Reviews March 2013 week two

“Warily investigating, he affiliates himself in 1992 to a magical order, the Illuminates of Thanateros, temple of a New Cross recording studio. Chaos magic, though the name seems harsh. Bit of a mess at worst, more teen goth’s bedroom that inchoate pre-creational abyss.”

 – Alan Moore on Stuart Moore in Unearthing. Link to that new Alan Moore interview at the bottom of the blog, along with ancient film footage of Alan Moore talking about Swamp Thing.

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

This is a rather sweet and lovely book about couples and how relationships work or, in some cases, don’t. With its fresh and jaunty watercolours, each page has a brightness which prevents the ups and downs of the story from ever becoming cloying or oppressive.

When we meet Fanny and Fabien you can see that they love one another but the cracks in their relationship are easy to spot. Fabien uses work and money to deflect from his fear of lifetime commitment and in turn Fanny uses that as an excuse to ignore her own faults and shove all the blame onto him. We get little glimpses into their thoughts and we can see that, really, they both want the same things; they just don’t quite know how to get there yet.

Enter Romeo: not a man but a cat! A cat in need of a home, it seems. Broody Fanny is immediately smitten and Romeo seems utterly content to fill the role of surrogate baby. The only slight problem is that Fabien is ever so slightly, extremely, deathly allergic to cats… After a night of sneezing and wheezing he finds himself asking the fairly reasonable question; why one earth would you inflict that on someone you love?! And so the cracks begin to widen and we wonder if Fanny and Fabien are going to make it after all.

What I really liked about this book is that it is full of light and humour. We watch the characters wrestle with their feelings and although yes, love is a serious business, we also get to reflect in how ridiculous we can be and how daft many of our fears are when push comes to shove. In particular Fanny’s descent into overbearing cat-mother and Fabien’s parallel regression to porn-watching, man-cave dwelling, take-away guzzling slob are amusing to watch because we can tell that it’s just “a phase” and that eventually one (or both) of them will come to their senses and rejoin the real world.

Having said that, though, it is not at all obvious how everything will turn out and there is a real will-they won’t-they tension to the story. That tension is made all the stronger by the fact that these are really quite nice people and we’d rather like them to end up happy! Also, the cat is really very cute. Always a bonus!

DK

Buy Fanny & Romeo and read the Page 45 review here

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

A masterpiece in line, light, form and colour, this for me is the highlight of Terry Dodson’s already prestigious career to date.

He shares the colour-artist credits with Rebecca Rendon and I don’t know who’s responsible for which individual pages or the elements within, but I stared at a single panel of the water-lily lake for ages. With the clever application of flat colours for the floating pads and graded hues for the water-surface reflections, they’ve created the equivalent effect of spot-varnish 3-D!

There is so much attention to bucolic detail with dancing sunlight and dappled greens that you can almost believe yourself out in the countryside, breathing in its fresh air as the clouds roll swiftly on their way in the distance. The sense of space is astounding, tall poplars rising vertically from the gently sloping, horizontal plains in front of the cloudline beyond, and casting their shadows at right angles over the cream-coloured paths.

Not only that, but Dodson’s lines are infinitely softer and more slender here than those rendered in the likes of Mark Millar’s spectacular SPIDER-MAN (definitive) with the most elaborate dresses and tresses and, yes, beautiful bosoms, for this is marketed as something slightly “titillating”. And it is, but in a much more innocent and celebratory way than the nigh-ubiquitous Euro-titty trash. Not that I am calling Manara trash – I really am not as my many reviews will make clear – but I find this infinitely preferable for dear, sweet Coraline here is never once bested by men. Every attempt at tickle is met with a successful, salutary slap.

It’s a wake-up call. It actually is, and you’ll see what I mean when you get there.

An elegant young lady in a refined white ensemble, grey gloves and a demure, floral hat is driven by stagecoach through a rolling valley to the gates of a countryside estate, where she waits on her case to be collected. And it’s quite a rum, steam-driven contraption that eventually pulls up along with the jolly Mr. Ekborn, grounds-man and butler to boot. Judging by their journey there are a lot of grounds to attend: they seem the size of a British county. As to the mansion which sits at their centre, it is a wonder both outside and in, with the grandest of libraries I’ve seen outside of Latveria accessed via a glasshouse the size of an Eden Project bio-dome.

Coraline is greeted at the entrance by housekeeper Guérande, and is finally informed of her duties: she is to be the new governess for Master Vernère, a handsome young man, causally but fashionably dressed, perhaps in his early teens. He is, however, surprisingly austere for his years. Precocious too. having invented a series of increasingly elaborate steampunk contraptions for all manner of travel and surprisingly specific maintenance purposes. He’s prone to lock himself in his workshop or library for days on end, so education is now what Coraline’s been hired for. She’s been hired ostensibly to help him have fun again, and she’s certainly got her work cut out for her. Even when it looks like she’s won him over with the idea of building a treehouse, he returns with a contraption to do it all for them.

“Thank you, Ekborn,” he concludes. “It’s perfect.”
“May too perfect. Well, since it is already finished, all we have to do is go play inside it.”
“More trivialities! I’m too old for that child’s play, my dear.”
“No you’re not,” she sighs as he darts off for more mad invention. “That’s the whole point.”

So what went so terribly wrong, and why is Coraline really here? She’s certainly having the strangest of post-prandial dreams, each beginning with two tailors munching peaches in her wardrobe then measuring her up for period costumes. Then she finds herself assaulted by pirates or cast away on a dessert island only to be tied to a pole and carried away by the natives.

“But I’m telling you, I can walk just fine” was so well timed, before the party’s youngest makes a lunge for her boobies.

“Hey!”
“I’ve told you a thousand times!” scolds his mother. “It’s not polite to play with your food!”
“Excuse me?!…”

Just as things look like coming to the boil – and by things I mean the pot that she’s popped in – Coraline is rescued by a ridiculously beautiful, dark skinned young man, as lithe as you like, who declares, “Me Iday! Iday!”  The choreography as Coraline investigates their tree-top dwelling, crawling round its twisting branches on all fours (and now wearing no more than a tiger-skin loin cloth) with Iday reaching out in “hot” pursuit, is hilarious. His blue eyes positively sparkle as he administers some apricot oils to soften her stinging skin, while his smile when he’s told to turn his back as she finishes the job off herself, is a perfect mixture of innocence and lust rather than out-and-out lechery. Then he makes a grab for her boobies.

*slap* Another wake-up call.

Throughout these sequences (they are many and varied on different nights, but oh yes, a pattern emergences) there is thankfully no real sense of danger of either being eaten or molested and no more is revealed than breast or two. Coraline displays an indomitable resolve and an almost detached sense of humour, safe in the knowledge that she is in a dream. It’s more a case of “Here we go again!” and quite a lot of this is played for comedy.

Dodson’s compositions, figure drawing, body language and expressions are positively delicious from start to finish, and the whole book is suffused with a sense of joy.

Moreover, there is a point to all this. The dreams are so far from random that I’ve deliberately left a few elements out. Oh, and I think I just got the title. Yes.

SLH

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

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

“To some degree I suppose with Unearthing what we were saying was that you can’t separate people and landscape. That you have to consider them together. If you’re doing a work of psychogeography it will probably always end up as a work of psychobiography and vice versa. That you start to investigate somebody like Steve Moore, you cannot consider him separately from the place that he emerged from. The human and the human’s habitat are inextricably part of the same thing.”

 – Alan Moore on UNEARTHING.

Told in a blend of prose and photography, this is a passionate, eloquent but above all witty evocation of Alan’s mentor Stuart Moore and the suburb of Shooter Hill where he has lived, in the very same house, for all but three months of his life. That has to be pretty rare.

Alan’s no stranger to this sort of excavation. In VOICE OF THE FIRE he took the geographical location which became Northampton and charted six millennia of its legend and lore – its memory, if you like – through the eyes of its inhabitants, so unearthing its temporal strata. And, just like Northampton, it transpires that Shooter Hill is more significant in the grand scheme of things than it initially appears. It’s surprising what you’ll find once you start digging around.

The language, as you’d anticipate, is rich and imaginatively deployed.

“In 1969 I meet him for the first time, marvelling at his lunar lack of mental gravity, the slow and lazy arc of his creative leaps, the silver dustplumes boiling up around his shoes, one small step for a man.”

By this time Stuart has already had his imagination fired by American comicbooks, begun his own fanzines, worked with Barry Windsor-Smith, Steve Parkhouse and Ian Gibson on ‘Orpheus’, hung out at Dark They Were And Golden Eyed, co-organised the first UK comic convention and was amassing a substantial I Ching scholarship. Oh yes, and I forgot he scripted Tom Baker Doctor Who comics illustrated by Dave Gibbons for Marvel UK.

Anyway, it’s not long before a ritual involving a sword strung from Chinese coins leaves him with the sort of dream you’d ordinarily blame on cheese and the single word “Endymion” whispered in his slumbering ear. Turns out that was a shepherd boy who fell in love with Selene, goddess of the moon and so queen of the night and dreams.

Later he is led into magic and lures Alan along for the ride. This made me laugh:

“Warily investigating, he affiliates himself in 1992 to a magical order, the Illuminates of Thanateros, temple of a New Cross recording studio. Chaos magic, though the name seems harsh. Bit of a mess at worst, more teen goth’s bedroom that inchoate pre-creational abyss.”

Okay, so that was a dead end. Their moment of actual satori they would experience together, in private, without the need of black robes and chanting. Probably a great big spliff, but then that’s Alan’s equilibrium. The revelation is pretty well documented already, but never better evoked than here.

It’s a beautifully produced piece of theatre (with a secret double-gatefold spread – okay not so secret now, but finding it will be fun) full of exquisite and elaborately fashioned photography, whose cast includes Alan Moore as himself and Robert Goodman as Steve Moore. Steve only appears in a credit photo, dousing his impersonator with a watering can. The theatre never ends.

Nowhere in the fine print does it tell you about the tiny type, however. Some of you may find yourselves in need of a magnifying glass or, may I temptingly suggest, the UNEARTHING LTD ED H/C, also out this week which at a whopping A3 is twice the size of this softcover!

Sorry…? I have to file my horns down daily.

SLH

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

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

Massive, A3, limited edition hardcover of the UNEARTHING S/C which is, I grant you, a mere £19-99, but you should see its teeny, tiny, type. No, this is a more manly edition, if you’re a man; a more womanly edition, if you’re a woman; or much more to chew on, if you’re a goat.

SLH

Buy Unearthing Ltd Ed h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Why sulk? We are safe! Do you know the difference between the first love and the last? It’s this: you always think the first love is the last and the last the first…”
“Oh, shut up.”

I love it when young Moomintroll’s cross. His brow cuts right down into his big, black eyes in a glacial glare. La Goona’s horse is quite right when you think about it, though (it is she who is speaking first): that’s quite a shrewd observation.

One of my all-time favourite episodes taken from the black and white MOOMIN VOL 3 hardcover, and rendered here as a full-colour, floppy landscape edition.

Here we have a flood of positively Biblical proportions engulfing Moominvalley to the extent that only the scant few tallest trees and the attic of the Moomins’ household bob above the water. Which is odd because it stopped raining hours ago. Emotions are running as high as the tide – it is to wonder which caused which – and there are troubles of the heart in store for Moomintroll and Snorkmaiden when a beautiful but vain leading lady, Miss La Goona, is washed their way and takes up residence, much to Snorkmaiden’s dismay. Moomintroll can’t do enough for her, diving down to the kitchen through a hole in the floorboards for coffee, which mysteriously surfaces undiluted, and Snorkmaiden pouts with jealousy.

“Can’t you sleep?”
“I can’t stop thinking about you spreading a blanket over La Goona.”
“But she was cold.”
“That I am cold of course doesn’t matter.”
“Darling, you can have my whole quilt.”
“Take it away! It’s stifling here!”

“Women…” thinks Moomin as poor Snorkmaiden rolls over and away, sobbing her heart out.

What followers is infinitely more endearing than an Eastenders sub-plot, but bearing all of its hallmarks as everyone tries to second-guess each other’s dissemblance by dissembling themselves and poor Moomintroll is utterly baffled, completely unsure of how to conduct himself without causing offence or discarding his innate chivalry.

Meanwhile Snorkmaiden packs her bags (“I’ll go far away”), pops out of the window (“He doesn’t love me any longer”) and rows across the waters (“He will never see me again”) to the top of a moonlit tree.

“I wonder how long it will be before he comes to get me…”

Women!

SLH

Buy Moomin Falls In Love and read the Page 45 review here

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

From the creator of the rip-roaringly funny 5 VERY GOOD REASONS TO PUNCH A DOLPHIN IN THE MOUTH, this does contain comics so I don’t feel like I’m selling out in quite the same blatant fashion. Even when that crime does spring to mind I remember we’ve made over a grand from those petulantly punched porpoise cousins, so who bloody cares?

Does your cat care, do you think? About you? Not really, they’re a species so self-centred they make my raging monomania look like benevolent altruism. It’s all me, me, me, now, now, now. Join up the dots for yourselves.

The best pages are when Matthew is thinking laterally rather than literally, like ‘If We Treated Our Cats Like They Treat Us’, the entire ‘Bobcats’ as office workers sequence and  “Cats love reflecting surfaces: nature’s vending machine” whose punchline is purely visual. Guess you’ll just have to buy the book for that one.

A lot of this observational humour like cat-on-a-keyboard is spot-on accurate, but in the age in which we daily dispense such witty tit-bits from our household, cat-coveted computers, a lot of this has already been done to death (some of it by me, sorry), and ‘Cat Vs Internet’ is here sadly spread out into so much space-filler. Also, although there are some cracking moments of ellipsis (the humour resides on what happens next, implied but unshown), our Oatmeal orator ain’t no Jamie Smart. That’s what he’s aiming for (and why would you not?), but he’s simply not that good a cartoonist or consistent a wit. Plus, of course, he narrowed his potential subject matter down by its very title.

Well, no, he didn’t. 5 VERY GOOD REASONS TO PUNCH A DOLPHIN IN THE MOUTH wasn’t just about famously benevolent water-based mammals. Many a T-Rex took it on the nose too. Then up the nose as well. ‘7 Reasons To Keep Your Tyrannosaur off Crack Cocaine’ was as genius as it was numerically redundant. Why would you need more than one reason safe-guarding your saurus from speed?

Our author could have expended a little more lateral investigating the tell-tale signs of other household pets’ predisposure to biting the hand that feeds, in addition. I imagine a goldfish, trapped in five spherical inches of transparent bowl would feel thoroughly psychopathic towards its briefly enraptured captors. Seriously: when you scooped a goldfish at a funfair (probably banned now), you were hooked for all of five seconds. Then you’d display all the memory and attention span of that which you’d won. If a goldfish could physically grow teeth it would turn into a fucking piranha.

On the plus side, there is enough here that made me actually guffaw. It includes, for example, the only fart jokes I’ve ever laughed at. Plus there are graphs for laughs and a cautionary diagram about ‘How Your Cat Sees You’. The fun there is that you will recognise its truths immediately.

SLH

Buy How To Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting To Kill You and read the Page 45 review here

The Art Of Osamu Tezuka: God Of Manga s/c (£19-99, Ilex) by Helen McCarthy ~

To put it plainly this is the big fat Tezuka art book/encyclopaedia/autobiography you have been waiting for.

This is a huge book encompassing all aspects of Osamu’s creative life beginning with his highly detailed and beautiful illustrations of insects and illustrated quiz books which, as a boy, he self-published, then his dangerous excursions into anti-war satire working in a factory during World War Two.

It wasn’t until the circumstances aligned in the post-war landscape that his prolific and imaginative sci-fi and fantasy works, created whilst at medical school, took shape. Often these stories were not even in the form of comics as he was also active in amateur theatre productions, feeling out his early stories in the form of plays and manga. All this relentless creativity before he even became commercially successful with ASTRO BOY!

This extensive tome leads us down through the history of Tezuka’s life using his creations rather than dates as the chronological measure, seemingly ballooning his life during his most successful periods, which were frequent and often revolutionary in their fields.

It quickly becomes apparent that in the West we have merely seen the tip of the iceberg concerning Tezuka’s 40-year career in comics. We have also have missed out on some amazing animation, which he funded off the back of the comics. Think about that for a minute, because it’s more than a rare occurrence in the West that a comic artist could be successful enough to open an animation studio (in his back garden, no less) off the success of his comic; it’s positively alien. There are low points too: the accompanying DVD shows an artist in the autumn of his life having to change his style as he can no longer draw circles, the very basis of all his early characters. Although it turned off some early fans, this change in style pushed Tezuka to create some of the best work of his career: PHOENIX, BUDDHA, Black Jack and MW to name a few of the translated works. He kept himself equally busy in the ‘80s creating more amazing-looking comics, animation and even sculpture, and leaving behind scores of unfinished projects in the wake of his death due to illness in 1989. But the book doesn’t end on such a sombre note, and continues right up to present day, displaying his legacy in the from of comic and animation projects based on his work and a whole section on the magnificent Tezuka Osamu Manga Museum in his home town of Takarazuka and the smaller Tezuka Osamu World in Kyoto’s railway station.

TR

Buy The Art Of Osamu Tezuka: God Of Manga s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

A great big brute of a book containing not only both softcover seasons of Sleeper, but also POINT BLANK and indeed COUP D’ETAT: SLEEPER #1 and COUP D’ETAT: AFTERWARD #1 which I don’t believe are collected elsewhere. On top of that are some swoonaway Sean Phillips extras: page layouts, cover inks etc. I love a little process material!

Hair-tearingly tense undercover espionage thriller deftly conducted by the creators of CRIMINAL and FATALE, which doesn’t just avoid the pothole cop-outs of most superhero tales when it comes to crime and consequence, it pole-vaults over them and plunges the protagonist into a world where there’s no soothing alternative to ruthless expediency.

Holden Carver went deep undercover just as his boss went deep into a coma. Unfortunately a) the cover in question is hired thuggery for a ruthless powerbroker with a brain sharper than a meat slicer, b) his old boss at the agency was the only one who knew so c) there’s no one around to extract him. With no light at the end of the tunnel (that doesn’t turn out to be a train) Carver’s just got to carry out the missions for the slime he now works for without completely killing his conscience or the friends who think he’s defected. Not a lot of options there. How many innocents can Holden kill before the total begins to chime with his moral concept of “too many”? And how long can he keep this up before his new boss discovers the truth, Carver gives up completely or – worse still – throws in with the other side?

Brubaker excels where lesser writers would leave us with more monochromatic characters: Holden Carver, undercover amongst the world’s most dangerous criminals, actually makes friends with some of them. He can’t help himself. They spend time at the bar together, they watch each others’ backs in the firing line and, hell, the man has a sex drive. What’s he going to do about it, other than sleep with the enemy? Now, there was an accident several years ago that left Carver incapable of feeling pain. Instead he stores it up to inflict it on others. Miss Misery, on the other hand, discovered some time back that, for her, happiness is a life-threatening disease: if she doesn’t inflict pain she will fall ill and die. Before each mission she charges up by dishing it out but she cannot allow herself to fall in love or, if she does, it’s a matter of practical survival to cause pain to the object of her affection by being unfaithful. And that’s the sort of pain Holden can feel. Isn’t that fucked up?

This is less about superpowers than about espionage, cunning and deceit, but every so often Ed provides little origins – parodies of standard superhero fare – to lighten the predominantly pitch-black tone, as characters reveal their past to their mates over drinks. Here’s Claudia talking about herself in the third person singular:

“All right, so where was I?”
“In High School.”
“Right, okay, so… in High School, Claudia was the girl all the gay boys came out to. (“– And no one knows, not my mom. No way about my dad, he’d kill me.”) She wasn’t gay herself, but she had always enjoyed the company of fags, the queenie-er the better, really. (“I was all snap! get out of my face, bitch, and he was all –“) They were funnier than most of the girls she knew, didn’t want to have sex with her, and rarely got jealous when she made out with some guy at a party. And so her early High School nickname was Faghag. Now one of her friends, one of the less queenie ones, was also a bit of a science geek, and one day she attended a demonstration with him. This kid was the most picked-on guy ever. Not only was he a nerd, but he was also openly gay, in a day where that really wasn’t accepted at school. So, at the demonstration, some jocks started pushing him, and accidentally shoved him right into the beam of this interspatial particle accelerator, and everything went crazy. Her poor friend was irradiated or something. She never understood exactly what happened. But in his dying moment, as he flailed for life, his teeth ripped right into her neck.”
“Wait. You were bitten by a radioactive homo –?”
“Can I please tell the story my way?”
“Oh, you go, girl…”

You’ll just have to pick up the book to find out the second half of that origin!

The art is shrouded throughout in a dangerous twilight, where neither you nor Carver can be sure who’s lurking round the corner, so you constantly fear for Holden’s safety. Phillips’ pages are full of atmosphere, a brooding intensity and a palpable sense of foreboding, where anything can come out of the shadows and no one’s sure what the other guy’s really thinking. Best of all, his stuff flows, yet he’s also as solid as anyone else. Check out the stormy midnight car scenes coloured to perfection, I might add, by Tony Avina.

SLH

Buy Sleeper Omnibus h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Age Of Ultron #1 of 10 (£2-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Bryan Hitch.

It’s over. They lost. We lost everything.

Civilisation as we know it is effectively over; New York one massive, mangled wreckage, its once vainglorious skyscrapers crumbling into the yawning crevasses of its underground system where the streets and pavements used to be. As lightning crackles rather than flashes overhead, something unimaginably massive hovers above the ruins – an awful, futuristic construction of unknown intent. Nothing and no one is moving. It’s dead.

Move out from under its apocalyptic epicentre, however, and although the suburbs look like a war zone, some of the tenements still stand, barely, and there are pockets of life like this hooker on the street, making a midnight house call. The thugs that answer the door are heavily armed, one with the makings of an exoskeleton. Still, open the door they did – and that’s all he needs. That’s what Hawkeye’s been waiting for…

This is off-the-scale epic, and I haven’t been so knocked out or excited about a Marvel or DC event in years. We’re talking the opening two seasons of Ultimates by Millar and Hitch. We’re talking KINGDOM COME which opens after things have already gone wrong and it’s about to grow infinitely worse. Only here, it’s already happened. Here it couldn’t really get any worse. Here it’s more up close and personal.

What’s left of Marvel’s Avengers, Fantastic Four and X-Men are all but cowering in seclusion, holed up in a makeshift, appropriated bunker, for venturing out means almost instant detection. Leave and you don’t come back. Leave and you won’t be let back – you could be tracked or tagged.

It seems that only one of them is prepared to take that risk, break the rules and sneak out into the night – even for one of their own. Somewhere in a basement of that tenement is one of their friends and colleagues, tied to a chair and almost beaten to death by a small army of humans armed to the teeth and two former crimelords you’ll know. They have an arrangement with Ultron. Hawkeye doesn’t give a shit.

Every single page will knock you sideways – the action is monumental and the atmosphere of desperation, almost defeatism, is sustained throughout. You know, apart from Hawkeye and the mate he’s come to rescue. I have deliberately kept this SPOILER-free for in any future scenario like this, half the awe is discovering for yourself what has become of your favourites. Hint: it’s not good.

I would emphasise that you need to read nothing ahead of this. You can just launch right in. On the other hand, it does have its origins in AVENGERS VOL 1 then right at the end of AVENGERS VOL 2.

Please note: this is weekly – AGE OF ULTRON #2 (not actual cover) is out now!

SLH

Buy Age Of Ultron #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

Oooooh, the final few issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN* leading up and including #700!

What’s left of mop-topped minger Doc Ock has been knocking on death’s door for quite a few years now. Looks like it’s about to open up and swallow him whole, tentacles and all. Yes, Doctor Octopus has mere hours to live but determined to have the last laugh over the quipping, thwipping pain in the arse who’s been beating his backside forever.

And that’s when he discovers Spider-Man is Peter Parker, nephew of that sweet old woman he once had the hots for and to whom he was briefly engaged! Boy, that’s got to rankle.

Ah, but the man has a plan, and it is a cunning one. He’s going to swap bodies with Spider-Man and leave Peter Parker in his old, ravaged shell to face the funereal music instead.

All sorts of ironies abound in this final tussle, and although I was emotionally ejected from the proceedings by Ramos’ plinky plonky artwork, the surprise ending was certainly very different from what anyone could have expected, and set the stage a very new, very different SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #1 (which is still in stock – original printing, too).

Ta-da!

*The final few issues, that is, until Marvel inevitably relaunches with a fresh AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 next year, before reinstating the old issue numbers as soon as they approach 750. You mark my words.

SLH

Buy Spider-Man: Dying Wish h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sex #1 (£2-25, Image) by Joe Casey & Piotr Kowalski.

First off, Kowalski’s giant semi-futuristic cityscape is impressive: lots of ridiculously tall skyscrapers squeezed onto Saturn City’s central island radiating bridges like the sun, and then blotting out every square inch of it for miles and miles beyond. The inking effect is like Terry Austin with bits missing.

I didn’t find his sex scenes sexy – they were way too explicit for me; cold and clinical too – but then nor did I find them offensive. I found two of his so-far peripheral gay characters too fey and affected, but then I find a lot of gay men too fey and affected so I didn’t take offence to that, either. (There’s nothing with being fey – it just does nothing for me – but I cannot abide affectation. Get me!)

The storytelling didn’t strike me as particularly gripping, but then it’s a bit early to tell where it’s going. Basically a certain Mr. Cooke of Cooke Industries is returning to the fold after a sabbatical, but doesn’t seem that interested in doing anything beyond exercising. He doesn’t seem interested in taking strategy meetings, photo ops, or even masturbating like all the other punters do when visiting a brothel as voyeur. The one thing he is definitely not interested in doing is resuming his role as some sort of superhero (details sketchy for now) because I think something went tits-up and certainly somebody died at some point or another because there’s a grave on the very first page. Meanwhile, his current lack of vigilance in that department encourages playas to contemplate playing.

What I find very, very unlikely is that sex will prove remotely relevant to the proceedings: i.e. any thematic core or even central plot development thereby meriting the comic’s title. My entirely uninformed guess was it was chosen for publicity purposes so that dozens of predictably inane retailers would tweet:

“We have SEX!”
“Come to us for SEX!”
“Pay us for SEX!”

And indeed they have done so.

I don’t mind puerility any more than I mind fey, but I have nothing but contempt for the fucking obvious.

SLH

Buy Sex #1 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.

Although clearly this week some of these are merely books that have fallen off the system. I mean, Roberta Gregory’s WINGING IT is over 20 years old! But you won’t find many copies elsewhere, though!
 

Hawkeye – My Life As Weapon vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & David Aja

Adventure Time vol 2 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by Ryan North & Shelli Paroline

Batman: Brave And Bold – Small Miracles s/c (£9-99, DC) by Sholly Fisch & Robert Pope

Avengers Vs X-Men: Avengers Academy s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Christos N Gage & Tom Grummett

07-Ghost vol 3 (£7-50, Viz) by Yoshiki Nakamura

Blade Of The Immortal vol 26: Blizzard (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroaki Samura

Chronicles Of Conan vol 23: Well Of Souls (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Jim Owlsey, John Buscema & Various, George Roussos, Steve Mellor

Essential Captain Marvel vol 2 (£14-99, Marvel) by Various

Guardians Of Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers vol 2 s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Various

Paradise Kiss vol 3 (£12-99, Random House) by Ai Yazawa

Penny Arcade vol 9: Passions Howl (£10-99, Oni Press Inc.) by Jerry Holkins, Mike Krahulik

Tokyo Babylon vol 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by CLAMP

Earth 2: The Gathering h/c (£16-99, DC) by James Robinson & Nicola Scott

The Amory Wars: The Second Stage Turbine Blade Ultimate Edition h/c (£22-50, Boom!) by Claudio Sanchez & various

The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde vol 4: The Devoted Friend, The Nightingale And The Rose s/c (£5-99, NBM) by Oscar Wilde & P. Craig Russell

One Piece vol 66 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Rosario + Vampire Season II vol 11 (£6-99, Viz) by Akihisa Ikeda

Winging It Part 1 (£7-99, Solo) by Roberta Gergory
“To some degree I suppose with Unearthing what we were saying was that you can’t separate people and landscape. That you have to consider them together. If you’re doing a work of psychogeography it will probably always end up as a work of psychobiography and vice versa. That you start to investigate somebody like Steve Moore, you cannot consider him separately from the place that he emerged from. The human and the human’s habitat are inextricably part of the same thing.”

 – Alan Moore on UNEARTHING. Read or listen to the entire Alan Moore interview here.

While we’re here, ancient video footage of Alan Moore talking about Swamp Thing 28 years ago.

A mischievous little piece published online about a certain Stephen L. Holland’s favourite spots in Nottingham – I swear to God that grave stone exists! Do you think I’d be so shameless as to plug Page 45 in there? Ahahahahaha! Yes. (P.S. They took out half my jokes! Probably for the best.)

COURTNEY CRUMRIN interview with Ted Naifeh about the series’ conclusion. Love what he says about the different between a story and a portrait. Perfect.

Watch this jawing-dropping artist in action, creating an entire tableau from scratch as he goes along. Sent to me by stellar comicbook artist Marc Laming.

And finally here’s the video for Dead Can Dance’s sublime Children Of The Sun, as storyboarded by KABUKI’s David Mack.

 – Stephen

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