Reviews January 2013 week three

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

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