young Avengers #1 (£2-25, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Mike Norton and Matthew Wilson.

“I fell in love with a superhero.”

And I fell in love with this series: sharp, chic and oh, so sexy. Contemporary too. Goddam, Noh-Varr’s black pants as his hips grind and fingers snaps in synch to a sixties’ beat. In fact it wakes up in bed, just like Kate Bishop who’s listening to her new lover enthuse about close-harmony girl groups.

“I lie in the strange bed and watch this beautiful alien boy dance to the music my parents love and think… This is everything I always hoped for.
“At which point, the Skrulls attack.”

Haha! Cue blistering NEXTWAVE flourish: a double-page spread crammed with kinetic panels of a spaceship dogfight and four big, bold statements. Oh, these two are in orbit.

I mean Kate Bishop and Kree kid Noh-Varr, but also Gillen and McKelvie, the creators of PHONOGRAM: RUE BRITANNIA and PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB in which music is magic, and magic is what we have here. The magic of teenage romance and, well, magic itself. New readers start here (and you can):

Half-Kree, half-Skrull Hulking and Wiccan, the son of the Scarlet Witch, are in love. Wiccan’s adoptive parents are letting them both lodge under their roof (if not quite in the same bed). For Wiccan that means keeping a low profile to avoid scaring the horses or at least alerting the neighbours. But Hulkling can’t help himself: helping others is part of who he is. He’s not ashamed of his heritage any more than he’s ashamed of his sexuality.

“I’m not going to spend the rest of my life in the phone booth. I’m not living a lie.”

It’s during this outburst that Hulking mentions his mother who’s dead, and how lucky Wiccan is to have two sets of parents. And Wiccan, or Billy, takes that to heart. He’s here to help others too, and if he can’t help his own boyfriend, then what even is the point? And you know I mentioned Billy was the son of the Scarlet Witch, she of the reality-altering powers…? In a panel which winkingly references another from PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB Billy starts scanning alternate realities to see if he can’t make things better.

Meanwhile magic attracts magic, and that’s where kid Loki comes in. From the word go in his first JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY volume, Kieron Gillen’s Loki has been fascinated by modern Midgard technology and social idiosyncrasies. It’s no surprise then, having spent thousands of years feasting in an opulent Asgardian refectory, that Loki now spends so much time in an urban diner, in this instance arranging sausages, fried eggs and baked beans into a scrying sigil.

“Time to pay for the food you’ve spread on the table, cosplay boy.”
“Please, sir. I’m the actual God of Mischief! Asgard variation! Haven’t you heard of me? My brother’s terribly famous. Big strapping blond fellow. Fond of his hammer.
“If you knew me even slightly, you’d know that I never pay for what I’ve done.”

No, this time someone may pay for what someone else is doing. Fortunately kid Loki is here on the side of the angels; unfortunately Miss America doesn’t believe him.

The first story arc is called ‘Style > Substance’ which, for those failing algebra, is an equation wherein Style Is Greater Than Substance. That’s just typical of Team Phonogram: oh so knowing and irrepressibly mischievous for there is plenty of substance and, boy, is it delivered with style! It is a beautiful and nimble thing to behold – a bit like Gillen’s dancing.

And dance this does. McKelvie’s art is bursting with energy without once risking accessibility and perfectly controlled for the quiet, tender moments where there is so much heart and humanity. Yes, there is canoodling!

It is a very modern superhero comic: just gawp at the cover! Rarely has Marvel attracted such design sense, let alone encouraged or endorsed it. The colours within and without are so fresh and fruity you can almost taste them. Seriously: black currant, lemon, strawberry, lime. It’s like a stained glass window arranged out of Opal Fruits made to make your mouth water.

Love all the tiny canine teeth.

SLH

Buy Young Avengers #1 by sashaying into the shop, singing down the telephone (0115 9508045) or tapping out a tune via page45@page45.com

Gaboon’s Daymare (£12-50, self-published) by Tobias Tak.

“It feels as if I’m stuck in some bad dream.”

Disorientating, fantastical trials, gauntlets and sundry abductions evoking nursery rhymes and fairy tales you never read.

Winsor McCay was already at the back of my mind when I stumbled on ‘Don’t Forget To Remember Not To Forget’, an ingeniously laid out loop and self-perpetuating Helter Skelter ride up and down and round about a gnarled old tree. It is the Tree of Forgetfulness into which witless wizard and alchemist Gaboon blithely steps in search of a way home. He emerges mind-wiped to follow the only option, clambering back up the branches to find what he lost: his memory. Now, if only he could refresh it…

Art Spiegelman, Joost Swarte, Peter Bagge and Robert Crumb each speak highly of the craft, and I can see exactly why Kim Deitch is attracted. He singles out Gaboon’s sultry companion, the vampish Miss Schlenzy who sets all in a frenzy with but a glance from her heavy-hooded eyes. She looks like Marlene Dietrich drawn by Dame Darcy.

The tinted pieces at least look a century old, and I missed those colours when they were gone.

Piff the Prancing Pixie had me scratching my head until I worked out what the five-legged beast was. However, my second-favourite quest follows gormless git and seeming life-long victim Mr. More-On on a disastrous day’s shopping which sees him used, abused, deceived and generally taken advantage of. He accommodates everyone, thanking them for their duplicity. Truly the man is lost.

I’d would be disingenuous of me not to add that some the of earlier art without the refined pen line is a lot less to my liking, but we’ve popped the first page I described up in the book’s shopping page where you can blow it up and marvel at its wit and majesty.

SLH

Buy Gaboon’s Daymare and read the Page 45 review here

New Softcovers of Hardcovers

Shortcomings s/c (£9-99, Faber & Faber) by Adrian Tomine.

Have you ever known a couple who are plain bad for each other? A couple who seem perfectly capable of being fun and friendly apart, but who really shouldn’t be together because one’s constantly winding the other up?

Ben and Miko are one such couple, except that Ben’s not so good at the fun bit. Fractious, judgemental, and constantly critical, Ben thinks he’s an iconoclast but he’s more of an inconsiderate snob. There’s no “off” button in his tirade of opinionated diatribes, the result of a boiling well of hang-ups and prejudices he ascribes to others, particularly when it comes to race and relationships, sex and sexuality. Ben, you see, is Asian-American and size in particular matters to him. Here’s Ben wishing he never mentioned it to his best friend, Alice:

“Can we talk about something else?”
“Come on. I’m curious.”
“Look… stereotypes don’t just materialize out of thin air, okay? Haven’t you ever heard that stupid joke? Uh… “What’s the difference between Asian and Caucasian men?”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“”The Cauc.”"
“Ew.”
“I actually heard a girl tell that joke in college! I was standing right there and she – ”
“Okay, okay… How small are we talking here? In inches.”

Alice is the perfect puncture to Ben’s obsessive neuroses. Armed with a quick, dry wit, she too is Asian-American but with a Korean heritage rather than a Japanese one, and has absolutely no qualms about or difficulties in successfully flirting with every girl in sight. She just gets on with it. Ben, on the other hand, can’t even talk to another girl without making presumptions about “types” or look at a mixed-race couple without analysing their hidden agendas in being together, as if love of one unique individual for another couldn’t possibly form the sole and simple equation. His girlfriend, Miko, isn’t immune to this either and, as an American Asian, feels personally affronted by his evident predilection for white girls. Their relationship’s in a downward spiral because they seem to care neither for nor about each other, and when Miko is offered an internship at the Asian-American Independent Film Institute for four months in New York, all Ben can think about is himself.

“Four months? Are you kidding me?”
“I know… but it’s an amazing opportunity.”
“Well, forget it.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It seems like an amazing opportunity because it’s in New York.”
“Yeah!”
“God… I hate the way everyone in The Bay area worships New York! Trust me: it’s highly over-rated.”
“Well…”
“Look… there’s no way I’m moving to New York for four months, okay?”
“I know. I wasn’t really asking you to.”

So it is that Miko moves, leaving Ben behind on the understanding that they’re taking “time off”. But when Alice visits Brooklyn to clear her head, she discovers something that Ben needs to see for himself…

Over the course of three chapters, Tomine delivers a perfectly observed exploration of young, complex and conflicted individuals in conversation as they try – or don’t try – to relate to each other and the world at large. The dialogue’s rhythm is as natural as its language, and the exchanges are as realistic as the inconsistencies they reveal.

The crisp art is stylish and tender, the thoughts behind the eyes and mouths subtly evoked by a sly line here or a deft one there. It’s such an attractive read not least because – I don’t know how many critics comment on this element of Tomine’s work – it’s actually very funny, and however harsh Miko and Ben can be to each other, Tomine’s never harsh to them. He’s always been a sympathetic observer of human nature, whatever its flaws and foibles, far less cynical than some of his peers.

My one regret about the softcover is that it has eradicated the funny and very telling joke hidden under the hardcover’s dust jacket. It involved Ben’s biggest hang-up, most physical shortcoming, and a ruler. Oh, you’ve all done, it guys!

SLH

Buy Shortcomings s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wonder Woman vol 1: Blood s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins.

“This storm, Hippolyta… Its fury – “
” – Is of a woman scorned.”

Yes, serial philanderer Zeus has been at it again, and this time he’s no longer around to sort out the fall-out. Instead he’s left a power vacuum and a very angry wife.

Although I’ve yet to read BATMAN VOL 1: COURT OF THE OWLS which Jonathan is so enamoured with (Snyder’s BATMAN: BLACK MIRROR was chilling), I hereby declare this by far the best of the DC New 52 relaunch that I have read. Completely accessible to those who’ve never read nor wanted to read a single Wonder Woman story in their lives, it plays instead on Greek mythology so, so well. Hera, Hermes, Hades, Zeus, Poseidon, Apollo – they’re all here, amongst others.

Being the Tom Waits of comics, Brian Azzarello is the last creator you’d expect to take on WONDER WOMAN but he’s thrown himself into it with gusto, and the word-play above and the finishing-off of each others’ sentences you may already recognise from his gritty crime masterpiece 100 BULLETS. It’s almost Shakespearian in its punnery.

“Why, if Zeus were here, he would break your bones.”
“He’s not, though, is he?”
“No, he isn’t. Gone into the ether, it seems. Heaven has left his throne wanting an ass to warm it. And though both of you certainly qualify in that regard, neither of you measure up to mine.”

Yes, there be bawdiness to boot. I told you it was Shakespearian.

“There is a price to laying down with my husband.”
“Which no one knows better than you, hmm? Where are they now?”
“That cockless coop, improperly named… Paradise Island.”

Paradise Island is the home of Hippolyta and her daughter Diana (AKA Wonder Woman), and all of the rest of the Amazons. Legend and DC lore has it that Diana was created from clay, willed into being by her mother Hippolyta. Everyone knows that, for there are no men allowed on Paradise Island, hence the “cockless coop”. But now a shameful secret is revealed that will turn everything on its head and allies against each other. With a mortal woman also visited by Zeus trapped in the middle, it’s all-out war. Yet stand-offs threatening even more violence occasionally disperse into moments of unexpected tenderness as the women console each other in their shared sense of violation and betrayal by men. One man in particular, for the titular “blood” is not one of gore but of lineage.

Neither Chiang nor Akins are artists of the testosterone-fuelled variety and thank gods for that. The photo-realists and sugar-buzz spectaculars have their place, but here they’d get in the way of what is essentially a humane tale of improvised camaraderie and a battle of wits. Instead this boasts some highly imaginative design work like Lord Hades, his head lit up as a massive candle, its wax dripping down to obscure his face and, perhaps, his intentions.

Jaw-dropping climax.

To be continued. Oh very yes: to be continued indeed!

SLH

Buy Wonder Woman vol 1: Blood s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman Incorporated s/c (£14-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham, Yanick Paquette, Michael Lacombe, Scott Clark, Cameron Stewart, Dave Beaty.

“You heard the rumour the Dark Knight has become a kind of God?”
”He’s only a man. Let him build his army. We are ready for war are we not?”
“The first 500 are in place. Each trained to imitate the actions of a virus. Infiltrate. Contaminate. Destroy.”

Following directly on from BATMAN & ROBIN VOL 3 at the end of which Bruce Wayne returns, summons his cohorts and declares war on crime financially, internationally and technologically, this substantial, oversized hardcover reprints the entire first series of BATMAN INCORPORATED including its climax, the LEVIATHAN STRIKES one-shot.

Grant has weaved an enormously dense and complex tale in this worldwide saga taking in Africa, Argentina, Australia, Paris and Japan. Old allies in the Batman family reaffirm their allegiance; others have their faith sorely tested; and new ones are recruited all around the globe. The plan is to be everywhere at once. But all the while Batman knows he’s not the only hunter, for the great beast called Leviathan, with its multitude of fiercely cunning killers, has its eyes set on world domination and settling one particularly personal score. Over and over again, it’s strike and counter strike on both sides as each army attempts to pre-empt the other.

It kicks off in seriously old-school fashion with giant robot rats and the first of so many increasingly ingenious death traps as Bruce hires Selina Kyle to slink alongside him and burgle a criminal mastermind. Then it’s on to Japan to find and train a new Batman but the man he’s set his sights on is dead, his hands and face melted away by nitro-hydrochloric acid by Lord Death Man, a sadist in a skeletal Halloween costume who seems one step ahead of everyone including the boy who escaped him earlier. Maybe Batman will have to settle for a Japanese Robin. You know, if Catwoman survives the giant, carnivorous octopus!

I love the way Grant threads each climax through with teasers for next issue. Thankfully they’re all still here. Never seen it done quite like that before and it works like a dream.

My favourite sequence, though, is the attack on the internet which is, let’s face it, the frontier so many criminals have now set their sights. Bruce Wayne’s scientists have developed Internet 3.0 a virtual version of most major business cities of the world in mind-boggling detail. He and his investors are admiring it from within. Suddenly they’re assaulted by malware, a zombie virus in the form of cadaverous avatars smashing through the virtual pane glass windows, armed to their skeletal hilts. But wait until you see Batman Incorporated’s anti-viral software!

“I’m scanning for a signature, but it’s polymorphic. And there should be a mutation engine somewhere to make all this work, but I haven’t found it yet. All I know is somebody brought the engine through my firewalls. Which means one of your investors is a Trojan Horse… and we need to test the system. But you knew that, didn’t you?”

It climaxes with two final chapters, the first following one of Batman’s many minions to girls’ school where it’s all a bit MORNING GLORIES, a control cult of mass indoctrination training and supplying spy girls to whoever can afford them – which is just where Leviathan wants them. Your master of secret ceremonies is a chip off the old block, but which tree he fell from I will leave you to discover yourselves. The second chapter takes no prisoners at all – well, except two Batmen and both Robins in the labyrinth of Doctor Dedalus – as Grant Morrison puts them and indeed you through the disorientating ringer with much misdirection before Bruce finally figures it all out. Uh oh! I promise you, when the true identity of Leviathan is finally revealed, it all makes perfect sense.

The book features a superb set of artists including Chris Burnham doing a fine impression of Frank Quitely, while Scott Clark with Dave Beatty on the virtual reality chapter will dazzle your eyeballs for daze. There are pages of preliminary sketches in the back along with a guide by Grant Morrison just in case you lost track of things the first time round and want to go back with hindsight and new set of clues.

“We take our memories for granted, never imagining the day must come when they, too, will walk out on us, one by one, like the lovers and friends we never truly appreciated until we are alone.”

Now there’s a frightening thought. I can already see my memories waving good-bye from here.

SLH

Buy Batman Incorporated s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.
 

Legend Of Zelda Hyrule Historia h/c (£25-99, Dark Horse) by various

Johnny Red vol 3: Angels Over Stalingrad (£14-99, Titan) by Tom Tully & Joe Colquhoun

The Freddie Stories h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lynda Barry

Father Gaetano’s Puppet Catechism (£14-99, St Martin’s Press) by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden

Snarked vol 3 (£10-99, Kaboom!) by Roger Langridge

Dear Beloved Stranger (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Dino Pai

Global Frequency (£14-99, Vertigo) by Warren Ellis & various

The Eye Of The World: The Graphic Novel vol 3 h/c (£18-99, Tor) by Chuck Dixon & Marcio, Francis Naught

Justice League vol 1: Origin s/c (£12-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Jim Lee

Justice League vol 2: The Villain’s Journey h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Jim Lee, Gene Ha, Carlos D’Anda

Batman: The Dark Knight – Golden Dawn s/c (£10-99, DC) by David Finch with Grant Morrison & David Finch with Jason Fabok

X-Men: Blank Generation s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Wood & David Lopez, Roland Boschi

Avengers Vs. X-Men: Consequences s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Tom Raney, Steve Kurth, Scot Eaton, Mark Brooks, Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Ultimate Comics: X-Men vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Paco Medina,Carlo Barberi

Naoki Urasawa’s 21st Century Boys vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Urusawa

07-Ghost vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Yuki Amemiya & Yukino Ichihara

Sailor Moon vol 9 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Naoko Takeuchi

Loveless 2-in-1 Edition vols 3 & 4 (£9-99, Viz) by Yun Kouga

Loveless vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Yun Kouga

Negima! Omnibus 1: vols 1-3 (£14-99, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

 
Fascinating local film footage from 1902: Nottingham city centre with wrought iron gas lamps, old-school trams, and everyone wearing hats and moustaches. IT WAS THE LAW.

New Luke Pearson comic which you may not want to be reading at work.

And finally Page 45’s new window and prize competition. Multiple prizes of various sizes, and entry is totally free!

- Stephen

Page 45 Window 2013 & Competition Time!

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Winners Announced!

Comic Artists In Our Window Revealed!

Please See Bottom Of The Blog!

Ooooooh!

Would you look at our spanking new window!

This is the new-look Page 45: a complete overhaul designed by Jonathan and put into practise by J-Lo himself and our very own Dominique Kidd.

  

Philippa Rice’s three-month installation – the first time we have ever allowed someone else inside out window – was a startling sorbet which attracted squeals of public delight.

But this has been fermenting in Jonathan’s noggin for well over two years: a simple, stunning template, rich in information, that can be adapted month after month and yes, believe it or not, for the first time ever it features physical copies of real graphic novels.

Why? Also: What Took You So Long?

Things have changed. In the Page 45 interviews we gave during our first fifteen years I emphasised that our windows featured not comics themselves but three-dimensional constructs inspired by them, in order to lure in an unsuspecting public.

But, in the UK, comics have since transcended the stigmatic preconceptions formerly attached to them due to sager broadsheet coverage, the Guardian First Book Award, the British Comic Awards, the Costa Book Award, and the tireless efforts of the more discerning comicbook retailers. Also the quality and diversity of the graphic novels themselves: we owe it all to the comicbook creators.

The shift in perception in Nottingham is such that year Page 45 won the first ever British Independent Retailer Award as judged by the captains of local industry. If those suited and booted approve, then we have arrived!

(No, I didn’t need their approval, either, but it’s lovely to have it.)

A Little Competition Is Healthy!

In fact, it’s downright exciting, so here is our new prize competition. I want to see everyone peering manically into our window, even if you smear it a little. You could wear gloves.

1. Name five of the artists featured on Dominique’s two monoliths and three winners drawn out of the hat will receive £5 Page 45 Gift Vouchers (physical) or £5 Page 45 Gift Vouchers (virtual)!

2. Name ten of the artists featured on Dominique’s two monoliths and two winners will receive £10 Page 45 Gift Vouchers (physical) or £10 Page 45 Gift Vouchers (virtual) !

3. Name twenty of the artists featured on Dominique’s two monoliths and one ridiculously well informed winner will receive a £20 Page 45 Gift Voucher (physical) or a £20 Page 45 Gift Voucher (virtual)!

It will be your choice which vouchers you receive: physical or for online shopping. I didn’t even know we did 50 quid online gift vouchers until typing this blog tonight!

Competition Rules

Rules are rubbish andI break so many on principle. However.

Entry is free! Which is neat.

Entries must be sent in via email (page45@page45.com) or handed in on the shop floor. You can grab pen and paper from behind the counter, but remember to pop some contact info on those, please! Also: do not send entries in via Twitter, although please do retweet! We need physical copies or those we can print out, pop in that hat and contact you later. Simples! *shoots self in head*

This Bit’s Exciting!

All entries for the twenty artists will be drawn first. Those that don’t make it will also be included in the draw for the ten artists. Those that don’t make it for the twenty artists or ten artists will also be included for the five artists. It’s only fair! But even if you can only name five artists, you still stand a chance. Three chances!

And there’s no reason you can’t do a little sneaky research inside, heh heh.

All entries will be pulled out of a hat by former Page 45 window wonder Philippa Rice herself, so there is no sort of bias. (We haven’t told her that yet.)

Deadline: February 28th 2013.

Have Some More Pictures

Dominique and I popped the window up on Friday night and we shot some slightly blurry snaps then. Still, it glows beautifully although it looks infinitely snazzier in realy life.

I think Jonathan deserves a round of applause. It’s radically different but ever so Page 45.

- Stephen

             

The Artists Above And Below!

As far as Dominique can recall and we can discern, these are her monolith’s featured sources and artists: 

Fluffy – Simone Lia
Phonogram -  Jamie McKelvie
Beanworld – Larry Marder
Rachel Rising  – Terry Moore
Scott Pilgrim – Brian Lee OMalley
Wasteland – Carla Speed McNeil
Wasteland – Christopher Mitten
Everything Is Its Own Reward – Paul Madonna
Blankets – Craig Thompson
GNBCC – Seth
A Distant Neighbourhood – Jiro Tanaguchi
Fun Home – Alison Bechdel
Vagabond  – Takehiko Inoue
Kabuki -  David Mack
Milk and Cheese  – Evan Dorkin
DMZ – Brian Wood (he is an artist, yes)
Cerebus – Dave Sim & Gerhard
Uzumaki -  Junji Ito
Acme Novelty Library – Chris Ware
Krazy Kat & Ignatz  – Herriman
Peanuts – Charles Schultz 

The Winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered! Almost everyone who entered correctly identified Bryan Lee O’Malley, Simone Lia, Dave Sim and Craig Thompson. In lieu of a hat (we appear to have no hats), MY CARDBOARD LIFE’s Philippa Rice drew the winners out of an opaque paper bag while independent adjudicator, EVERYTHING WE MISS’s Luke Pearson, looked solemnly on. 

£20 Page 45 Gift Voucher goes to Chris Powell
£10 Page 45 Gift Voucher goes to Leigh Hobson
£10 Page 45 Gift Voucher goes to Dan Pawley
£5 Page 45 Gift Voucher goes to Brian Manton
£5 Page 45 Gift Voucher goes to Duncan Wilson
£5 Page 45 Gift Voucher goes to Lee Glanville 

We have your email addresses and will be contacting you shortly, cheers! 

 - Stephen

Reviews January 2013 week four

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

I entered with an arched eyebrow, and left with a lump in my throat. Which, under other circumstances, might form the basis of a lacerating restaurant review. But no, the sceptic in me has been vanquished.

- Stephen on The Heart Of Thomas

The One Trick Rip-Off + Deep Cuts h/c (£22-50, Image) by Paul Pope…

“Some girls are troublesome. Some girls are just plain trouble. And some girls are… SUPER TROUBLE.”

Back in the day, no visit to Page 45 from yours truly would be complete without a plaintive query to whichever delightful denizen was behind the counter as to whether Paul Pope had released any more THB. In the end Mark just used to chuckle whilst stroking his beard rather than proffering a rejoinder, while Stephen merely arched an eyebrow temporarily dislodging another ceiling tile. And now, in turn, I also find myself just gently shaking my head with the most faintly wry of grins present on my mug, whenever someone enquires the same of me.

Pope, more than possibly any other creator for me, is the one who I simply wish was more prolific. There is absolutely nothing he has done which I have not delightedly devoured from SIN TITULO, THE BALLARD OF DR. RICHARDSON, ESCAPO, HEAVY LIQUID, 100% to BATMAN YEAR 100 and of course dear old THB. And yet, when you look at the sum total of his output over the years, given just how long he has been on the scene since the very early nineties, it begs the question, why has he not done more? It’s a delight then to pour over this veritable cornucopia of relatively early material from 1995-2001. Yes, certain parts of it have turned up elsewhere, or been reworked into other finished forms, but it’s a real treasure trove for Pope-heads. For those not familiar with his work, it also forms a perfect primer. I defy anyone to read this and not be amazed and astonished at the artistic talent and truly unique style he possesses. Not just that, he is a genuine wordsmith too, often laconic, frequently playful, always engaging. He has a real knack for pithy, punchy dialogue that combines with his beautiful visuals to produce something spectacular.

The publisher writes:

“Young lovers Tubby and Vim want to escape – escape the mistakes they’ve made, the lives they’ve lived, and the dirty city weighing them down. Their plan is simple: all they have to do is rip-off Tubby’s pals, the One Tricks – the toughest street gang in LA. If they pull it off, they’re set for life. If not, their lives won’t matter much anyway. What was going to be a smooth, straight-forward heist becomes a fast-paced battle to the death.”

Need I say more? I don’t think so, honestly; for me the man is a genius, and, joy and bliss, apparently there is a new full-length epic entitled BATTLING BOY due out October 2013. So… bated breath, yes, but holding breath, no. This is Paul Pope after all. Fingers crossed though. And, if there is just one comics wish I would  like fulfilled, it is that he continues and completes THB. If I seriously thought I could get 24,999 other signatures to petition the White House to make it a Presidential edict I would do it. Come on Paul, you know it makes sense!

JR

Buy The One Trick Rip-Off + Deep Cuts h/c and read the Page 45 review here

King-Cat Comics & Stories #73 (£2-99) by John Porcellino.

Our beardy beloved Mark’s favourite comics, KING-CAT minis are quiet and gentle, lovingly hand-crafted, with a proudly preserved zine aesthetic. Any letters are transcribed by hand, and this issue boasts a lino-cut cover.

Each experience is completely self-contained. You never know what John will muse about next, but it is guaranteed to be personal and thoughtful and give you much to consider yourself.

This time, for example, I was left wondering when I last saw an usher or usherette outside a cinema-screen’s doors, tearing your ticket on entry. Can you now stroll in to the soulless multiplexes, buy a ticket for one film and watch another instead? Buy a ticket for one film and then see two? Buy no tickets at all and watch whatever you like?

I found myself transported back to a time to when you had to queue outside cinemas whose ticket offices were always at the entrance. Oh, the lines could be long, but excitement levels rose to almost unbearable pulse rates of anticipation as you nudged closer to booth’s glass window and the warm glow of the Odeon’s foyer beyond. “Going to the pictures!” – do they even say that any longer?

Also this issue: a chance sighting of a mysterious bird sends the amateur ornithologist in John in search of the cuckoo which has always eluded him. It also sends him unexpectedly to the opticians. Amused to see that Porcellino frets about looking suspicious to the landowners when encroaching on their land for a closer inspection. I would too!

Then a dream is recalled with a clarity and precision I envy, evidencing preoccupations I can also relate to… apart from being a monk… and as usual we are treated to John’s Top 40. This is no mere pop pick, however, but a celebration of all he has read, seen, listened to, chewed or chewed over since last you looked in.

God bless you, John Porcellino. Truly you’re one of comics’ great treasures and pleasures.

SLH

Buy King-Cat Comics & Stories #73 and read the Page 45 review here

The Heart Of Thomas h/c (£29-99, Fantagraphics) by Moto Hagio.

I entered with an arched eyebrow, and left with a lump in my throat. Which, under other circumstances, might form the basis of a lacerating restaurant review. But no, the sceptic in me has been vanquished.

This is an astonishingly accurate portrait of young, unrequited love which ticked so many recognition boxes for me, albeit at a slightly older age and evidenced in different combinations of those around me. Nor is it a single, simple relationship but a complicated cat’s cradle of loudly declared intentions, tentatively voiced affections, barely comprehended yearnings and closely guarded secrets, all of which, by the time this kicks off, have already lead to misunderstanding and tragedy.

It begins, you see, with a suicide.

A young boy called Thomas, his boarding school affections rejected as publicly as you could imagine, throws himself off a bridge. He leaves behind him two notes: one hidden in a book, the other addressed directly to prefect he doted on:

“To Juli, one last time.
“This is my love.
“This is the sound of my heart. Surely you must understand.”

Can you imagine? Can you imagine the weight of being left a legacy like that? The burden of guilt than comes with a letter directed specifically at yourself as the reason for suicide? That Moto Hagio successfully manages to explore that weight with rounded consideration is astonishing.

Additionally, the circumstances were far more involved than most of the protagonists realise. The affections when voiced were misconstrued by almost all as but part of a mischievous bet instigated by another lad, Ante, to see which of them could seduce Juli first. Ante had his own agenda which, if not exactly innocent, was at least motivated not by malevolence but by a crush elsewhere, while Thomas was perfectly sincere in his adoration.

As for Juli, who has now retreated into a shell of quiet yet obdurate propriety, his reasons for rejecting Thomas were far more complicated that a simple lack of reciprocation. To understand Juli, you must wait to understand his mother, his grandmother, the blood of his errant father, and the scars on his back which to him represent the mutilation of wings. Whatever they represent, they are the concrete evidence of predatory abuse. As is the cigarette burn he hides just below his throat. He was damaged goods long before Thomas’ declaration, let alone his jump.

Into this suffocatingly obsessive, drowning mix of privately guarded grief and guilt – as well as the chattery gossip of a communal boys’ boarding school – comes junior transfer student Erich. Erich has never been to any school, let alone boarding school, and all he wants is to return to the arms of his mother who is now casting her eyes towards suitors. Erich is terrified of being abandoned back home, while at school he is bewildered by the boys’ boisterous banter, the more lascivious machinations of the slightly older lechers, and the overt hostility of Juli whom others regard as a saint. Too bad, then, that Erich is the spitting image of young, dead Thomas, his mere presence constantly dredging up emotional detritus that would be better off buried, and too bad that he too becomes infatuated with Juli.

As for Oskar, Juli’s dashing but level-headed best friend and peer, throughout the entire book he demonstrates the most extraordinary and affecting degree of self-control and self-sacrifice. The headmaster’s ward, Oskar has been assigned as Juli’s room-mate to watch over him in the wake of assault. While everyone else it oblivious, it is Oskar who knows Juli’s secrets, so considers himself closer and, yes, he too is in love. But first he lost Juli to Thomas (oh, but he did), then to the memory of Thomas (and you cannot compete with a memory) and now to young Erich. “Am I not good enough?” he wonders to himself. In his weaker moments he does feel slightly proprietorial but he never once acts on those instincts or its attendant jealousy: everything he does is to facilitate Juli’s happiness often at his own expense. He’s possibly the only person in the book who doesn’t declare his hand or self-interest.

And that’s where this graphic novel most resoundingly parts company both with my own experience and, surely, reality itself: everyone at the school seems gay! And out! And gossiping about it. Which is a healthy kind of message to send to young people but, as one customer researching queer content in comics remarked, “What did they put in the water?!”

What’s also healthy – and perhaps I should have emphasised this earlier – is that none of this has anything to do with sex. Some of the cast are way too young to have even considered sex in their lives; instead the various degrees of affection ranging from young love to mere infatuation (always difficult to tell at the time, don’t you think?), all of this reaching out is a response to feeling lonely. It’s a desire to share: experiences, confidences, and, well, time together. And the word they all use is “like”.

Here Erich tentatively reaches out to Juli as Juli takes him on a tour of dormitory inspection, and Juli… evades, battens down the hatches, and then comes out with something quite profound:

“Have you ever had anyone tell you he likes you?”
“Your question has nothing to do with inspection. Now we turn off the main switch and we’re done.”
“Juli… what would you do if someone really liked you?”
“Nothing.”
“I mean really! Enough to die!”
“If he wants to die, that’s his business. What about you? If someone loves you, do you have to love him back?”
“Well… no, but…”
“Exactly. If it was someone I hated, I wouldn’t have any obligation to requite it, would I?”
“…”
“…”
“How about me? Do you hate me?”
“… No.”
“Well… do you like me? Even a little?”

Does he? Or has it all proved too much?

Coming in at 500 pages, there’s a lot to be digested in this revolutionary manga from 1972 – far more than I can go into during these attention-span-sapping few paragraphs. But it’s worth noting why I was so sceptical in case you’re experiencing those same minor aversions.

It’s billed as a boys’ romance whose manifestation in the hot-boy-on-boy-action sub-genre usually has me rummaging around in my booze-addled brain for as many puns as I can in one long, light-hearted mock-athalon. So fucked up are its preening protagonists that they don’t give ‘gay’ a good name.

It also looked fey and I don’t do fey. I’m positively allergic to pink, and the art initially struck me as so flowery that I shuddered. It reminded me rather queasily of Death In Venice, complete with antiquated costume, overly luscious locks and even more kiss curls. There’s an early scene in a dining room full of school boys talking around and about our main protagonist while he, young Juli, stares off into the distance, a galaxy of stars sparkling in his eyes as if he’s in secret and silent communication with the entire cast of My Little Pony.

But it wasn’t long before I realised that this prettiness also contributed to the purity of the piece, helping to render it sexless. Most of the main cast look too ethereal to be capable of anything more corporeal than a kiss.

So yes, my bad.

Also, I do recall now that I reviewed Moto Hagio’s A DRUNKEN DREAM AND OTHER STORIES and found that quite brilliant too.

SLH

Buy The Heart Of Thomas h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Danza (£9-99, Kodansha) by Natsume Ono…

Six delightful vignettes from the author of RISTORANTE PARADISO which all revolve around family and friendship. It would be fair to say relationships are a common central theme throughout pretty much all of Ono’s work, and whilst I have found much of her output endearing and subtly enchanting (and in the case of NOT SIMPLE, simply compellingly shockingly distressing), there has also been the very occasional miss where I didn’t feel a sense of engagement with the stories or characters.

I think it is quite possible, however, that may have simply have been due to when I read the works in question. In any event, I found all of the six shorts in this particular work perfectly formed snapshots in the lives of the various protagonists, each capturing a few brief scenes of touching sentiment plus the odd bit of gentle strife, and I do think each short could quite easily have been expanded to form a self-contained longer-form work, which hopefully gives you an idea of my regard for them.

Just to mention, if you have read much of her work, you will note she has a particular affinity for Italy, with stories often being set there, or characters having a connection to the country. I have absolutely no idea why this is, other than to say that yet again that is the case in this particular work, with some shorts featuring vineyards, carabinieri and gelati. Though we also do have a time traveller too! In addition the title translates from Italian as ‘dance’. It is a very appropriate title, actually, given the polite movements and turns various family members perform around each other to avoid, or occasionally deliberate choosing to, tread on each other’s emotional toes. Very much like real life then!

In terms of an ongoing series, I really must mention for those of you not reading it that we do have her genial comedy of manners THE HOUSE OF FIVE LEAVES, featuring the not-so-dastardly gang of Edo-period kidnappers and their slightly calamitous newest member who is probably the least likely Yojimbo ever! I note she is also about to begin another Edo-period series on the generally excellent Viz Ikki imprint, though I have no further information about it.

JR

Buy Danza and read the Page 45 review here

The Way We Write (£5-00) by Rachael Smith…

I’m not sure what the connection between Rachael Smith and Her Name Is Calla actually is, but given both hail from Leicester I suspect there probably is one. I must confess I’m not familiar with their music, but being a big fan of easy-going talented tinkle poppers like The Boy Least Likely To, I will certainly give them a go. So, if nothing else, Rachael’s amusing intro to the likeable three-piece might end up winning them at least one new fan!

You can see that Rachael is a talented illustrator. I immediately thought of John Allison’s early SCARY GO ROUND material, both in terms of the art and the zany storyline (also HECTOR UMBRA actually on that latter point), and I happen to know she is a fan of John’s simply because I asked her. But her style is definitely her own with some distinctive flourishes that add a lovely swooshy touch to proceedings. This, then, is a phantasmagorical affair as our urbane trio head to remote Oswy House  for a weekend writing and jamming session, but some ghostly choirboys are damned if they’re going to let the band get anything done!

I think it would be fair to say we’re going to see a lot more in the future from Rachael as her story-telling and art develops further, in much the way in we’ve seen John Allison progress from the very early non-published purely web-comic Scary Go Round material through to Murder She Writes and THAT, and Luke Pearson progress from SOME PEOPLE to the HILDA books, I certainly think she has that potential ability. For a debut work this is indeed really excellent and I have popped some interior art up of the first few pages for you to see for yourselves. Next up for Rachael, the inevitably tricky second album… err… I mean comic. I look forward to seeing it.

P.S. Anyone spot my hidden album and band reference? I did misspell the album title ever so slightly to make it work, and I will give you the clue the album was released in 1985. A free copy of THE WAY WE WRITE to the first, and probably only, person to tweet Stephen with the answer!

JR

Buy The Way We Write and read the Page 45 review here

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

There’s a lot going on in this story; we start out on the eve of an historic announcement as Arcadia Alvarado, governor of New Mexico is about to declare her intention to run for the presidency of the United States of America. Were she to win it would be the double whammy of first female president and first Hispanic president. So quite a big deal then.

So, when she and her “I still love you but we’re just no good for each other” ex go for a drive out in the middle of the New Mexico desert and awake with vague memories of bright lights and bobble-headed grey creatures a number of problems present themselves. Firstly, UFO believer is not a good look for a Presidential candidate so there is no way any of this can get out. Secondly, the memories are fragmented, inaccessible; it’s impossible to know what really happened. Thirdly, something the aliens said makes it impossible for Arcadia to ignore the whole incident, much as she might like to.

“You are us. You belong to us. Soon you will all know that.”

That right there is what the Americans refer to as a Clear and Present Danger and Arcadia isn’t about to let it slide. In fact it has made her more determined than ever to win the Presidential race so that she can use her position to defend the U.S.A from the alien threat. Oooookay.

If the X-Files taught us anything it’s that wherever there are flying saucers there are conspiracies, shadowy agencies, half-truths and lies hidden in plain sight. And so we have in this book government agencies, academic groups, aerospace engineers and plain old conspiracy nuts with various takes on the situation. There’s even a Harvard scientist who is being visited by the couple engraved on the Voyager space probe. (They, apparently, are helping him out with knowledge obtained at the outer rim of our solar system. Or possibly he’s just mental.)

What the Cornell has done well is blend all these (sometimes hackneyed) elements together, turning some of them on their head so that we end up with an interesting set of conspiracies-within-conspiracies which should give the story legs.

On the other hand the pacing lets this first volume down somewhat; we go from roadside mystery to full on race-to-the-Whitehouse-to-stop-the-aliens so quickly that it feels like all set-up with no time to breath. The parts of the story which touch on more “real-worldy” issues feel a bit clunky too. The “I’m an illegal alien, we’re all aliens in this land” stuff sits a bit awkwardly and the alien probing as rape theme, while being a pretty pertinent point, is hammered without much subtlety. Nevertheless, if you love a conspiracy and a bit of political shenanigans you will probably get a kick out of Saucer Country, especially as in the later volumes we will (presumably?) get to see The Whitehouse vs The Aliens.

DK

Buy Saucer Country Vol 1: Run and read the Page 45 review here

Reset h/c (£11-99, Dark Horse) by Peter Bagge.

Mining a similar vein to Taniguchi’s A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD (two volumes) and Alex Robinson’s TOO COOL TO BE FORGOTTEN, but in his own inimitable car-crash comedy style, HATE’s Peter Bagge returns to the realms of virtual reality. First there was the identity crisis of OTHER LIVES, now it’s the eternal question about whether – given the opportunity to relive major moments – you’d change any decisions you made in your life: things you did, things that you said, things you can never take back. Now you can, or at least washed-up actor/comedian Guy Krause can, after he signs up as a guinea pig for a virtual reality experiment wherein he walks around in his own history and engages with those he once knew. But is he only going to make matters worse? I don’t know! He keeps pushing the reset button!

Suspicious and cynical, however many times Guy Krause walks out, he keeps coming back: convicted of road rage, he’s been off the stage for too long. He’s broke, he needs money and the experiment’s backers know that, so when he does try to secure a spotlight again, however minor, the rug’s mysteriously pulled from under him right at the very last minute.

Meanwhile lead scientist Angie Minor has done extensive research into Guy Krause’s history, gleaning all manner of intimate details based on Guy’s stand-up routine, extensive media coverage and interviews –  that’s what makes him the perfect candidate – but she’s even dug out the relevant college yearbooks. And that’s where the opportunities for exploration begin: on Graduation Day when Gail Malone, a girl Guy had admired from afar, said the first and last word she will ever say to him: “Spaz.” It’s a moment that’s sure left its scars. Will Guy ever find out why she said it, and if so, how can that be possible in a pre-programmed virtual reality?

This… didn’t quite go where I was hoping it would. OTHER LIVES really ran with its premise, exploring all kinds of temptations to deceive online, each with its own ramification offline. And certainly this throws up all sorts of questions about what celebrities are increasingly prepared to do in order to maintain or rekindle their profiles and fortunes. Also: how much unfinished business a lot of people carry with them, cluttering up their lives, and how many lies may be told about you once you’ve left a particular circle of friends, safe in the knowledge you’ll never hear what is said. Sorry if I’ve induced a little paranoia there!

But this doesn’t dig deep enough nor unearth any great surprises, while the ‘game’ itself goes nowhere. As to the sub-plot behind it, well, there is an alternate use the system’s been tested for which is topical and could actually work, but I’ve had to imagine those circumstances myself: there’s nothing to convince you of it here.

SLH

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

Captain America vol 4 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker, Cullen Bunn & Scot Eaton, Steve Epting.

“I was meant to be the first of a whole line of super-soldiers. Even when I was taking that formula, I never imagined I’d be the one out in front. I hadn’t wanted to wear the flag and carry that burden…
“I just wanted to do the right thing.”

I don’t know that I’ve seen that emphasised before: the fact that leadership was never what Steve Rogers craved, or expected, or thought he had any natural affinity for. He was supposed to be one of an army, not a one-man army leading the charge.

This is the closing chapter of Ed Brubaker’s epic eight-year stint on CAPTAIN AMERICA which transformed an often awkward and gaudy title into a crisp, low-lit espionage thriller thanks in no small part to the likes of Steve Epting. It’s also the finale to the four-part second series begun in CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL 1 as Madame Hydra and Baron Zemo attempt to conquer through stealth by undermining Steve Rogers’ self-confidence. Here they go for the nation’s confidence in him too, using the corporate medium of television, and it almost works: the baying mobs are completely out of control.

It’s neither as tight nor as clever as what’s led up to this, but then it’s not solo Brubaker and it does at least conclude with some considered thoughts on what the poisonous campaign has ended up inadvertently exposing. What is solo Brubaker and infinitely more satisfying is the very final issue in which Steve Rogers sits by a hospital bedside, thinks back over the earliest years and assesses the role of Captain America as an enduring inspiration to others, and his own checkered history as the man behind the mask. The original series’ first and finest artist Steve Epting returns for that quiet and contemplative celebration, after which Ed says good-bye in a final message to his readers, finishes off WINTER SOLDIER and moves on to FATALE instead. We earnestly recommend you follow.

SLH

Buy Captain America vol 4 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.
Gaboon’s Daymare (£12-50) by Tobias Tak

Shortcomings s/c (£9-99, Faber & Faber) by Adrian Tomine

Deva Zan: The Chosen Path h/c (£37-99, Dark Horse) by Yoshitaka Amano

Judge Anderson: The Psi Files vol 3 (£19-99, Rebellion) by Alan Grant, Peter Milligan, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Arthur Ranson, others

The Books Of Magic: The Deluxe Edition h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess, Paul Johnson

Gambit Classic vol 2 s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Howard Mackie, Terry Kavanagh & Mike Wieringo, Klaus Janson

Wolverine And The X-Men: Alpha & Omega s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Wood & Mark Brooks, Roland Boschi

Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman, Sam Humphries & Esad Ribic, Luke Ross

Secret Avengers vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Patch Zircher, Gabriel Hardman

Marvel Masterworks: Doctor Strange vol 2 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee, Dennis O’ Neill, Roy Thomas & Steve Ditko, Bill Everett, Marie Severin

Wolverine: Sabretooth Reborn h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jeph Loeb & Simone Bianchi

The Flowers Of Evil vol 4 (£8-50, Vertical) by Shuzo Oshimi
Did you think the reviews this week were rubbish? They could be worse! Here’s Roger Langridge’s Fred The Clown inimitable style of critical cogitation. (See final strip below.) Genius!

Here’s a webcomic you fantasy lovers may swoon over: NIEBLA as recommended by Scott McCloud. Some fine atmospherics.

- Stephen

Reviews January 2013 week three

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

They earn nothing, they own nothing, they spend nothing. Corporate American has no use for them and so, by extension, neither does the United States of America. Their lives are as shattered as the Native American tribes who were thrown off the land in the first place in the name of jobs and prosperity.

Each location we move to tells a similar story: legal slavery replaced with wage slavery, low paid workers replaced with even lower paid workers, few jobs turning into no jobs. What is “finally being done to us” becomes clear as we explore the concept of the “race to the bottom”; drive wages down, drive profits up; riches for a few, austerity for the rest of us.

 - Dominique on Days Of Destruction, Days Of Revolt.

 

Delphine h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Richard Sala.

“I tried to do it. I tried to seem confident – even when I wasn’t. I wanted so much for us to be together.”

Doomed! Doomed, I tell you!

At first glance this looks like something a little different from Mr. Sala. It must be the lush, sepia washes softening the lines. Oh, wait, I missed the blood-splattered endsheets. As you were, then!

A young, comfortably dressed man with a small mouth and a ski-slope nose arrives in a remote, contemporary township in search of a girl from college who returned home (she said) to look after an ailing father (she said). She hasn’t been heard from since.

Armed only with an address and the faint hope of a vaguely suggested future, our nameless naïf tries to present a cheerful countenance even after the population starts looking a little ‘local’: a silhouette on a rooftop, strange processions and a man selling apples under an awning. They don’t look very fresh, and neither does he. In fact, he looks rather ripe. Undaunted (no, he is daunted – still, brave face, eh?), he finally finds a wig shop which is when he mentions Delphine by name.

And the dog goes fucking mental.

After that our luckless victim is given one big run-around by the crone behind the counter, the nephew she sends to divert him, the mother they pick up and then another grubby old geezer who, following an enigmatic funeral during which he is effectively silenced, drives him even further into the wilderness and round the bend to be beaten up by old biddies. That’s just the first couple of hours of what will prove the longest day and night of that young man’s life with the most unnerving hospitality in the world. The terrible thing is, you just know the increasingly desperate and freaked out suitor found the right address immediately, and has been led further and further from his goal ever since.

Truly this is the stuff of nightmares: a frantic evocation of being lost, misled and out of your depth in surroundings which barely make sense – except when they do after which you dearly wish that they hadn’t. It’s also a great big clip round the ear to anyone who still fails to follow the old BBC information broadcasts which warned you never to accept sweets from strangers, lifts in their cars, or bedroom and board from aging vamps with potentially infectious skin diseases.

“This is hell. I’m in hell.”

Yup.

SLH

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

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt h/c (£18-99, Nation Books) by Chris Hedges & Joe Sacco -

“What was done to Native Americans was a template. It would be done to people in the Philippines, Cuba, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and is now finally being done to us.”

That’s right, us. As in you and I. Being of Anglo-Saxon origin isn’t going to save us, it just allowed us a few more years grace. And although this book deals exclusively with American problems pretty much everything has a parallel in the UK. Cheery thought, eh?! So that’s the kind of book you are getting here. Not an investigation or a proposal, rather an explanation of exactly where we are and how we got here, brought to life by interviews with those who have been most affected.

Is it really that bad, though? Are we really doomed to be the helpless, hapless worker bees slaving to enrich the 1%? Surely our Governments won’t let that happen? They work for us and they have the ultimate power, yes? A snippet from a 2011 Silicone Valley dinner conversation suggests otherwise.

President Obama asks Steve Jobs, “What would it take to make iPhones in the United States [instead of outsourcing the jobs abroad, as they do now]?” Steve Jobs replies, “Those jobs aren’t coming back”.

That’s the sound of the Leader of the Free World, the man with his hand on the Big Red Button, being shot down by a guy whose company makes gadgets. The United States of America offers to do whatever it takes to bring jobs to its citizens and the corporations reply “Ummm, don’t call us, we’ll call you”. Fun Fact: that same year, Apple Inc. made a $400,000 dollar profit per employee. So it’s not that they can’t afford to make stuff in the U.S.A. They just would rather not, and keep the money.

The books works forward chronologically, detailing the effects of Capitalism (i.e. the valuing of money over everything and anything else, including human life) since the creation of the United States of America. From the endless broken treaties with the Native Americans we move to the mountain tops of West Virginia where White American folk live amongst the dust and ruins of the endless blasting for coal. There used to be jobs (albeit hard and dangerous jobs) mining the coal from under the ground but even those opportunities are gone now as the mining giants simply blow the tops off the mountains, sift out the coal and leave absolute devastation in their wake. It’s more efficient, meaning it requires far fewer workers. The people of the region are therefore surplus to requirements. They earn nothing, they own nothing, they spend nothing. Corporate American has no use for them and so, by extension, neither does the United States of America. Their lives are as shattered as the Native American tribes who were thrown off the land in the first place in the name of jobs and prosperity. Each location we move to tells a similar story: legal slavery replaced with wage slavery, low paid workers replaced with even lower paid workers, few jobs turning into no jobs. What is “finally being done to us” becomes clear as we explore the concept of the “race to the bottom”; drive wages down, drive profits up; riches for a few, austerity for the rest of us.

The system described above is, of course, unsustainable. No wages means no money means no spending means no profits. Doesn’t matter how cheap you make an iPhone, if no one has a dollar to their name no one is going to buy one. But while they are still able to make a profit it seems no one cares about the long-term effects. And as long as we have children to feed and bills to pay we certainly aren’t going to rock the ever-more-unstable boat, are we? And so we have the “Destruction” part of the title; it is this theme which makes up the bulk of the book and where Joe Sacco’s talent for bringing people’s stories to life is used. Every so often the polemic gives way to a personal experience, narrated by a local and drawn by Sacco. An old-school Virginia woodsman turned activist, an ex-gangster Native American, a white-trash drug addict; each story giving personal context to the sweeping arcs of doom. Truthfully, there is too little Sacco; I would love it if, in future, he did a full book of all the conversations and interviews touched upon here. They give meaning and substance to the problems created by unchecked corporate greed. We end up thinking not just about grand ideals and political movements but about people’s crappy lives and how much better they could and should be if only we would do things differently.

And this is where the “Revolt” part of the title comes in, mostly in the form of the Occupy protests which swept through the US and Europe in the wake of the epic financial fail-fest we now find ourselves suffering through. It’s an interesting if depressingly short section which covers a few notable upheavals in history and explores the sort of things we might expect to see in the near future. The general theme is that the system is broken and it’s time to make a new one. Given how things are going at the moment it’s a pretty persuasive argument.

If you like stuff like NO LOGO or follow the Occupy movement with interest you may want to check out this book. It’s also possibly one for the Sacco fans but do be warned that this is mostly prose, with some illustrations and strips by Joe Sacco: his contributions make up a fairly small portion of the page count.

DK

Buy Days Of Destruction, Days Of Revolt h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Iron, Or The War After h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by S.M. Vidaurri…

Gripping, slow-burning espionage thriller clothed in delightfully wan and moodily atmospheric watercolours. (I have in fact popped some interior art up there so you can see for yourself). The rabbit Hardin has stolen some vital information from the victors of a civil war. He’s part of the Resistance that haven’t given up battling the Regime, though others’ loyalties, on both sides, are less clear cut. There’s a plan afoot to do something spectacular, to prove to the masses the good fight is still worth fighting, but will the Resistance get the chance to bring their plot to fruition, or will the intelligence agents of the Regime, combined with the incompetence of some of Resistance members, manage to foil their scheme? And when the dust settles who will be regarded as a hero, and who as a traitor?

A truly beautifully illustrated work, also poignantly penned by S.M. Vidaurri, which neatly showcases his burgeoning talents in both areas. He’s clearly a talented chap, and I’ve no doubt we will be seeing much more from him in the future. Storywise, this has much in common tone-wise with DUNCAN THE WONDER DOG, though that is a much more complex work. If he plans to stick with anthropomorphics, though, he’s someone we could be talking about in the future in the same breath as Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido, the creators of BLACKSAD, but I’ve no doubt whatever he turns his hand to next is going to be visually spectacular.

JR

Buy Iron, Or The War After h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Castle Waiting vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Linda Medley ~

The titular castle, once the proud home to a monarchy and security to its townsfolk, lies almost abandoned. It never quite recovered from that curse which sent its princess and all the occupants to sleep for one hundred years. That was a lifetime ago by the time we join in, but curses are a terrible bother, you know? Really bring down the resale value of a property.

It now serves as a safe-haven for those who feel society has no place for them, or those wishing to escape. Like Jane, heavily pregnant and seeking refuge from her knight who wouldn’t spare the shiners in between moments of shining in armour. And like her, the castle waits for life to begin anew.

Life in these stories gently flows along at the same pace as the early BONE stories, and the timing is as perfect as Linda’s art is impeccable. Not a single panel is wasted, every expression and movement serves a purpose creating a visually engaging atmosphere within the deceptively simplistic tales. Because they’re not in the least simplistic more… familiar. But just as you get used to the social formula of the castle’s occupants, Linda completely changes tack, throws your assumptions out the window, and begins telling stories within the story.

From what appear to be stock fairy-tale archetypes, Medley creates life and energy. Tons of little jokes and crafty looks going off in the background don’t simply reference folklore and nursery rhymes, but draw from them and play with them. Restructuring the moral spirit of these tales, not necessarily carrying a new message but getting it across in a new way for a new time.

TR

Buy Castle Waiting vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

What is a Vampire without their teeth? You can’t very well gum the blood out of someone can you?! No, I imagine not, so you would think that Vampires would take extra good care of their teeth, yes? However, it is a little known fact that Vampires *love* sweets! Uh-oh…

So when Harold the young Vampire visits the Dentist and learns that he has so many cavities his teeth will have to come out, he doesn’t know what to do. He figures his parent will be really mad and anyway, he can’t be a vampire with no teeth can he? So he decides to leave his old life and live as a bat instead. Of course his parents aren’t mad, they just miss him and want him to come home! But with the (accidentally) last witch in the world bent on destroying all Vampires, starting with Harold’s parents (who happen to dwell inside the piano of the scientist whose formula the witch needs to complete her plan) things are going to get complicated.

Super-cute green and black artwork in a lovely, silly book, suitable for all ages.

DK

Buy Upside Down: A Vampire Tale and read the Page 45 review here

Woodring: Problematic – Sketchbook Drawings 2004-2012 h/c (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring…

Very tempted to reproduce Jim’s entire foreword verbatim in which he extols the virtues of moleskine sketchbooks, talking about how, because they are so small and the paper so fragile, you simply can’t do finished, careful work in one, or use tippex to correct mistakes because it’s beige not white paper! Plus how they lean towards being held in the hand for quick sketches, rather than put on the table for more careful, measured, polished work. Makes perfect sense really. This book is moleskin size-ish only in that it is approximately A5 width and height, but is about an inch thick and sumptuously bound as a black leather effect hardcover, complete with some crazy heraldry as a title. Anyway instead of quoting it all I will merely mention the last paragraph…

“I’ve resisted the temptation to clean up or finish any of these images for print in the belief that what makes a sketch worthwhile is its authenticity as a document of the moment spontaneously captured. Revisiting the 5000+ images in the books made me realise how many thoughts, sights and observations flit through one’s consciousness during the day, and how very few of them are recorded. Something ought to be done about that…”

Actually, just thinking about it, that paragraph could give you a misapprehension about the contents of this sketchbook, because whilst there is indeed the odd everyday observation, the vast majority of it is Frank-related musings, thumbnails and roughs. Where the everyday does intrude, such as a sketch of a post office worker, it’s not unusual to find his head replaced with something straight out of the pages of THE FRANK BOOK. This work then, I suppose, given its dimensions, is almost a PORTABLE FRANK!

JR

Buy Woodring: Problematic – Sketchbook Drawings 2004-2012 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Cherubs! h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Bryan Talbot & Mark Stafford.

Full and final incarnation of CHERUBS, the first slither of which was published, what, half a dozen years ago? The forward by “a MEL GIBSON” is new joined by an afterward by “THE paul POPE”, a gag which works better on the cover than it does here in print. I note an appearance by Alan Moore in the new material, but now hand you back to Alex ‘Velveteen’ Sarll who originally reviewed the first few cantos thus:

I think of Bryan Talbot mainly as a writer/artist, and specifically as a writer/artist of grand, epic stuff: given the two LUTHER ARKWRIGHTs, and the crossover impact of his majestic ALICE IN SUNDERLAND, I doubt I’m alone in that. I know he’s an artist for other writers, too – one of the first comics I specifically remember reading was a compilation of his NEMESIS THE WARLOCK. But I’ve never seen anything he’s written for another artist before, and I’ve never seen him be quite this knockabout.

The artist here is one Mark Stafford, whose work I don’t know; I’m not feeling too guilty about that given his creator bio describes his work as “appearing in books and exhibiting in shows you’ve never heard of”. What I can tell you is that his scrappy, cartoonish style is just right for this one.

Talbot’s revisited the Divine Comedy as slapstick, with a gaggle of cherubs framed for Heaven’s first murder by a rogue angel, then getting to grips with the pleasures and perils of physicality once they escape to Earth. It’s in the same punchy, pyrotechnic tradition of irreverence as Ennis’ PREACHER or Kirkman’s BATTLE POPE, and once a bunch of vampire gangsters get involved too it’s salted with Buffy and Blade parodies too. After a magnum opus like ALICE, you can see how a punky little pop single of a comic like this would appeal, if only as a palate cleanser. And while it’s never going to attract the same volume of critical awe, who cares? It’s really good fun.

AS

Buy Cherubs! h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Rambo 3.5 (£2-00) by Jim Rugg…

“Get me Rambo.”

As the events of September 11 unfold and George W. Bush is rushed back to Washington on Air Force One, he decides to take a little power nap. What follows is part dream sequence, part wish fulfilment and totally farcical as the Commander-in-Chief recruits and preps and just generally shoots the breeze with one John J. Rambo for ‘a big steamy plate of something he likes to call payback.’

Hilarious and wrong in just so, so many ways, this mini from Jim AFRODISIAC Rugg will have you simultaneously wincing and chortling, and as ever wondering just how cruelly accurate the endless parodies of George Jr. were and still are. And, just when you think it can’t possibly get any more ridiculous, up pops Sylvester Stallone for a cameo performance at the White House to round things off perfectly. If Tom Neely’s cringe-tastic HENRY & GLENN FOREVER tickled your funny bone this will probably splinter it in two!

JR

Buy Rambo 3.5 and read the Page 45 review here

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

Finishing any story satisfactorily is never easy. There is a certain prose sci-fi writer whose books are one of the very few authors I always purchase as soon as they come out, for he is undoubtedly one of my favourite writers, and yet, I often find myself dissatisfied with the conclusions to his stories.

Superhero stories are perhaps less troublesome to write, simply because the stories often never do end, particularly in the world of Marvel and DC. Yet with IRREDEEMABLE, (do read Stephen’s review of vol 1 for more about the series itself) one of the very few supes books outside of the big two publishers I will proactively tell people about when they are asking for something different, Mark Waid clearly had an ending in mind when he began the story.

Given the truly surprising twists and turns that have punctuated pretty much every volume of IRREDEEMABLE, most of which I never saw coming (and frankly how just many superhero books can you say that about?), I am delighted to report that Mark has conjured an ending which is simultaneously sly, shocking and indeed schmaltzy. Yep, schmaltzy, and I use that word very deliberately.

When the epilogue pages began I really did wonder what on earth was going on. When I realised, at first I chuckled, then shook my head and finally took a few moments to reflect on what a genuinely emotional statement it makes. It’s clearly Mark’s loving nod to certain people who inspired him and many of his peers, who really do deserve never to be forgotten, and despite the schmaltz I loved it too! Considering who the Plutonian is a dark version of, it’s a very appropriate ending to a work that has entertained me greatly over the last few years.

IRREDEEMABLE is a series I’ll be continuing to recommend to people for a long time. If you’re in the mood for something superheroic different to the output of the big two publishers, do give it go!

JR

Buy Irredeemable vol 10 and read the Page 45 review here

Animal Man vol 2: Animal Vs. Man s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Steve Pugh, Travel Foreman, Timothy Green II…

“Don’t mind the mess… our maid’s got the day off. Hope you two weren’t up to any funny business whilst I was away?”

“<SIGH> Ignore John Constantine, Mrs. Baker. Lord knows we all try to. Zatanna Zatara. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Does JC ever manage not to steal the best lines? Continuing the story arc started in both volume one of ANIMAL MAN and SWAMP THING as the avatars of the Red and Green respectively do battle with the Rot, this volume sees Jeff weave in a few of his JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK characters for good measure, which if nothing else does give me some small modicum of hope that the forthcoming post-HELLBLAZER title CONSTANTINE may not be the complete car crash we are all expecting. When John is used in conjunction with the other magical and oddball characters from the DCU it can be entertaining, it’s just whether it’s sustainable on an ongoing basis.

Anyway, digression aside, here John’s merely a bit-part player as Lemire continues to write Buddy Baker exactly as he should be written, thus admirably demonstrating that the toughest superheroes aren’t necessarily the ones wearing the tightest tights. Because not only is Buddy fighting for the fate of the world, but also for his nearest and dearest too, and if there’s one thing Animal Man understands, it’s that a leader has to look after his pack.

Lemire has clearly digested Morrison’s classic deconstruction of ANIMAL MAN and is certainly plotting a worthy successor to that work. It’s not quite as ballsy, just by virtue of being on the main DC imprint rather than Vertigo, obviously, but Jeff’s doing exactly what a good writer should do, pushing the boundaries, whether it pleases the fanboys or not. I’d guess probably not but there’s plenty of cape-related… err… capers for them to buy instead. This might be a superhero title in name, but it certainly is outright horror too, very much in the style of both Len Wein’s SWAMP THING and also Alan Moore’s SWAMP THING, packed with vile creations that would certainly trouble the nightmares of the faint-hearted. I have therefore left a copy on my mother-in-law’s nightstand…

JR

Buy Animal Man vol 2: Animal Vs. Man s/c and read the Page 45 review here

JLA Deluxe Edition vol 3 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Grant Morrison, Mark Waid & Howard Porter, John Dell.

“Have we met? Have we met before?”
“Perhaps. At night. I have a million faces. Once my name was Daniel. I am the King Of Dreams.”

“My wife’s turning into ice cream! She’s dying in the sun! Help me! For God’s sake! Help me!”

That’s pretty indicative of Grant Morrison’s JLA: he reset the science in superpowers as the team goes up against more conventional armed forces like the Ultramarines, but after those spoons full of sugar he’d mainline the medicine right into your cerebral cortex. Big ideas spanning time and inner space, yet – true to the early years – unafraid to be daft, either. Plastic Man is used with aplomb: the joker who could be anywhere in the pack so long as the deck was red and yellow, and Howard Porter rose to each occasion with wit and exuberance.

I always missed Porter on his brief sabbaticals: his panels were buzzing with energy and his forms were colossal – you always felt the grander heroes to be two or three foot taller than you, their chests – like their shoulders – as broad as you like. He was no photo-realist; more of a meta-realist which seemed perfect for Morrison’s take on these characters which was never about fully realised individuals, but roles relative to each other and the story itself.

Also, I had entirely forgotten Neil Gaiman’s Dream playing such a substantial role in the two-parter involving the return of Starro the Conqueror in the form of those monocular, face-hugging green starfish and their somewhat larger counterparts. And I do mean large – continental pretty much covers it.

SLH

Buy JLA Deluxe Edition vol 3 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Defenders vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Terry Dodson, Jamie McKelvie.

“When did I get back here? How long have I been speaking? Did any of that make sense…?”

Not really. Welcome to the mind-frazzling finale of events set in motion during DEFENDERS VOL 1 in which Dr. Strange, Namor, the Silver Surfer, Iron First and Red She-Hulk (Betty Banner with a great big blade) encountered John Aman, the Prince of Orphans, protecting the Concordance Engines whose singular defence mechanism keeps themselves hidden by taking the words right out of the your mouth. Explaining their nature or very existence is literally impossible. That hasn’t, unfortunately, stopped the Defenders from grabbing one and, oh dear, the Earth is doomed because the Death Celestials have arrived and the Defenders have woken up in an ant hill.

Along the way they’ve been shot into parallel worlds, picked up the Black Cat hired by the Council of Antiquarians to ‘liberate’ the third Bronze Frog, while the Silver Surfer has everything explained to him by the Omega Council – which is pretty much where we came in.

Top marks to McKelvie for the second panel in chapter 9 featuring the Red She-Hulk bending forward under cover as a Bunny Girl in a Hydra tiara, and proffering an alternate-world Nick Fury a glass of German whisky with the compliments of Adolf Hitler.

SLH

Buy The Defenders vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 3 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez, Pepe Larraz.

“Hello?”
“Is this Miles? Miles Morales?”
“Yes.”
“Do you know who this is?”
“Your – your name came up on my caller I.D.”
“Can we meet?”

The look on young Miles Morales face!

It’s almost impossible to impress upon you how brilliant this third series remains, with art as sleek as Sara Pichelli’s, without resorting to SPOILERS. That phone call, for example, was surrounded by superb misdirection before you discover who’s on the other end of that line. It’s… quite the encounter.

There’s a war coming to America: a civil war, and whether he likes it or not – whether they like it or not – Miles Morales will be dragged into The Ultimates’ fight. That puts Captain America, still riddled with guilt over Peter’s death, in a very difficult position.

Before all that, Miles must face his family, particularly his Uncle Aaron, the predatory Prowler and thief playing on Miles’ loyalty yet unafraid to resort to blackmail, emotional or otherwise. And here I do issue a SPOILER whilst trying to keep as much information to myself as possible. The legend of Spider-Man has always hung on Peter Parker’s relationship with his Uncle Ben who, in the main Marvel Universe, died at the hands of a thief whom Peter not just failed to stop but declined to even try. It’s always hung – like the albatross around Peter’s neck – on that guilt, and poor Uncle Ben could do nothing about that.

Well, aren’t you the clever one, Bendis?

SLH

Buy Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 3 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Harbinger vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Valiant) by Joshua Dysart & Khari Evans, Matthew Clark…

“You’re a unique and beautiful thing, even amongst unique and beautiful things, Peter.”
“I don’t get it. Why didn’t you come to me earlier? I mean, all I needed was someone to help me understand.”
“I know you better than you know yourself. You wouldn’t have accepted my help until now. This is an intervention. There’s nothing left on your path but absolute self-destruction.
“Living on the run. Self-medicating. Self-regulating. Dampening your own powers…
“You’re at the end of your rope, Peter. On the run too long. Making too many bad decisions. You’ve lost sight of yourself. The world is like you right now. At the end of its history. We can all feel it. But this ending wasn’t predestined. It’s all our own fault.
“We had the resources to craft a civilisation worth inheriting. And instead my generation were pigs at the trough. Now look, this is what we’ve left you. Our solipsism and greed have left you with nothing.
“But we can still course correct. If we set aside our self-destructive natures. All rise to our fullest potential. But I’m the only person on this Earth who can train you to reach that potential.
“I have a program for people like us. A safe place where you can learn about yourself. Find purpose… Happiness.”

Finally cornered by the men in black from the US government, on-the-lam, teenage Peter Stanchek is forced to unleash his psionic powers, which prior to now he’d been trying his very hardest to suppress with stolen prescription painkillers, to avoid capture and no doubt become the subject of some rather unpleasant experimentation. But, just when all hope seems exhausted, salvation appears in the form of Toyo Harada, a fellow psionic who to the outside world appears merely to be a wealthy businessman and philanthropist, when in fact he is the leader of the secret Harbinger foundation, an organisation with lofty ideals populated by fellow psionics rescued from the streets and authorities around the world. Most psionics require activation, making Peter, one of only three known psionics to have ever self-activated, something potentially very special, and Harada wants to provide Peter a safe haven in which to slowly explore and gradually develop his powers. After a lifetime of surviving precisely by trusting no one and living entirely on his wits, is Peter ready to be helped? And if he won’t be helped, might the consequences for him and everyone else concerned be far worse than he can possibly begin to comprehend?

Intriguing set up from Joshua Dysart, who co-wrote the brilliant BRPD 1946 and 1947 mini-series and also the vastly underrated UNKNOWN SOLDIER series recently on the Vertigo imprint. He’s created a strong central character here in Peter and a whole world of uncertainty surrounding him. This first volume certainly takes the story in a few unexpected directions, possibly a touch quicker than necessary if I’m being slightly critical, but it’s a damn fine chunk of speculative fiction, I must say. Good art too from Khari Evans who is clearly a close study of Bryan Hitch, this definitely put me in mind of AMERICA’S GOT POWERS in places, both in terms of the illustration itself and also panel composition. The cover art from Arturo Lozzi is also worth well a mention, and I did particularly like the one picked for the trade cover featuring poor Peter being swamped by dozens of voices pounding into his head from passers-by. I think if you enjoyed FREAKANGELS and are in the mood for something else of that ilk, which is admittedly a touch more in the superhero direction, this could very well fit the bill. I will certainly be reading it.

JR

Buy Harbinger vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Star Wars #1 (£2-25, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Carlos D’Anda…

“I am sending you one Colonel Bircher. You know him?”
“By reputation.”
“For one so young, he is quite capable. He almost reminds me of you, Lord Vader. But… with a record still unblemished by failure.”

Yes… I think we can already see Colonel Bircher and Darth Vader probably aren’t destined to become the best of chums eh? Ah, STAR WARS WEEKLY was one of the true comics pleasures of my childhood, serialising as it did the further adventures of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, C3PO and R2D2 in their continuing rebellion against the Empire. I was too young to know who writers like Roy Thomas and artists like Howard Chaykin were, I just knew that it was brilliant. You can read those strips, which have stood the test of time pretty well by and large in STAR WARS OMNIBUS: A LONG TIME AGO. There’s nothing quite like a blaster FRAP FRAP-ing away merrily to get the pulse racing!

Obviously since then, there have been myriad Star Wars comics with different characters, set in widely varied time periods, and whilst they’ve been relatively popular with the hardcore fan base, they’ve never really captured my attention. This title, however, penned by Brian NORTHLANDERS / Dmz / LOCAL Wood, on the back of his excellent new version of CONAN, also for Dark Horse, may well be a different matter.

So, the old gang is back, as we pick up events right where the first film concluded. Vader’s not too happy at the loss of his favourite toy, extremely troubled by the fact that the person responsible happens to be called Skywalker, and he’s out to do something about it as the Empire sets out to track down and crush the Rebels, starting with Luke and Leia, who are off on a deep space mission to find the Rebels a new secret base. Han meanwhile has decided altruism probably isn’t the best character trait for a smuggler and is starting to get itchy feet. He’s a cheeky chappy, but we can see already that big heart of his isn’t going to let him roam too far I’m sure. As long as Leia keeps pretending she’s going to put out eventually he’ll probably stick around.

So far, so good, and I’m looking forward to the next issue. Must just mention the great art from Carlos D’Anda (something that has definitely let other Star Wars books down over the years) with the cheeky bonus of a very cinematic poster-esque cover from Alex Ross! Yes, it’s a nostalgia trip, but so what? If anyone can pull it off, Brian can! So whilst Han might indeed have a bad feeling about this, and I did chuckle at Brian using that immortal line already in this first issue, I only have a good one.

JR

Buy Star Wars #1 by blasting round the sun fast enough to travel back in time and ordering it when I first mentioned the bugger, at length, on Twitter – ed.

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.

 
Reset h/c (£11-99, Dark Horse) by Peter Bagge

The Way We Write (£5-00) by Rachael Smith

King-Cat Comics & Stories #73 (£2-99) by John Porcellino

Point Blanc: The Graphic Novel (£9-99, Walker Books) by Anthony Horowitz, Antony Johnston & Kanako

Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword vol 1 (£13-50, Dark Horse) by various

Conan vol 12: Throne Of Aquilonia (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Roy Thomas & Mike Hawthorne, Dan Panosian

Peter Panzerfaust vol 1: The Great Escape s/c (£10-99, Image) by Kurtis Wiebe & Tyler Jenkins

Dark Tower vol 7: The Gunslinger – The Little Sisters Of Eluria s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Peter David & Luke Ross, Richard Isanove

Fables vol 18: Cubs In Toyland (£12-99, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham, others

Madwoman Of The Sacred Heart h/c (£16-99, Sloth Comics) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Moebius

The One Trick Rip-Off + Deep Cuts h/c (£22-50, Image) by Paul Pope

Batwoman vol 1: Hydrology s/c (£10-99, DC) by J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman

The Mighty Thor & Journey Into Mystery: Everything Burns h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Matt Fraction, Kieron Gillen & Alan Davis, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Stephanie Hans, Barry Kitson

Captain America vol 4 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker, Cullen Bunn & Scot Eaton, Steve Epting

Invincible vol 17: What’s Happening (£12-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley, Cory Walker

Oreieo vol 2 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Tsukasa Fushimi & Sakura Ikeda

Demon Love Spell vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Mayu Shinjo

Dogs – Bullets & Carnage vol 7 (£8-99, Viz) by Shirow Miwa

Bleach vol 54 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Psyren vol 8 (£6-99, Viz) by Toshiaki Iwashiro

Danza (£9-99, Kodansha) by Natsume Ono

 
Breathtaking one-minute condensation of the entire history of Earth set to a cracking score. Cheers to Paul Duffield!

Also, this: “The High Street is dying. Did The Internet kill it? No, it took its own life”. So very true. Page 45 will never abandon the range of stock it’s so carefully nurtured, nor customers wanted a real, interactive shop floor experience. That’s the key to keeping ‘em coming: continue to care.

- Stephen

Reviews January 2013 week two

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Self-awareness is key to this series’ success: its protagonists retain just enough self-knowledge to realise that their self-guidance is fucked whilst being unable to alter course. Clearly we’re in for a multiple pile-up and you cannot help screaming, “Nooooo!”

  – Stephen on Fatale vol 2

Fatale vol 2: The Devil’s Business (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

“It’s only after Claudia leaves and Miles realises that he feels sorry for her that he has a moment of clarity about how much he’s changed in the past week.
“He hasn’t used anything but pot since he first slept with Josephine. And he hasn’t even missed it. No cravings… nothing.
“Like she was all the drugs he needed.”

From the creators responsible for CRIMINAL, the best crime on the market, this too is noir but with a Lovecraftian twist, and the lure of a guilt-ridden femme fatale.

Los Angeles 1978, a dozen years on from FATALE VOL 1, and Josephine still hasn’t aged a day. Holed up in her luxury villa, she has – she realises – become that Hollywood cliché, “the strange old lady who stays indoors and watches old movies every night on TV. Except she doesn’t look old. She just feels it.” Everything she needs is fetched by Miss Jansen while her devoted gardener Jorge watches on from afar. Other than that she has successfully avoided the company of men. Given her history, it’s… safer that way.

Tonight she is watching the only decent film that failed movie star Miles ever acted in before being relegated to a life of B-movies, speedballs and subsequent self-loathing. And tonight is the night that Miles clambers over her walls with a wounded and bloody Suzy Scream in tow, clutching a reel of film. What they have witnessed is abhorrent; what’s on the film is worse. What Josephine knows is that in her life – of all lives – there is no such thing as coincidence so she takes the fugitives in. That’s when she holds strips of the film to the light and spies the prize that eluded her for years: a specific book being read by an acolyte of the Method Church before its ritual sacrifice. And as with all things, I’m afraid, Josephine simply cannot help herself – and subsequently neither can Miles.

Self-awareness is key to this series’ success: its protagonists retain just enough self-knowledge to realise that their self-guidance is fucked whilst being unable to alter course. Clearly we’re in for a multiple pile-up and you cannot help screaming, “Nooooo!”

Indeed, Brubaker and Phillips have concocted something uncanny in that its theme of compulsion is mirrored by its effect: FATALE is as addictive to its audience as Josephine is to those caught within her gravitational pull.

And yes, there’s plenty more on Nicolas Lash who’s succumbed to her charms in the present, desperately chasing her ghost and about to experience one hell of a flashback in a childhood memory which has somehow been blocked until now. Oh, but that’s clever – dovetails beautifully.

Also smart is Phillips’ art, whose rigorous self-discipline means his storytelling is instantly accessible (i.e. legible) even to those new to comics. You won’t notice this (which is part of the point) but each page is clearly tiered, with the lettering arranged at the top of each tier so that one’s eyes move swiftly from left to right rather than straying perilously down a row way too early. Oh, you won’t believe how many veterans now break that basic rule, rendering their books a real struggle for newcomers.

Sean Phillips’ male faces all have that lived-in look: slightly battered both by the years and what life has thrown at them. Interestingly (I’ve not seen this mentioned elsewhere), although most of the male faces in FATALE are as semi-shrouded in shadow as they are in CRIMINAL, Josephine’s isn’t, even at night. Makes her seem… slightly ethereal – not quite of the world around her. I like that.

SLH

Buy Fatale vol 2: The Devil’s Business and read the Page 45 review here

Land Lubber (£4-00, Freak Leap) by Joe List…

Signed and sketched-in for free!

Jonathan writes:

I had a lovely treatment from a true Reiki master this week. After a solid half hour pounding to loosen me up from hard days’ till monkeying and hard nights’ child-wrangling my daughter off to sleep, she asked me if was ready to get into the Reiki zone and uttered the incantation, asking if any spirit guides would like to join us. Then, already considerably more relaxed than I’d felt in months, as she laid her hands on me to begin the process of realigning my energies, I started pissing myself laughing. Intermittent, intense hysteria continued for about ten minutes before I managed to get myself under control. Used to her clients experiencing flashing lights, sensations of weightlessness, hallucinations and even visitations from the dearly departed, she presumed it was merely a by-product of her Reiki treatment. When she asked me about it afterwards I didn’t dare confess that in fact, one of the four hilarious ‘Find The Right Tattoo For You!’ strips from this work had popped into my mind…

The Cat Top: A great look for cat lovers who are also bald. People will stroke your head at every opportunity.

The accompanying illustration features a bald man with the outline of a meowing cat drawn, from shoulder to shoulder, right over his pate. There are no prizes for guessing who, in my mind’s eye, I could see sporting this particular piece of facial finery, and thus why I was reduced to tears of laughter…

The rest of LAND LUBBER is chock full of equally surrealist humour!

Stephen writes:

Shut up.

Also:

LAND LUBBER is squelching with ghastly urban or household oddities, glimpsed out of the corner of Joe List’s eye: feverishly imagined freaks of unnature like The Man That Sits On My Ear, The Half-Frog who hides behind lounge lamps, his body hunched under the umbrella of their shades, and the Speakerphone whose proclamations can never be more than others’ grating, static-strewn instructions. Most haunting of all is the Grey Man. He could be anywhere, absorbing the residual warmth of your abandoned bus seat or soaking up the steam in your shower only to shiver it off under a much needed towel that is now clammy and damp in your room.

There is a melancholy here that is so memorable that you will never unlearn what you know. And soon, my kitty-kins, ever so soon, you too will start seeing these creatures in the corner of your own eyes, and wondering if you left the oven on at home.

JR & SLH

Buy Land Lubber and read the Page 45 review here

Skimpy Jim (£4-00, Freak Leap) by Joe List…

Signed and sketched-in for free!

“Crikey! Look at that hair. Son!”
“EEEEEP! Not my hair again.”
“Yes, it’s your hair. It’s too wild son, you’re starting to look like your Uncle Busby.”
“Huff. Fine! I’ll comb up a storm.”

And he does just that as two crazy creatures pop right out of his barnet! He’s only gone and used an evil comb! But does mean that both of these two shaggy apparitions are evil then? Well, one of them reckons he’s a charmer, and the other one isn’t sure! Cue some bizarre adventures as Skimpy Jim decides he’d best go off and find out, by trying to prove to the world just how evil he is. After the likes of saving a couple from snarling dog (he thinks he’s stealing their beloved pet) and carrying someone’s heavy stack of books to rob them of precious exercise, poor old Jim is starting to suspect he’s not quite cut out for this evildoing lark. Maybe he needs some musical inspiration…

Hilarious extended short from Joe List, the creator of gag-fest LAND LUBBER, sees him take a typically bonkers idea and just run with it in his own inimitable crisp animation-esque style. My only complaint? I would have loved more, much more. We will be watching and waiting.

JR

Buy Skimpy Jim and read the Page 45 review here

Mara #1 (£2-25, Image) by Brian Wood & Ming Doyle.

When I first opened this up I ruminated about the bottom half of page one for five minutes. Now that I’ve finished, I’m doing so again.

I could be wrong, but there is a particular treatment in the art at the start which set my suspicions on fire, knowing not for one second what the climax would be. Having attempted to absorb that startling climax – as shocked and puzzled as the wider fictional world it is broadcast to – I’m not necessarily the wiser, but I am most definitely intrigued.

“I find sports culture, especially professional sports, to be rife with the worst of what society puts upon young women, while expecting the best out of them in return,” wrote Brian Wood in an interview. “That’s worth talking about.” It is.

So welcome to the future, and the future is volleyball! This is the sport which now attracts the largest international audiences, viewing figures and so sponsorship. Though there are some pretty dodgy sports sponsors in the future.

Top of the league is Mara Prince. Aged seventeen she is a global celebrity who’s already amassed greater wealth than she could possibly spent in her lifetime. She knows exactly how to play the media game without actually being manipulative. She ticks all the boxes: confident, humble, sexy and smart. But if she’s so bloody smart, what just happened in the final five pages? Five pages yet mere moments in time captured on camera and broadcast worldwide that which could and should destroy her reputation completely.

Also: what was that with the shooter in the crowd? And who’s in the shower?

Plenty of politics and personal punch as you’d expect from the writer of THE MASSIVE and NORTHLANDERS et al. Apparently we’ve got over racism (hurrah!) but not global conflict (boo), although we’re desperately papering over the cracks like we’re trying to sell houses with subsidence (still).

True fact: I was in our school’s volleyball team. It’s unlikely, I grant you, but it’s true.

SLH

Buy Mara #1 by lobbing one over the internet via page45@page45.com or shouting from the sidelines down (0115) 9508045

Northlanders vol 7: The Icelandic Trilogy (£12-99, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Paul Azaceta, Declan Shalvey, Danijel Zezelj.

“Nothing comes free or easy. The good life always requires a turn through the shit from time to time.”

Ain’t that the truth? Some turns are shittier than other, though, and the good life is not guaranteed.

Each one of these self-contained Viking sagas has been as exceptional as it has been varied: you never know what you’ll find dug up from its history and hammered into narrative next. Here Brian Wood conjures ten generations of family feuding beginning in 871 when its earliest settlers – a family of three – heaved their scant possessions salvaged from Norway onto its far from fecund soil. Life was hard but at least they were free. Within a year, however, they were followed by others driven out by the land grabs back home, fleeing the rule of hated King Harald. These were larger families bringing strength in numbers backed up by the weight of their swords.

So it is that Ulf Hauksson’s merchant father takes it upon himself to toughen his son up in the most brutal of fashions, thereby creating a monster.

“Neither of them could look at me for weeks.
“This was valuable time for me. It allowed me the chance to detail and catalogue my hatred, to fully articulate, in my mind, who deserved what and why.
“That morning my parents had a son. By that evening, as a result of my father’s efforts to teach me cruelty and violence, they had something very different on their hands.”

What follows is that afternoon’s legacy: two centuries of ever-escalating struggles for power as the population expands and sustainable self-governance crumbles under the weight of numbers, the influence of those still in thrall to Norway and corruption in the form of Christianity and its Holy Men with their insidious schemes to divide, conquer and then reap the spoils in the form of hegemony and wealth.

Marriage plays no small part in this. Indeed it’s all about family and two fathers are going to find out precisely how sharp the serpent’s tooth is before their lives are done.

Structurally, this is stunning. Three chapters each devoted to three separate snapshots spanning two hundred years. The first barely boasts a population to speak of, but by 999 a port has been established and the Haukssons have built a heavily fortified compound. It isn’t, however, impervious. Here is a daughter:

“I was taught to keep books when I was six years old. I am literate where Mar is not. The Hauksson men fight, the women administrate.
“And together we dominate. The society of Iceland is balanced on our stacks of silver and gold, our sword at its throat.
“Which makes the attempt on my life unthinkable.”

The family’s gained ground through guile and good judgement, but it’s not immune to being goaded and about to meet its match. As for 1260, it is to despair but then so it goes, eh?

NORTHLANDERS has played host to a magnificently strong set of artists and Azaceta is on glorious form in his tale of innocence bludgeoned to death, while Zezelj’s jagged plains of ice and snow and treacherous, shadow-strewn ravines are freezing. You wouldn’t cross them without a thick pair of boots. His hair and beards are as matted as you can imagine and probably crawling with lice. There’s one page which starts out with a lamb so startlingly lovely you wonder what it’s doing there – it’s quite the contrast to what’s gone before. By the time you reach you bottom, though, you’ll be thinking, “Oh, well, that makes sense!”

And that’s it for NORTHLANDERS, I’m afraid, cut down in its prime because short-sighted bean-counters failed to see we’ll be selling these books for years. For generations, I hope, as long as we don’t do anything stupid.

SLH

Buy Northlanders vol 7: The Icelandic Trilogy and read the Page 45 review here

The Book Of Human Insects s/c (£12-99, Vertical) by Osamu Tezuka…

Translated into English for the first time, this relatively late period work (1970) from Tezuka immediately captivated me, and I have to say I enjoyed this considerably more as a work of fiction than AYAKO,  even as good as that was. It’s just that this work has far more engaging a premise as we have the story of the ultimate social chameleon, the beautiful Toshiko Tomura, able to observe and then almost instantly imitate the skills of others, be they actors, designers, writers, photographers or indeed even hitmen, then cuckolding them out of their professional positions or plagiarising their work and beating them to prestigious awards.

But that’s not our pernicious central character’s only talent, as she’s also able to make her victims fall hopelessly in love with her, so even though they’re all too aware of her parasitic behaviour, they are unwilling or unable to do anything about it. Only one person seems immune to her amorous charms, though he too has suffered professionally at her hands, and given his choice of subsequent spouse, you have to question whether he has managed to completely break the spell he was under. But what drives such an unusual creature, one who seems to pay scant regard to the rules of society? What could they possibly want from life? Or are they driven to flit from character to character like a restless actor, seeking the role that will ultimately define their life?

I must just pass comment upon the art too. Tezuka is clearly at the polished peak of his powers here, employing his regular style which we’ve come to know and love. But also he does some things stylistically I’ve never seen him do anywhere else, so far at least. There’s a three-page sequence in a jazz club where he illustrates some black musicians (bearing in mind the retrospective slating he gets for his portrayal of black characters in many of his early works) with a realism that captures the soul of the performance. They are some incredible panels, and so utterly, utterly un-Tezuka-like I could scarcely believe my eyes. It’s a shame he didn’t let himself go beyond the boundaries of his usual style more often if that’s what he was capable of, though that rarely seems to be the Japanese mangaka way, particular with that generation. Such touches only add to the appeal of this work for me, and it’s certainly another essential addition to the Tezuka canon now available in English.

JR

Buy The Book Of Human Insects s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ninth Life Love (£9-99, June) by Lalako Kojima.

Arrived without shrink-wrap, therefore barely requiring my attention. Nudity, please!

Oh, wait, there is nudity, but also bath bubbles. I couldn’t see anything!

SLH

Buy Ninth Life Love and read the Page 45 review here

Love Makes Everything Right (£9-99, June) by Sanae Rokuya.

It really does, but rarely do I witness anything remotely resembling a healthy love affair in these yaoi power-plays. I don’t understand these people! They are, in the words of NEON GENESIS’ Shinji, “so fucked up”. But this arrived shrink-wrapped so I am duty-bound to peel off its modesty, prise open its pages and explore its tender secrets.

“Thank you for coming.”

Wait – what?! We’re only six pages in!

Hold on, our manipulative male secretary here was merely thanking college grad Mizuha for attending the suspiciously immediate and then intimate interview, not rising to the challenge of the company’s sex-toy industry he will henceforth be the president of and much-photographed mascot for. But he will need extensive hands-on experience of the product he’ll be presiding over, like the wrist-watch/handcuff combo. Also: he will be getting it.

“The concept is, “I want to be tied up with you, not work”.”

Cute. Cue much heated debate and equally hot cheeks, flushing and blushing while said secretary makes verbal innuendos and physical in-roads while Mizuha singularly fails to comprehend a word that anyone says. I’m with Mizuha. (Well no, I’m not. I left him waiting in a bath tub back home. It’s probably pretty cold by now but I doubt he would mind or at least do anything about it.) This is so WEIRD!

Thankfully 90% of this stuff is bought by adult laydees, not impressionable young men who might imagine that this is what gay relationships are actually all about. Although I should emphasise that Page 45 is all about equal opportunities and I consider it super-cute when guys do buy/place orders for this material, trusting that we are don’t give a fuck.

If we did, I would hardly be typing this, would I?

SLH

Buy Love Makes Everything Right 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.
Gun Machine (£13-99, Mulholland Books) by Warren Ellis

Delphine h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Richard Sala

Castle Waiting vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Linda Medley

Cherubs! h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Bryan Talbot & Mark Stafford

Woodring: Problematic – Sketchbook Drawings 2004-2012 h/c (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring

Gears Of Wars vol 3 h/c (£18-99, DC) by Karen Traviss & Pop Mhan

Dorothy And The Wizard In Oz s/c (Digest) (£14-99, Marvel) by L. Frank Baum, Eric Shanower & Skottie Young

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics vol 3 (£14-99, IDW) by various

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vol 1: Change Is Constant s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz & Dan Duncan

Harbinger vol 1 s/c (£7-50, IDW) by Joshua Dysart & Khari Evans, Matthew Clark

Wonder Woman vol 1: Blood s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins

Wonder Woman vol 2: Guts h/c (£16-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins

Batwoman vol 2: To Drown The World h/c (£16-99, DC) by J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman & Amy Reeder, Tervor McCarthy

War Of The Green Lanterns: Aftermath s/c (£12-99, DC) by various

Green Lantern vol 1: Sinestro s/c (£10-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Doug Mahnke

Green Lantern vol 2: The Revenge Of Black Hand h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Doug Mahnke, Ethan Van Sciver

Supergirl vol 1: Last Daughter Of Krypton s/c (£10-99, DC) by Michael Green, Mike Johnson & Mahmud Asrar

Batman Incorporated s/c (£14-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham, Yanick Paquette, Michael Lacombe, Scott Clark, Cameron Stewart, Dave Beaty

JLA Deluxe Edition vol 3 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Grant Morrison, Mark Waid & Howard Porter, John Dell

Animal Man vol 2: Animal Vs. Man s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Steve Pugh, Travel Foreman, Timothy Green II

Avengers Digest vol 2: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (£7-50, Marvel) by various

The Defenders vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Terry Dodson, Jamie McKelvie

Essential X-Men vol 11 (£14-99, Marvel) by Jim Lee, Chris Claermont, Fabian Nicieza & various

Carnage: Minimum Carnage s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Culle Bunn, Chris Yost & Lan Medina, Khoi Pham

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 3 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez, Pepe Larraz

The Death Of Captain Marvel s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin, Steve Englehart, Doug Moench & Jim Starlin, Pat Broderick

Amazing Spider-Man: Ends Of The Earth s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, others & Humberto Ramos, Stefano Caselli

Fantastic Four vol 5 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Steve Epting, Barry Kitson, more

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont, Len Wein, Roger Stern, more & Gene Colan, Sal Buscema, Don Heck, Al Milgrom

Shoulder-A-Coffin Kuro vol 3 (£8-99, Yen) by Satoko Kiyuduki

Fairy Tail vol 9 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tail vol 18 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tail vol 19 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tail vol 20 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tail vol 21 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tail vol 22 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

The Heart Of Thomas h/c (£29-99, Fantagraphics) by Moto Hagio

Message To Adolf part 2 h/c (£19-99, Vertical) by Osamu Tezuka

Sweeney Todd: The Graphic Novel (Original Text) (£9-99, Classical Comics) by Sean Michael Wilson & Declan Shalvey
Don’t know why this link was sequestered on my computer, but here’s an interview with Eddie Campbell around the time of THE LOVELY HORRIBLE STUFF.

And here is the most affecting radio interview with Maurice Sendak, beautifully illustrated (you’ll see what I mean), about growing old and being left behind by friends who’ve passed on whilst appreciating what’s in front of you. Big love to Joe Alessi AKA @alessismore64 who nudged it my way.

- Stephen

Reviews January 2013 week one

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

But it’s quietly conversational and drawn with great dignity, Anders climbing back up the rocks and out of the frame, leaving the waters to lap on the shore. 

- Stephen on the re-issue of Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow

Sharaz-De: Tales From The Arabian Nights h/c (£24-99, Archaia) by Sergio Toppi…

This publication, in English at long last, was scheduled long before the passing of the great man in September 2012 – it just took a little too long to appear. It’s a crying shame how little of Toppi’s work, like so many Italian and continental creators, has been translated into English over the years. We get crumbs, when in fact there is a veritable feast of material available in their respective native languages. An Italian friend – well, my bank manager actually – is forever showing works to me by Italian creators I was hitherto unaware of. It’s just a shame my Italian is still insufficient to appreciate them.

You don’t however need to speaka da lingo as Captain Alberto Bertorelli might say to appreciate the beautiful art and Toppi, therefore, along with many others like say, Barron Storey, falls into the category of creator who whilst perhaps not being hugely well known to the wider comics audience, is certainly known and appreciated by those within the industry. Simone Bianchi is someone who cited Toppi as inspiration, for example, and just comparing ASTONISHING X-MEN: GHOST  BOX S/C and this work I instantly see that. The long striated set of flowing lines to create texture was a trademark touch of Toppi and I remember whilst reading GHOST BOX that it reminded me of something but I couldn’t think what. Ashley Wood too apparently was inspired by him and he clearly influenced a whole host of early era 2000AD artists too, I reckon, thinking back. In other’s words, an artist’s artist.

This work is an evocative, passionate and vibrant rendering of the tale of the legendary storyteller of A Thousand And One Nights, Sharaz-De (one of a thousand and one spellings), who voluntarily put herself in jeopardy but eventually won the heart of King Shahryar and ended up being made Queen. The initial chapter is given over to the story of King Shahryar, his brother and their unfaithful wives, and precisely how Sharaz-De ended up in the position of having to spin a different nightly yarn so that the said King wouldn’t chop off her head. The subsequent chapters feature eleven of the tales beautifully illustrated in Toppi’s unique fashion. Given it’s such a visual sell I have therefore popped some interior art up so you can have a look. Shame Archaia didn’t get this out a couple of months earlier as I reckon we would have shifted a fair few copies as Christmas presents.

JR

Buy Sharaz-De: Tales From The Arabian Nights h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Anders Nilsen (with Cheryl Weaver).

“Did you know Amy’s waters broke at the ceremony? While I was down by the water scattering your ashes, her waters broke. She gave birth later that night. Spooky, huh? Did you have a hand in that? It doesn’t seem like your style, but that last week in the hospital you were developing a goofy sense of humour. So maybe it was you, or maybe someone did it on your behalf. He’s a cute kid, Asher. I just met him a couple of weeks ago, when your parents were in town, at Lula.

“So that’s me, down below, to scatter your ashes. I slipped on the rocks once, and almost went into the water.

“Paul kept telling me not to be disappointed, that these things never happen exactly how you expect. The wind will shift, the ashes will blow in your face. But it didn’t. It went perfectly. Your ashes scattered perfectly, dissolving into a creamy white cloud in the water, drifting down among the rocks.”

From the creator of BIG QUESTIONS, one of my three favourite books of 2011, DOGS & WATER (an early Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month), and those two self-published beauties THE MONOLINGUIST PAPER UPDATE and THE GAME which Anders sent us himself, this originally came out in 2006. That was, unfortunately, just a little too soon after we lost our own Mark for any of us to feel comfortable reviewing it with more than a couple of industry quotations.

It’s a calm and contemplative collection of thoughts, comics, photographs, postcards and drawings beautifully compiled by Anders in memory of his fiancée, Cheryl Weaver, who died in 2005 from cancer. Gentle, unsensationalist and far from maudlin or self-obsessed, it begins, characteristically, with a comical letter sent by Anders to his little sister Ella about a camping trip he’d taken with Cheryl which, in every conceivable way, went disastrously wrong. It’s a catalogue of cumulative, comedy cock-ups: alarm dislodged, car keys lost, a Biblical density of flies at the campsite, a battery-buggered torch, ravenous racoons crunching crisps in the tent and finally the tent abandoned for the freezing-cold shore. There’s no painful irony of hindsight, just an endearing account of time spent together, laughing in the face of adversity.

The couple are back on the road between parents for Christmas 2003 and, would you believe it? Disaster – nearly a serious one. So that’s Christmas Day and Boxing Day spent in the middle of nowhere, then, but in the photos they’re still smiling. And so it continues in comicbook form when they’re due to fly out to France: portfolio lost but reclaimed at the last minute through an impressive feat of gymnastics, only to be confounded by the dreaded e-ticket. I’ve always dreaded it. I dread it even more now.

Anders notes in the afterword that his travels were always accident-prone before, during and after his time with Cheryl. I can believe it. I just wish I’d remembered that before he came up from London to sign with us: I’d have insisted he drive up the night before!

Anyway, the holiday in Paris and Angoulême during the festival is told in bright, blue-skied photographs with odd snippets of commentary. They manage to hit the coastal town of Arcachon when it’s completely closed down for the season, but still.

And so we come to the sketched-in diary entries of 2005, visiting Cheryl in hospital, hoping it will turn out for the best. There’s much there many will find all-too familiar – about coping and questions, feeling helpless and wondering what more one can do – but for my part I’ve rarely read it articulated so well. The fragility Anders feels is mirrored in the portraits of Cheryl, lying in bed, utterly drained.

It doesn’t turn out for the best, of course, and so we finish up where we began by the side of lake where they were going to be married. It’s a terrible procession, observed from behind, Nilsen carrying his beloved in an urn in his arms. But it’s quietly conversational and drawn with great dignity, Anders climbing back up the rocks and out of the frame, leaving the waters to lap on the shore.

“This story is, obviously, very personal, but ultimately I think it isn’t exclusive. It feels incredibly particular to me, still, but it’s just love and loss. And everyone, for better or worse, can relate to that,” wrote Anders. That’s so very true. In a new author’s note from 2012 Nilsen explains why the book’s gravitational pull on his life led him to leave the book out of print for so long. But I’m glad that it’s back now to strike chords with a new audience.

It concludes with a couple of postcards Anders sent Cheryl, heavily embellished on each side. “The pigeons in Washington look exactly like the ones in Chicago. Only maybe a little more governmental.”

“We must save Medicare,” says the pigeon.

SLH

Buy Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Cursed Pirate Girl h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Jeremy A. Bastien.

“What business does one so small have afloat those dark waves?”
“What was that? You may think me a spring shower, sir. But I’ve a hurricane in this heart that’d sink the Royal Fleet. So if your old bones would be so kind there’s a pirate here that needs to be squeezed through yer pretty door.”

What a refreshing, exuberant and intoxicating read! Jeremy A. Bastian, as if giddy on grog, liberates himself from all constraints – be they the laws of physics or so many comicbook formulae – to deliver a fantastical romp both above and below the Caribbean high seas which is so rich in detail that you’ll be scanning its nooks and crannies for hours. The lines are ridiculously fine yet as smooth as silk, as shrimp-strewn seaweed swirls to frame the pages or the Pirate Girl is lowered down the starboard hull of a galleon in a cage fashioned in the form of an enormous, ornate teapot. It’s not just ornate, this is bursting with inspiration and imagination, the pages populated by James Gillray grotesques, Sir John Tenniel hybrid creatures; and yes, while I’m think about it, there is more than a little of Lewis Carroll’s fantastical mischief here combined with the anarchy of Tony Millionaire (Maakies etc.), whilst the cluttered galleys and captain’s quarters o’erbrimming with jewel-encrusted treasures are delineated with fine lines as classy as Bernie Wrightson’s FRANKENSTEIN.

Charles Vess, Mike Mignola, David Petersen and Gerard Way line up to praise the book’s originality as the Cursed Pirate Girl and parrot Pepper Dice take a deep breath and dive onto and into a fish, respectively, to journey underwater past fish made from whicker and squabbling swordfish siblings to rise in search of the girl’s missing father, one of five Captains sailing under the Jolly Roger flag in the Omerta Seas. Each ship they board presents a different challenge with new friends or foes, but the Cursed Pirate girl has boundless energy, a quick wit and at least one keen eye, while by the end of this first foray ‘x’ will mark the spot of the other.

This being Archaia, they have gone that extra mile for this new edition’s production with an extended gallery including guest artists galore like David Peterson, Katie Cook, Stephano Gaudiano and Mike Mignola, complete with in-character commentary. Most striking of all, the paper edges are all ruffled – crisply crinkled as if pressed from older pulp slurry – and who could fail to fall in love with attention to detail like that?

SLH

Buy Cursed Pirate Girl h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Before The Incal – Classic Collection h/c (£33-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Zoran Janjetov…

Cybo-cops stand watch over the smooth teflo-concrete shell of Terra #2014… where lies the City-Shaft… unfathomable depths, whose only illumination is cast by the neon of the lower-level pleasure zone they call the Red Ring, and by the giant hypertube screens that constantly transmit messages day and night from the Prez and his endless clones…

A posh tourist craft of upper-level aristos sinks into the Red Ring’s torrid night…

“I want to party till my halo drops!”
“I just installed a new kitbox and it’s already dripping wet!”
“I’m dying to find someone who’s got the virus!
“Stay together! The area’s crawling with psycho anarchists!”

If you aren’t familiar with THE INCAL, then the rest of this review isn’t necessarily going to make a great deal of sense to you. Quite simply, if you haven’t read that work, you really should as it is a true classic, and just for emphasis I will reprise a Mark Millar quote I used whilst reviewing it, that THE INCAL is “quite simply one of the most perfect comics ever conceived and probably the most beautiful piece of graphic literature ever drawn.”

This material, billed as prequel material, telling the life history of the central Incal character John Difool right up to the moment THE INCAL begins, was written in 6 volumes like the original work. I’m sure that is no coincidence, I’m just not aware of the particular significance, numerical or otherwise, though knowing Jodorowsky and his mystical obsessions, I’m sure there probably is one. Jodorowsky started writing this material in 1988, so pretty much immediately after completing THE INCAL, and the sixth volume came out in 1995. It hasn’t before now been compiled into one sumptuous hardback edition, so firstly, a big hurrah to Humanoids for doing that and getting it back into print.

You’ll note immediately that this time around Jodorowsky didn’t collaborate with his Incal co-creator Moebius, instead working with Zoran Janjetov, with whom he created THE TECHNOPRIEST spin-off series, and who also part-illustrated what was effectively the fifth, and most recent, METABARONS spin-off. Why, I have no idea. Maybe Moebius just fancied doing something different. Similarly, he also worked with someone different (Ladrönn) on the FINAL INCAL material, which will shortly be released in English for the very first time.

The art however is still amazing, and Janjetov has clearly chosen to not stray far from Moebius’ original take on the crazy world of the City-Shaft and its equally insane inhabitants. That relatively seamless continuity is important, I feel, given the deliberately less coherent and frenetic style of story-telling employed by Jodorowsky. THE INCAL is undoubtedly a story of the struggle for spiritual enlightenment, wrapped within several layers of comedy capers, sci-fi farce and space opera, whereas whilst this material does contain some trademark Jodorowsky higher state of consciousness concept moments, it is just far more of an amusing romp.

I do remember being slightly disappointed the last time I read this prequel material, thinking that it wasn’t as good as THE INCAL itself, and I would think that was probably the case for most people, but actually, reading it with the fore-knowledge of what precisely it is, and also isn’t, this time around, I found I absolutely loved it. It’s a fun-filled riotous romp, part Clouseau, part Benny Hill, part Monty Python, which perfectly sets up the masterpiece that follows it.

JR

Buy Before The Incal – Classic Collection h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Mathematical!”

Every generation has its own animation classics. Whether it’s Tom and Jerry, Scooby Doo, The Simpsons, Ren and Stimpy (really), South Park to probably most recent in Family Guy, only true classics stand the test of time. Whether Adventure Time will join those lauded ranks remains to be seen, but I have my suspicions it just might. It is utterly, utterly pointless to even begin to try and explain the goings on in the Land Of Ooo after the Great Mushroom War as Finn, the last surviving human, and his trusty companion Jake, the talking (and stretchy) dog, roam around in search of adventure, joined by a vast cast of oddball characters like the Bubblegum Princess, The Ice King and Marceline the Vampire Queen.

There doesn’t seem to be a single problem that can’t be solved, nor a single bad guy that can’t be vanquished by repeated punches to the face. Now how is that for a valuable life lesson for today’s kids? For an animation to really succeed though, in addition to being genuinely humorous, it has to have real heart which Adventure Time has in abundance. In particular the Ice King’s various attempts to find true love by kidnapping various Princesses and whisking them off to the dungeon of his ice palace show even the coldest most frosty bad guy in Ooo has a warm, slushy heart. Actually his heart is called Ricardo (voiced by George Takei), but that’s an episode entirely of its own! I think probably the only people who don’t enjoy Adventure Time are those who’ve never watched it. For those people, here is a little youtube montage someone has put together which may just lure you in or convince you cartoons have sunk to an all-time low if you’re anything like my wife! The comic then is simply more of the same!

JR

Buy Adventure Time vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers vol 4 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Walter Simonson.

Ties into AVENGERS VS X-MEN, concentrating on the suicide mission embarked on by Thor, the Beast etc, attempting to head off The Phoenix in space. Unbeknownst to the team, one of them has been given a covert sub-mission that has not been sanctioned by Captain America.

I can’t claim that Simonson is on anything like the epic form he was thirty years ago on THOR, but still, neither am I. Knowing it’s a suicide mission made for one particularly fine and fond farewell.

This is the penultimate volume in Bendis’ epic, decade-long run before a most unexpected Avengers Emergency Signal dares its core members to hope.

SLH

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

Amazing Spider-Man #700 (£5-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Humberto Ramos, various.

The last issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ever!

Well, until the next one. Give them a year.

And it’s so set up for that, the way this issue ends. They can’t kill Peter Parker long-term: there’s far too much invested in the license as it stands. And if you think I’m being overly cynical then I present to you the last five years’ worth of Marvel fuckwittery: titles mutating only to be resurrected complete with missing issue numbers and oh fuck am I bored of that. We’re not even talking about the revolving, ho-hum, diddums door which is corporate death: we’re talking about THE INCREDIBLE HULK becoming THE INCREDIBLE HERCULES, a new HULK #1 spinning out, then the whole thing reverting to… Okay, I just bored myself.

This bored me too. I don’t mind being shocked and surprised. I love that! I don’t even mind being outraged (I am a past master of outrage myself – I just peered out of my bedroom window and inadvertently flashed Loughborough Road my knickers). But I mind being bored, and Marvel just bored me fucking rigid again, not with the story but with their insistence on temporarily ending a title to sell twice as many copies of this and then THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN it spawns.

SLH

Read Amazing Spider-Man #700 while suspended upside down from a lamp post. You won’t lose much more than your lunch.

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

All of these will be up online but not all of them linked to just yet: pop the titles in our search engine instead! 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.

 
Fatale vol 2: The Devil’s Business (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Northlanders vol 7: The Icelandic Trilogy (£12-99, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Paul Azaceta, Declan Shalvey, Danijel Zezeli

Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Alan Moore & Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, Stan Woch, Rick Veitch, Alfredo Alcala, Ron Randall

Dark Tower vol 10: The Gunslinger – The Man In Black h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Robin Furth, Peter David & Alex Maleev, Richard Isanove

The Stand: No Man’s Land s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Mike Perkins, Laura Martin

Star Wars: Dawn Of The Jedi vol 1: Force Storm (£14-99, Dark Horse) by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

Paradise Kiss vol 2 (£14-99, Vertical) by Ai Yazawa

The Book Of Human Insects s/c (£12-99, Vertical) by Osamu Tezuka

Ninth Life Love (£9-99, June) by Lalako Kojima

I’ve Seen It All vol 2 (£9-99, June) by Shoko Takaku

Love Makes Everything Right (£9-99, June) by Sanae Rokuya

Dorohedoro vol 8 (£9-99, Viz) by Q Hayashida
I leave you with a simple Page 45 truth as tweeted by Johnny Bull…

… And a blast from the twenty-year-old past, photographically capturing our very own Mark Simpson, Dave Sim, Gerhard and the fourth member of Bros. I was sulking in the second one, yes: I’d just fallen down some stairs and broken my hair.

 - Stephen