Reviews March 2013 week one

Goodness, it’s all a bit superheroic this week! Nothing that can be done about that:  we can only review what’s delivered. Still, I have had a laugh.

 – Stephen

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Nemo – Heart Of Ice h/c (£9-99, Knockabout) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill.

Oh, of course it’s a LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN book. They’re just not in it.

“You don’t seem much interested in the plunder, Miss Janni…”
“We’ve enough plunder… I wanted a challenge. Even father wearied of pillaging eventually.”
“Aye, true enough. Sorry if I’ve aggravated you, Captain.”
“Oh, we’ll be home in a week. I’ll be fine. It’s just this coat. It’s so big and heavy sometimes.”

Fifteen years after LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLTEMEN: CENTURY 1910 Captain Nemo’s daughter Janni is feeling weighed down by the burden of her old man’s legacy – his fame and his accomplishments – and is desperate to step out from under his shadow. Unfortunately he cast it far and wide but, if the truth be told, it is Janni herself who brings it with her, perpetually comparing her progress with his, every step of the way.

But now she has set her sites on An Adventure: an expedition to the remotest wastes of Antarctica. Unfortunately her crew have recently earned the ire of the African Queen and Prince Consort of Kor by whipping away their valuables under the watch of a certain newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane and a heavily armed, technologically enhanced party has been dispatched in pursuit. Also: just because somewhere is remote, it does not mean it’s uninhabited.

Weird and wondrous – and quite terrifying in places – I just wish we could have spent longer in the likes of Metapatagonia where the anthropomorphs speak French backwards. Each of Kevin O’Neill’s full-page splashes knock the frozen ball out of the snow-swept park, and Ben Dimagmaliw’s colours are richer than ever, positively luminous. What our literary super-crew encounter will be strange and awe-full but I will spill none of it, except to say that when time itself goes awry you are in for a storytelling treat. On the other hand it’s only fair to remind you that these LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN escapades are all collages culled from extant fiction, so… what other works took place in the freezing wastes of the South Pole, eh?


Buy League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Nemo: Heart Of Ice h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Rinse (£10-99, Boom!) by Gary Phillips & Marc Laming.

Featuring a brand new branch of Page 45!

Apparently we’ve opened a shop in San Francisco, but I’m not managing it! That is an outrage. Seriously, Page 45 is in this graphic novel. Look for the logo – we’ve gone green!

“There’s nothing like the air in the countryside.
“The smell of money is much sharper out there.”

Jeff Sinclair is a man who plans and keeps the map of any money trail hidden in his head. His job is to disperse vast sums of cash so that they can never be found, and certainly not traced. He is discreet, cautious, meticulous and methodical. Unfortunately for Jeff, not everyone he encounters is half so sage and in the space of one short day in sunny San Francisco three key encounters look likely to sully his otherwise clean bill of wealth. It’s about to get brutal.

Welcome back, Marc Laming! It’s been 15-odd years since he joined fourteen other artists here to sign at our second Independents Day, and if I knew he’d be returning in such fine form I’d have missed him even more. So many artists skimp on the details, leaving their figures stranded weightless and lifeless in limbo; but here every car, every bar, every single street awning is rich in texture and light, while each individual negotiating this living, breathing city must do so in step to its beat.

There’s also a renewed softness to Marc’s forms, a love of deft smiles, and the way Jeff subtly adjusts his glasses or keeps close watch from beneath their upper frames makes all the difference in the world. As for his women, I offer those reading this on our blog evidence of precisely why you need this series. I own that original piece of art. With its blue-line pencils intact, it’s framed above my sofa and is so beautiful I could cry.

We’ve had this in stock for over a year but somehow failed to publish our review written way back, since when Marc Laming has pencilled more pages than when he was first centre-stage in our spotlight. Many apologies to Gary and to Marc.

Lastly, Francesco Mattina has done such a cracking job on colours that after reading the scene in which the rain really pours down, I had to take off my jumper and slap it on the radiator to dry.

Thankfully I no longer need a hair dryer. It’s water off a bald man’s pate.


Buy The Rinse and read the Page 45 review here

Ravine vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Stjepan Šejić, Ron Marz & Stjepan Šejić.

I have absolutely no idea what I just read.

I could barely comprehend a word of this old-worlde high fantasie. But then it is 10am on a Sunday morning, so I am blisteringly drunk.

There be dragons and sigils and ancient animosities. And a right old regal bust-up to boot. Basically (I think) a king went off his rocker so his daughter’s warrior-husband had to put him out of everyone’s misery. His daughter’s husband appears to have octopoid tentacles where any other self-respecting protagonist would brandish two legs and two feet. Two seems to be the regular requirement, not eight all hissing like snakes. But I’m really not sure: the back-history prologue droned on for so long, it was like your worst nightmare of video-game scene-setting. “Stop it! Shut up! I want to play the fucking game!”

It is, however, ravishingly beautiful.

I’m being objective there: it’s not my idea of beautiful – I’m more of a Jon J. Muth / Glyn Dillon / Caravaggio bent when it comes to painting and more of an Andi Watson / Tom Gauld / Sean Phillips fan when it comes to line art – but, but, but, I admire the craft and those who crave dragons will cream themselves. There are cathedrals and sundry other edifices whose facades will gobsmack the fantasy brigade. Seriously: they exceed anything you’ll see on Skyrim apart from the Northern Lights. I saw them last night, during my second venture there. Funny how I managed to play it for 500 hours last time round without encountering the Northern Lights at all. Shall we discuss Skyrim instead? My Clopsy is something to behold.*

Back to the brink of the RAVINE, however, and every chapter plate is divine: ancient book covers boasting metallic, moon-shaped crescents festooned with blue-jewelled eyes on weathered leather binding. Pewter dragons in semi-relief. Did I mention there are dragons?

*Clopsy is my goat on Skyrim. Some fail to believe I even have a goat on Skyrim, just like they refuse to believe I’m gay-married there. Trust me, you can be gay-married on Skyrim – I’m just not going to tell you how. It was the easiest courtship of my life, and has been by far my most satisfying relationship to date. *cries*


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

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths vol 2 h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Joshua Dysart & Alex D. M. Sheikman.

In lieu of a review, for I ain’t read either volume, I crave your indulgence for another of mine. Indulgences, that is. One of my many nicknames over the years was Gelflin. I know it’s hard to believe these days, what with me looking like the sickly child of Uncle Fester and Nosferatu but with my ski-slope nose I was pretty once. Well, after the artful application of much slap and kohl.

My primary pseudonym is Peter. It endures to this day in post-punk circles, possibly because it doesn’t sound like a nickname. It was so prevalent in the ‘80s that even the closest of friends sometimes took ten years to realise my real name was Beelzebub. That one also owes itself to my ski-slope nose and consequent youthful demeanour: it was Peter as in Peter Pan.


Shut up.

Other nicknames have included Jimmy Dean (must be pronounced in a broad Glaswegian accent), “boss” (no one has actually ever regarded me as their boss – it’s pure mockery on Tom’s part) and, when my mother is so often infuriated with me, it’s Herbert Henry Arthur George. You have to really bellow that one.

Anyway, of THE DARK CRYSTAL VOLUME ONE, Tom far more relevantly wrote:

“Has it really been thirty years since this beautiful fantasy first came to the cinema? Brian Froud’s designs for this film gave the story a weight the technical skill of the Jim Henson Co. couldn’t carry alone. While in the film we see a dying world populated by mysterious characters, the world they inhabited was by far the most intriguing aspect the whole. Its ruined structures hinted at past prowess through the undergrowth, and a lot of thought went into what exactly they meant. The strange glyphs and diagrams carved into the buildings and stones weren’t just throwaway aesthetic garnish, but based upon an understanding of the astronomical knowledge of this fictional world’s tri-star system. Which if you remember from the film, orbited the planet Thra and “sung” to the Crystal deep in its bowels. This is symbolised by a series of concentric circles encasing an inverted triangle. From this emblem Henson & Co created not only a world, but a religion, a complex society. Then they destroyed it, leaving us with arcane hints in the fantastic dystopia of Thra.”

This is a trilogy.


Buy Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

We don’t review second issues of series – certainly not superhero series – because why? Also it infuriates me that the airwaves are congested by amateur reviews of every single superhero issue every single week, thereby distracting potential readers from the real mainstream material which deserves their attention.

However, this was jaw-droppingly beautiful, from the dazzling cover (another stained-glass window of wonder, both breathing and breathless) to little ‘Kelvie details like the upwards flicks on the end of Wiccan’s floppy hair and his two-tone t-shirt. The single panel in which he takes hold of his boyfriend’s hand, three fingers between Teddy’s thumb and fore, was exquisitely delicate. Because, yes, he’s fucked up badly leaving his boyf in a world of trouble.

That’s not why we’re here, though. We’re here for two of the most ingenious pages, from conception to execution, to have graced a comic since CEREBUS. (It was a regular occurrence there: almost every issue brought with it yet another visual innovation.) For superhero readers, think John Byrne’s SHE-HULK. Gillen and McKelvie use small panels as a claustrophobic prison and the gutters as its escape route… including the edges of the paper! Even the climax to that sequence brought with it beauty.

Anyway, it’s time to return to Loki’s local, the diner he’s adopted as his home from home, as Hulking and Wiccan debate whether to accept the young trickster’s aid:

“Well, I’ll go and perform my personal favourite summoning ritual of all time.”

Loki leaves them to it, taking a seat at the bar.

“Bacon engulfed in a floury roll! With the ketchup condiment!”


Buy Young Avengers #2 and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Young Avengers #1 2nd print with Bryan Lee O’Malley cover here (no 1st prints left)

Justice League Of America #1 (£2-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & David Finch.

Ah, I see!

There is actually a creative reason behind this sister series and it makes perfect political sense.

In JUSTICE LEAGUE VOL 1 then JUSTICE LEAGUE VOL 2 it becomes increasingly clear that there is a lack of governmental trust in the self-proclaimed Justice League, orbiting Earth from on high. America now wants its own version whose prospective members Amanda Waller here selects much to the horror or Colonel Steve Trevor: they’re a bunch of criminals and psychotic aliens – not all of whom have the American flag in their heart. Trevor is adamant that he will have nothing to do with this ticking time-bomb. Nothing whatsoever! So he’ll be their field leader and mentor, then.

Finch is one of the finest superhero powerhorses out there – his Martian Manhunter is chilling – while Geoff John’s introduces the set-up and potential fireworks perfectly.

I note Amanda Waller has lost a lot of weight, though. Shame…


Buy Justice League Of America #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Guardians Of The Galaxy #0.1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Steve McNiven.

“Stop. What happened, Peter?”
“He was picking on a girl. No one was helping.”
“Are you hurt?”
“Go wash up for dinner. Rain is coming.”

I’m afraid what’s coming is a great deal worse than rain.

Beautiful. This is a beautiful romance comic followed by a comic about being a single mum and a story of growing up without a Dad. And then it turns very, very dark indeed. The blossoming romance is perfectly portrayed in a series of tender, silent panels, and the separation after is all the more heart-rending for it. As to what follows… jeepers!

Surprised? So was I. I had no expectations of this at all. Which just goes to show that there is no such thing as a good character or a bad character: just good writers and artists.

As to the context, I will leave you to discover that for yourselves.


Buy Guardians Of The Galaxy #0.1 and read the Page 45 review here

New Avengers vol 5 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis &  Mike Deodato, Michael Gaydos, Michael Avon Oeming, Carlos Pacheco, others.

Final Bendis NEW AVENGERS book.

Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are leaving the Mansion. In ALIAS VOL 1 and ALIAS VOL 2 (quite the best Marvel Universe books of all time) they got together and made a romantic go of it. In PULSE, they had a baby. But by that point Luke was already a member of the New Avengers and during that time the couple and baby have come under attack relentlessly.

“Avengers should not have kids,” the Wasp once said. “Superheroes should not have kids. That should be the rule.”

Jessica has wanted out for ages, and Luke has finally agreed. The thing is, Luke now owns Avengers Mansion and leads the team so his best mate, the multi-millionaire Iron Fist, is a tad preoccupied. Here he is in the Mansion’s garden whose statues celebrating the team’s history have come under the same bombardment they all have recently. They’re a little the worse for wear. He’s meditating, in silence, with Doctor Strange, no longer Master Of The Mystic Arts.

“I can’t believe Cage is up and leaving.”
“Danny – “
“Can you…? I mean, we’re all here because of him. In a way.”
“Let’s – this is meditation time. Both of us need to focus.”
“I know, I know… Doctor, you’re right.”
“Just let it go. Clear your mind. We’re both men of spirit.”
“Should we disband? Should we even go on as a team? I mean, we’re all so busy and we’re all on other teams. Without Luke what kind of a team will this be?”
“No, I know. It’s just… In the old days we would have made this decision together.”
“You and I?”
“No. Me and Luke.”
“Well – “
“But – But things change! Right?”
“Life. All of a sudden everything is turned around and Luke is a father and a husband. And I’m just… I’m just… I’m exactly the same. (My costume’s better.)”
“Daniel, listen to me… You and Lucas will be friends for life.”
“No. I know. I know.”
“Change is inevitable.”
“I know.”
“We have to support our friends as they journey forth… And know that we will always cherish the moments we are lucky enough to have shared.”
“I think I’m going to buy myself a Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4.”
“That is a great idea.”
“You want one?”

It’s pages like that which sets this second series of NEW AVENGERS way above its NEW-less sister title. It’s a far better dynamic full of irreverent characters and consequent mischief. The art has come predominantly from arch shadow-merchant Mike Deodato with a welcome one chapter here by ALIAS’ Michael Gaydos. Alas, this book also features a jarring chapter drawn by Michael Oeming whose POWERS with Bendis I adore. But it could hardly be less in tune with Deodato. Oh, wait, it could: there are the double-page spreads by blindingly cool but awfully inappropriate artists right at the battle-climax, and the tension evaporates just like that. Such self-indulgence – well, no doubt, to give these underexposed artists a little publicity, but at the expense of the book and its readers.

A self-sacrifice is about to come back to haunt our new Avengers and Doctor Strange in particular. Someone with the almost limitless ability to hop between bodies by possessing their souls instantaneously is out for revenge. One by one key members of Marvel’s occult are taken down one-by-one until there is a murder inside the mansion itself and all are implicated. In desperation the prime-time team of Avengers are also assembled – the real powerhouses like Thor, the Red Hulk and – oh dear. They have souls too, I’m afraid.

Will Luke and Jessica make it out with their baby alive, or did they linger just a little too long? Now is not the best time to look at that cover again.


Buy New Avengers vol 5 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ultimate Comics Iron Man s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Nathan Edmonson & Matteo Buffagni…

When I finished this my first thought was, well that was a completely obvious ending which I saw coming about forty pages earlier and, in fact, certain events leading up to it actually mean the ending is total nonsense. After thinking about it for another ten seconds or so, that might not actually be the case. The ending being total nonsense, that is, but it’s still so, so obvious. It’s meant to be a total shocker, but meh.

Such a shame after the shining triumph that was ULTIMATE COMICS THOR and also the thought-provoking ULTIMATE COMICS CAPTAIN AMERICA. This is just insipid. It makes no use whatsoever of what differentiates Ultimate Shellhead from mainstream Shellhead, i.e. the even more outrageously louche Tony, complete with his intelligent tumour that has its own personality etc. etc. This could just be a very dull mainstream Iron Man adventure and, frankly, when Matt Fraction has been invincibly acing it for eons and now Kieron Gillen is now boldly going where no (Iron) man has been before (well not recently anyway), this is just dull.


Buy Ultimate Comics Iron Man s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Animal Man vol 4: Born To Be Wild (£14-99, Vertigo) by Peter Milligan, Tom Veitch & Chas Trogg, Steve Dillon, Mark Farmer…

“I’m Nowhere Man. Formerly known as the Molecularly Displaced Freak. Maybe we’ll come back to that later, like a floating dice.
“My mind is also a little displaced, which is why I use what I call my Burroughs technique. We’ll come back in green saliva to that one too…
“Hi, make yourself Venusian rubbed Moscow. Can I drink you in the Mayan temple?”

Strange. If you had asked me whether anyone else took over ANIMAL MAN after Grant Morrison’s groundbreaking run, I would have said no, it finished after his 26 issues. I did, after all, have it on standing order – at Page 45, I should add. And, given how much I had enjoyed Peter Milligan’s SHADE THE CHANGING MAN, also on Vertigo, and his other previous 2000AD stuff like BAD COMPANY, I would have thought I would have carried on getting the title when he took over rather than just cancelling it. It’s just that I have absolutely no recollection whatsoever of this material. Sadly that’s probably just as well, and probably explains why it’s never been collected before, as I found it almost unreadable. I am almost tempted to go up into the loft and dig out the relevant COMIC LONG BOX (surely the most outrageous product linking ever?) to see if I did actually purchase any of these issues. If I have, I’ve blanked them from my mind completely.

I should pause there, mind you and add a very large caveat: it’s only the Milligan material that I just couldn’t get on with. The stuff written by Tom Veitch, who took over after only six issues from Milligan, is really rather good and far closer in tone to the Morrison ANIMAL MAN material, whereas Milligan seemed to have been attempting to go down a more SHADE, well even DOOM PATROL route, frankly. It’s too loosely, almost incoherently written, which is precisely what he was going for oddly enough as a huge impossible-to-miss neon sign-posted nod to William Burroughs’ cut-up technique, though it does tighten up considerably and become a touch more cogent in the final couple of his issues.

I get what he was trying to do, which was basically write something extremely experimental, I just didn’t enjoy it. The art is also… interesting… definitely putting me in mind of some of the very early issues of HELLBLAZER in terms of being very average quality indeed. Again the exception being on the Veitch-penned stuff, when Steve Dillon is on the pencils. A game of two halves. then, this particular volume.

Having just had a peek at Wikipedia, I see Veitch and Dillon did actually create 18 issues in total, followed by Jamie Delano writing 29 issues (I really do find it bizarre I never read this material at the time unless early senility is well and truly upon me) and then 10 more issues by Jerry Prosser before it was cancelled. Hmm, I guess DC may well be reprinting it all gradually and why not I suppose. Caveat emptor and all that.


Buy Animal Man vol 4: Born To Be Wild 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.
Crossed vol 5 s/c (£18-99, Avatar) by David Lapham, David Hine & Jacen Burrows, Georges Duarte

Unearthing Ltd Ed h/c (£49-99, Knockabout) by Alan Moore & Mitch Jenkins

Unearthing s/c (£19-99, Knockabout) by Alan Moore & Mitch Jenkins

Sleeper Omnibus h/c (£55-99, DC) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Muse h/c (£25-99, Humanoids) by Denis Pierre Filippi & Terry Dodson

Spider-Man: Dying Wish h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Humberto Ramos, various

Fanny & Romeo (£14-99, Conundrum Press) by Yves Pelletier & Pascal Girard

Joe The Barbarian s/c (£14-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Sean Murphy

Marvel Zombies: Destroy s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Frank Marraffino & Mirco Pierfederici

The Shade softcover (£14-99, DC) by James Robinson & Cully Hamner, Tony Harris, Darwyn Cooke, Frazer Irving, Jill Thompson

Mice Templar vol 3: A Midwinter Night’s Dream s/c (£13-50, Image) by Bryan J.L. Glass & Michael Avon Oeming

All Star Western vol 2: Lords & Owls s/c (£12-99, DC) by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, various

Red Lanterns vol 2: Death Of The Red Lanterns s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter Milligan & Miguel Sepulveda

Severed s/c (£10-99, Image) by Scott Snyder & Attila Futaki

Trigun Multiple Bullets (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Yasuhiro Nightow

Batman: Gotham By Gaslight s/c (£9-99, DC) by Brian Augustyn & Mike Mignola

Blood-C vol 1 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Ranmaru Kotone

Pandora Hearts vol 14 (£8-99, Yen Press) by Jun Mochizuki

Moomin Builds A House (£7-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tove Jansson

Moomin Falls In Love (£7-50, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tove Jansson

How To Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting To Kill You (£9-99, Andrews McMeel) by The Oatmeal

Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates vol 3 s/c (UK Ed’n) (£12-99, Marvel) by Sam Humphries & Billy Tan, Luke Ross

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 3 s/c (UK Ed’n) (£13-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez, Pepe Larraz

Ultimate Comics: X-Men vol 3 s/c (UK Ed’n) (£12-99, Marvel) by Carlo Barberi & Paco Medina

Tenjo Tenge 2-in-1 Edition vol 11 (£10-99, Viz) by Oh!Great

Black Butler vol 12 (£8-99, Yen) by Yana Toboso

Tegami Bachi – Letter Bee vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Hiroyuki Asada

Awkward Silence vol 3 (£9-99, SuBLime) by Hinako Takanaga

Skip Beat! Omnibus vols 10-12 (£9-99, Viz) by Yoshiki Nakamura

Psyren vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Toshiaki Iwashiro

Neon Genesis Evangelion Omnibus vols 4-6 (£12-99, Viz) by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

Demon Love Spell vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Mayu Shinjo

Hayate Combat Butler vol 21 (£6-99, Viz) by Kenjiro Hata
New comic about hatred and the internet by Joe List. Brilliant!

Madness: ‘How Can I Tell You?’ live. The lyrics and delivery are wonderful: a love letter to your child. I cried?

And in a cracking convergence, check out this music video which comicbook creator Dan Berry popped together for Jim Guthrie. Jim Guthrie: The Rest Is Yet To Come by Dan Berry. Oh my God! Your soul will soar!

 – Stephen

One Response to “Reviews March 2013 week one”

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