Reviews May 2013 week three

Out of that mouth comes the stench of offal and furious threats he turns into promises, dismissing his son Martin as a “sick heifer” and “starved bitch” and deriding his missus as a “fat sow” and “stupid mare”. His vegetarian son is terrified of him.

 – Stephen on Hellblazer vol 5 which contains seven issues never previously reprinted

Thief Of Thieves vol 2: Help Me (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman, James Asmus & Shawn Martinbrough.


Conrad Paulson quit. On the verge of a Venice job into which old Arno had sunk millions of dollars the most accomplished, plan-ahead thief in modern history quit crime forever.

He loves his wife (but she’s had enough) and foresaw his son Augustus heading the way brother-in-law James went because his talent so spectacularly fails to match his enthusiasm. Unfortunately Augustus won’t quit, had to be rescued from the FBI for fear of incriminating Conrad, and is still in deep shit for what he owes Cristo of the Cartel. And let me tell you, Cristo is not a nice man.

Now Cristo’s kidnapped Augustus’ girlfriend Emma and is threatening to return her finger by finger unless Augustus can convince his Dad to do a job for the Cartel. His Dad’s dead against: he won’t do it; he’s quit. He does, however, agree to rescue Emma but he has a very big problem: Augustus won’t listen to a word he says. God, that boy’s a liability.

Of volume one I wrote that each smartly spliced scene in this classy crime caper has been meticulously arranged in far from chronological order for maximum gasps of “I never saw that coming!” It was insane – all the more brilliant for being so structurally insane.

No less thrilling, this is however far gentler on the cranium chronologically except… there is one massively important piece of recent activity missing. Someone has done something they haven’t told anyone and it will bring every player from volume one back into the game then change its rules forever.

If I was Andy Diggle who takes over next issue (#14) I would be cursing James Asmus for the mess he’s left everyone in, almost as bad as what Bendis left Brubaker on DAREDEVIL. But then it was Diggle who took over from Brubaker on DAREDEVIL so I guess the poor guy’s used to it. (Please note: Andy tells me he’s having a whale of a time, and I don’t doubt him for five seconds. He just says it’s going to get a great deal darker now…)

Shawn Martinbrough, meanwhile, totally owns this series and although I’m rarely wont to comment on covers, a big, big tip of the hat to Shawn for making this complement THIEF OF THIEVES VOL 1 so spectacularly in primary reds and blues. That is Conrad Paulson; this is his son. They don’t compare well, do they?


Buy Thief Of Thieves vol 2: Help Me and read the Page 45 review here

Peter Bagge’s Other Stuff (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Peter Bagge with Alan Moore, Robert Crumb, Adrian Tomine, Dan Clowes, Johnny Ryan, Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez…

“Jesus lives in my heart, and Satan lives in my womb! …But you know who lives in my brain?”

Superb collection of rib-tickling material from the man who loves to HATE. And chums. Split into various sections, partly by characters who will be familiar to long time Bagge handlers, this work rounds up and corrals material which has previous appeared in HATE annuals, and also collaborations with various luminaries (including Alan Moore, Robert Crumb, Adrian Tomine, Dan Clowes, Johnny Ryan, Los Bros Hernandez) which have appeared in various places before as detailed in the introduction.

In doing so you get the complete run of two of my favourite Bagge creations, “Lovey” and the Shut-Ins”. The astutely observed car crash that is Lovey really does remind me of a friend’s ex-girlfriend just a little too much for comfort (enough said), and in our ever more virtual world Chet of the “Shut-Ins” obsession with the internet is disturbingly accurate. This is Bagge at his best for me, poking fun at everyday people with excruciating finesse. The material in collaboration with others, sometimes on writing, sometimes on art duties, is a true mélange of material. Some outright gag strips, others more typical fictional comedy, but always heavy on the characters, and of course the humour. One for the completists certainly, but also something for those wishing to dip their toes into Peter’s weird world. The only negative thing about the whole collection for me is both the front and rear covers, which seem like almost an after-thought, and probably won’t actually encourage anyone who isn’t familiar with, and fond of, his work to pick it up, which is a shame.


Buy Peter Bagge’s Other Stuff and read the Page 45 review here

The Playboy s/c (New Ed) (£12-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Chester Brown.

In which fifteen-year-old Chester Brown nervously, sweatily buys his first copy of Playboy magazine… then doesn’t look back.

Actually he looks back a lot – mostly over his shoulder, for the paranoia his new porn habit induces is almost as consuming as his early lust. It’s just not enough to make him quit for more than a few hours, days, weeks or – at a stretch – months at a time. It is, however, very successfully conveyed in all its candid detail, and anyone who has ever been furtive about anything in their lives will be ticking the boxes like crazy.

And of course looking back is precisely what Chester Brown is doing here, in one of the most famous comicbook memoirs on record. It’s a dinky, pocket-sized reissue which fits snugly into the palm of your hand, recut by Brown in a final edit, then fastidiously annotated at the back. There we learn that his original inspiration for beginning THE PLAYBOY was the first of many pages which Joe Matt went on to draw about his own experience with pornography which has been infinitely more obsessive and extensive than Chet’s (see SPENT especially). You’ll also see precisely what’s been excised (and so miss nothing; it’s reprinted here), all in service to keeping the issue at hand as fluid as possible and free from digression. The digressions are in the back where Chester clarifies, for example, his sole experience of shutting his eyes and imagining he was having sex with one of this favourite Playboy pin-ups rather than his girlfriend.

No, the work itself is remarkable straightforward: Chester buys a porn mag, desperately hoping no one he knows will recognise him doing so, and smuggles it home. He then selects his favourite page, and wanks over it using a two-palmed technique I’ve never come across before (and, being gay, I may have slightly more experience in this field than most) while worrying he’ll be disturbed mid-shuffle by his younger brother, mother or father. He sequesters the magazine outside, then frets that someone will have spotted him doing that too. He returns later on either to find it still there (though slightly soiled) and panics when it isn’t. You get the picture: it’s one long hormonally induced cycle of temptation and terror, fear and self-loathing.

As time progresses, Chet builds up whole collections of magazines, ditches them in a panic, buys them back up, tears bits off, burns some, agonises over whether someone will find the charred spine and recognise it for what it is, becomes an expert in Playmates and shuns most other brands as aesthetically inferior.

The art is beautifully fragile – far more fragile even than Jeffrey Brown’s renowned fragility – with a thin, crisp line with wavers in the wind when it comes to grass and hair. Seldom are there more than two panels per page, and little is left out. It’s all very, very, very straightforward, candid and clear. Pornography: cause and effect.


Buy The Playboy s/c (New Ed)  and read the Page 45 review here

Nobrow Anthology vol 8: Hysteria (£15-00, Nobrow) by various including Luke Pearson, Philippa Rice, Jim Rugg…

Whew, fairly intense anthology of material all based on or around the subject of hysteria, coloured entirely in the exactly the same shades of red, green, blue, brown, grey and black. The roll call of creators is either side of two single pages bearing the legend TURN ME NOW in large letters at 180 degrees to each other. One side of the book is wordless and features 32 truly, truly surreal double-page spreads from different creators. It may or may not be intended as a sequential narrative, I’m still not entirely sure after three or four reads through. I can see a very loose strand running through connecting piece to piece, but I am willing to concede any such narrative could be entirely my own imagination. This could actually be what Nobrow was intending, perhaps, the reader looking over bizarre and disturbing material repeatedly until they enter into some sort of hysterical state!

The other side of the book is a more conventional collection of 14 shorts, though with the same slightly migraine-inducing colour scheme, including offerings from Luke Pearson and Philippa Rice! It’s a good eclectic mix of contemporary fiction through to the rather zany. I do enjoy reading these Nobrow anthologies, though I can’t honestly say I understand what Nobrow intend by them, other than they each seem to be objects in their own right. They’re not really promotional of the imprint to an extent, but more like collagic performance pieces, which perhaps fits nicely enough with the Nobrow ethos.


Buy Hysteria: Nobrow Anthology vol 8 and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 5: Dangerous Habits (£14-99, Vertigo) by Garth Ennis, Jamie Delano & Dave McKean, Sean Phillips, Steve Pugh, Will Simpson, more.

“Eyes on the horizon. Future ahead. Never look back. Never let memory step on your shadow.”

VITAL ALERT! This book contains twice as much material as the old DANGEROUS HABITS volume, collecting as it does (in addition to Ennis’ opening salvo) the last seven issues of Jamie Delano’s run for the first time ever, including ‘The Dead-Boy’s Heart’ charmingly illustrated by Sean Phillips in which you meet a very young, ski-slope nosed John, uprooted from Liverpool with his sister Cheryl and staying with his kindly Aunt Dolly and a lot less kindly Uncle Harry.

But if you think Uncle Harry’s abusive, you wait until you meet grotesque butcher Archibald Acland whom Steve Pugh will sear indelibly onto the back of your eyeballs, his ruddy, blubbery face looking like a flabby pig’s arse, his mouth its very anus. Out of that mouth comes the stench of offal and furious threats he turns into promises, dismissing his son Martin as a “sick heifer” and “starved bitch” and deriding his missus as a “fat sow” and “stupid mare”. His vegetarian son is terrified of him:

“He needs to piss but he can’t face the bathroom – the soapy stubble-scum; the excess Preparation H finger-smeared on the basin; the thick, dead, lingering smell of shit. The smell of his father.”

He’s right to be terrified. This is Martin’s eighteenth birthday and he’s about to be forced down a make-shift abattoir for an ordeal so horrific you will not believe what you read. This is HELLBLAZER at its best: binding occult horror to the very real nightmares of actual human suffering, and it is excruciating.

Lastly for Delano there are two of the most important chapters in Constantine’s history. In ‘The Hanged Man’ John finally discovers what’s been nagging him all this time: the identity of the Golden Boy he first saw at his mother’s graveside, so he sets a pre-natal wrong right. The repercussions are played out in ‘The Magus’ illustrated by Dave McKean. It’s a startling final flourish for Delano’s stint which began over three years earlier in HELLBLAZER VOL 1: ORIGINAL SINS.

There I wrote:

“John Constantine is a trouble magnet; the problem is that deep down he enjoys it. Brash, rash and cocky, this streetwise trickster, this Laughing Magician with his nicotine-stained fingers and trademark trenchcoat relishes the war of wits – the blag, the bluff and the quietly palmed ace up his sleeve – and his insatiable curiosity drives him to places where no soul should go. That he somehow returns to enjoy his next pint is a miracle; that his friends rarely do is inevitable.”

Case in point:

“I stop walking.
“It’s quite an effort, because walking’s one of the things I do best. Walking away without a glance over my shoulder at the misery and bloodshed I’ve left behind me.”

Whatever John Constantine’s considerable failings, a lack of self-awareness is not one of them. That and his sense of social justice are his two saving graces, fortified immeasurably with an indomitable, ruthless determination to win. Here in 1991 Garth Ennis takes the reins and immediately gives John Constantine terminal lung cancer with three months to live. Get out of that, John!

Obviously he does, but the key is that he does so not through conjuration – for that would be a complete cop-out – but manipulation and, when you discover exactly whom he manipulates and how, you will laugh your head off at the sheer gall of the guy and determine never to play him at chess.

John will have no time to gloat, however, for although Garth Ennis does introduce a surprisingly sturdy love interest in Kit, he also swiftly sets out his stall for the humanity – and political anger – which he will be bringing to the table as evidenced by his meeting with Matt, already bed-bound by the time John discovers him in hospital:

“He’d been with the desert rats at Alamein, come home to a life that could never quite equal the thrill of his army days, drunk and smoked enough to kill him – and ended up here. Dying in a country that he didn’t know anymore, because all the money was spent on getting a whore into office every four years.”

Steve Dillon will become Garth Ennis’ best known partner in grime both on HELLBLAZER and later on PREACHER, but Will Simpson brings a haggard sense of mortality to the pages which were perfect for these six issues of raw vulnerability and renewed sense of loss.

“I don’t want to hear them call time. I don’t want a nurse asking me if he was a friend, and how sorry they are, and how hard they tried.
“I’d be like evidence for the prosecution at my trial. John Constantine, you have been found guilty of first degree cold-hearted bastardy. Of being a twisted, evil frigger who sneaks and creeps his way out of trouble that those less privileged have no defence against. Of swaggering merrily away from lung cancer while a good friend’s organs split and rupture, without even a hope of the salvation you enjoy.
“Outside it’s still raining.”

There will be repercussions, yes.


Buy Hellblazer vol 5: Dangerous Habits and read the Page 45 review here

Bedlam vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image ) by Nick Spencer & Riley Rossmo, Frazer Irving –

Image is producing some excellent stuff at the moment and this is another book which should shift many, many copies because it ticks so many boxes for so many people, myself included. Crime fans, creepy horror fans, psych-based weirdness fans, Joker/Arkham/Batman fans and “isn’t the world a truly fucked up place?” fans will all get a kick out of BEDLAM because it is *mental*.

When the book begins the final, show-stopping crime of the notorious psycho who plagues the city of Bedlam is already underway. In stunning black, white and red we watch his final hideous act before he is taken into custody… only to find that he has arranged a sting in the tail. We watch the panic unfold; the detectives try to reason with the killer, even though he is utterly beyond reason. They try to intimidate him even though fear obviously means nothing to him. And they try begging him despite the fact he clearly has not a compassionate bone in his body. In the end the plot is not thwarted but at least the psycho is dead; killed by his own mistake, a miscalculation which finally rids Bedlam of its stain. Yeah… he’s not dead, though. At least the person who is dead isn’t him. But never mind, he’s not going to be out committing crimes any time soon, or even ever again. Because someone is of a mind to fix him.

Because we are not the things we did in the past, we are the things we do today? Right?

There is so much more I want to write in this review but I also don’t want to spoil it for you. It’s not that there is any great twist that you won’t see coming, rather it’s that I loved the way the story revealed itself and I don’t want to ruin it. There are some brilliant passages; some all about the action and the violence, others about a guy in a room talking to himself. The faceless (literally!) Batman analogue is a perfect one-dimensional foil to the complex, endearing weirdo we follow through the latter part of the story and the police/detective element is a perfect mix of familiar formula and freaky sideshow.

I loved this book. I found it in turns thrilling, amusing, freaky and dark. Also, for £7-50 it’s a no-brainer. (You’ll see what I did there, tee-hee!)


Thank you, my love!

Stephen here, at the behest our dear Dominique, appending my review of the very first issue. I don’t quite know why, but after working with the woman for nearly 18 years I have learned to do as I’m told. (It actually took me three days.)

“We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to let you know I have just killed… well, a lot of people. I didn’t count. I apologise. To make matters worse, most of these people were children. Which I know you’re gonna say is somewhat below the belt. But I have tried many things, and you are all… Well, you are a pretty stubborn bunch. So now that I have your attention, we should talk about what comes next.”

In which a psychopath torments his audience, captors and the wider public in general – even from behind bars – and does so with such viciousness and at such punishing length that DC would never have published this as an Arkham Asylum book.

Sorry…? Well, if this wasn’t originally intended to be a Joker book, I’d be hugely surprised, and for some reason I’ve decided that’s the equally ill-adjusted Norman Osborn administering the sedatives. Quite the crossover.

With a softer but suitably grimy colour palette to differentiate between time frames, this is mostly told in black, white and red with a cracking design for Madder Red’s Chain Chomp mask. Jonathan mentioned Ashley Wood as a comparison point, and I wouldn’t disagree.

As to what does come next… oh, it’s far from straightforward. I love a good contingency plan, and I am far from alone. From the writer of MORNING GLORIES, THIEF OF THIEVES and so much more.

“I am Madder Red, and I live to surprise you.”


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

The Ballad Of Halo Jones brand-new edition (£13-99, Rebellion) by Alan Moore & Ian Gibson –

There are books like this that you’ve got to leave alone for a few years if you’re after the same kiddy rush that you got way back when. Just finished the second book, and I’ve still got the goosebumps. Does that make it any good? Well, Terry Jack’s ‘Seasons in the Sun’ will do the same for me but that’s no real measure of quality either way. It still feels special.

The story for those who’ve not read it before: far off into the future, Manhattan Island is dominated by the Hoop, a giant floating ring of slum housing for the terminally unemployable. And in this future that’s a lot of people. There’s dream of escape but there are precious few jobs. This is where we find Halo, an ordinary spod who, almost by accident, becomes something else, something legendary. The first chunk covers life on the Hoop, the almost military planning of a simple shopping expedition, the various forms of entertainment, racial tensions and ways of opting out. By the second book she has a waitress job on a ship heading far off into space. And her experiences change her.

“Where did she go? OUT! What did she do? EVERYTHING!” – original tagline

The three books (there were ten planned) show her losing her charm and innocence in a similar way to Evey from V FOR VENDETTA. At the end of each book she moves on to the next situation, one quite removed from the last. Such character development was a marked change in the usual 2000 AD stasis. Ian Gibson’s marvelous clutter and sharp, dark technology were perfect to delineate the shadowy corners of the plot.

It’s early Alan Moore; he probably hates it.


Buy The Ballad Of Halo Jones and read the Page 45 review here

Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness (£13-50, IDW) by Roberto Orci , Mike Johnson & David Messina –

Just like STAR TREK: COUNTDOWN was to the last Star Trek film, so COUNTDOWN TO DARKNESS is a prequel to the new film, Into Darkness. Far from being a bit of tie-in tat, the last prequel was actually a good lead in to the film, helping to explain and flesh out a few points and it seems this book will do likewise.

We get a good chunk of action here: when a routine survey mission turns up some odd results Kirk toys with bending the prime directive a little, only to find that his long-thought-dead predecessor has both been there and done that in quite the dramatic fashion. A bows-and-arrows-era civil war has been turned to genocide by the interference of the Klingons who have armed one side, while April, the previous commander of the Enterprise, has weighed in to help the other side fight back. Now the local conflict threatens to turn into a proxy war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire and nobody wants that, do they? Cue the double cross, then the triple cross. Quick everyone, into the Jefferies tubes, because that always ends well…

As the story progresses we are reminded of some key hangovers from the previous film. Spock continues to battle with his human-side emotions after the destruction of Vulcan and with his relationship with Uhura. The fledgling bonds the crew formed last time out are re-introduced and we get to know Kirk a little better as we watch him come to terms with his role as leader and Captain. The likenesses to the screen actors are good as are the production values; a far cry from the “will this do” tie-in horrors of the past. There is a little stiffness in places but that is possibly unavoidable given the strictures of a film tie-in. All in all this is a good appetiser for the new film and a handy refresher on the old. It has certainly got me more excited for the film, if that is humanly possible!

Oh yes, fans of the original series, do you remember Harry Mudd? There’s a nod!


Buy Star Trek: Countdown To Darkness s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Illustrated: Pride & Prejudice s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jane Austen, adapted by Nancy Butler & Hugo Petrus.

I must confess I harboured a prejudice towards this of my own, based solely on the cover by Sonny Liu which has Elizabeth Bennet dressed as a late 20th Century American socialite complete with white power-blouse over a snug black skirt or, at best, slinky Hollywood dress. Wrong! The Regency style involved no blouses, but billowing dresses so grass-ticklingly long that, as Lizzy herself observes during the novel, they’re a bugger when walking through mud. However, since the lesson of the book is to avoid “gratifying [one’s] vanity, in useless or blameable distrust” (courting prepossession and ignorance is evidently more than a passing hobby for me), I have now looked inside to find that the five Bennet sisters have been visually reduced to the sort of air-brained, over-coiffeured, sneering American rich kids who’d appear on Beauty & The Geek and pull each other’s hair out at the drop of a Tiffany tiara, whilst Mrs. Bennet, far from the fussing martyr of a mouse that I’ve always imagined, is now a buxom barmaid from Coronation Street or Black Adder III. Lord knows what Nancy’s done to the text – I’m not prepared to endure that for you – so instead here’s a slightly wayward summary of the original novel complete with SPOILER ALERT:

Laugh-out-loud comedy starring the delightfully playful sister to four other Bennet girls who takes a loving if lofty view of their crushes and gets each object of them wrong whilst failing to identify that she herself may also have fallen in love. Meanwhile her mother flusters about and her father occasionally looks up to undermine his dear wife with witheringly supercilious remarks that we really shouldn’t find funny but do. Plus: cold Mr. Darcy is totally hot, and one of the many reasons that I’m jealous of Jonathan’s middle name.

If you can’t précis Pride & Prejudice from memory then, really, what have you been reading all your life? Anyway, with due hindsight I can now confirm that Marvel’s version of EMMA is infinitely better, as is SENSE AND SENSIBILITY.

I will add with additional hindsight, however, that these are mere illustrations of the novels, rather than intelligent and affecting interpretations to comics like David Hine’s and Mark Stafford’s THE MAN WHO LAUGHS and Mazzucchelli’s CITY OF GLASS; or Rob Davis’ uproarious propagation of Cervantes’ original intent in DON QUIXOTE VOL 1 and, best of all, DON QUXOTE VOL 2. Just so we all have terms of reference.


Buy Marvel Illustrated: Pride & Prejudice s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman Incorporated vol 1: Demon Star h/c (£18-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham…

“The signal is gone.”
“I don’t care what Bruce said… we’re going in.”
“I told you what she’d do.”
“You stay right here, Damian.”
“Pennyworth. If I don’t save the day… no one will.”

There is a death of an important member of Batman Inc. in this volume. There’s going to be another rather more painful and poignant one in the next volume too, but that’s a different matter… Anyway, moving along rapidly before I spoil anything for the one person who isn’t aware of what I’m alluding to… the biggest and best version of the Bat family is back, and now Leviathan has revealed herself as Talia Al Ghul, mother of Damian, it’s a fight to the finish. And whilst she is bent on world destruction, she’s not above wanting a little personal revenge too…

Another epic sensory-assaulting slice of Bat-mentalism from Mr. Morrison as Bruce’s legion of caped crusaders are attacked from pretty much every direction in an attempted decapitation strike by Talia and her Man-Bat-serum souped-up assassins. It’s a tactic that has Bruce and his chums well and truly reeling punch-drunk on the ropes never mind on the back foot. It’ll all end in tears, mark my words.

Devotees of the previous volume simply entitled BATMAN INCORPORATED will know exactly what to expect. People who haven’t read that, despite this particular book being entitled volume one will be mightily confused unless they do. Good old DC. And, whilst there are more fisticuffs than mindfuck this time around, it’s still infinitely more involved / convoluted than typical Bat-fare. And more prettily drawn, opening with an exquisitely beautiful appetiser from Fraser Irving before Chris Burnham gets down to the main course.

It really is going to end in tears, trust me.


Buy Batman Incorporated vol 1: Demon Star h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wolverine s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont & Frank Miller, Paul Smith.

Joe Rubinstein: who was the bright spark who thought he’d be a good match for Miller on inks? Instead of enhancing Miller’s edge like Klaus Janson used to so spectacularly on DAREDEVIL, he suffocates it in a stodgy mess of ill-advised moulding.

Anyway: this was the first of Wolverine’s solo outings and – if I recall correctly – the first-ever Marvel mini-series. Can you imagine the superhero industry without mini-series? It was never a thing before this.

It was also the first time Claremont wrote, “I’m the best there is at what I do. But what I do best isn’t very nice.” It was a brilliant opening gambit which he then copied and pasted every third page for the next thirty years. Diminishing returns.

It’s a Logan/Mariko affair set in Japan complete with attendant ninjas, all of which Dave Sim parodied and improved upon in CEREBUS: CHURCH & STATE VOL 1. (You will roar with laughter; and the greater your affection, the louder your laughter, I promise.)

This edition also includes UNCANNY X-MEN #172-173 pencilled by Paul Smith, which jars not one jot, such is the attention Paul paid to the pacing and panel composition of the original. In it Wolverine and Mariko finally look like tying the knot, just as Scott Summers and Madelyne Pryor contemplate the same. But, oh no, do you see that ciggie and sideburns combo? Horribly familiar to all die-hard X-Men fans.

Some great comedy timing offsetting an awful tragedy complete with dramatic irony.


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

Avengers Arena vol 1: Kill Or Die s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Dennis Hopeless & Kev Walker…

“Kill, kill, kill, murder, murder, murder, ain’t nothing personal you see, it’s all about respect…”

Poor old Arcade. Laughed at by his contemporaries, not to mention all the heroes, he’s had enough. He’s decided he just can’t take any more failed attempts to win his rigged games of death and destruction and has decided to open a bar instead. Even there though, he can’t get any peace and quiet, as various villains decide they’re going to start picking on him.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to give the murder game business one last try, and like the fine upstanding paragon of morality and fair play that he is, he’s decided to pick on some kids this time… But (as C-Murder exhorts above on a track from the classic 1998 Snoop Dogg album ‘Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told’) Arcade hasn’t got anything particularly against the powered pipsqueaks in question, he’s just after some respect, starting with a little of the self variety. And, if it has to be at the expense of some low-rent, underage underachievers of the hero community, well, that’s just too bad.

Heroes, will die in this series, oh yes. Rather a lot, if the opening flashback is to be believed. Me, having read all the issues out so far, and having seen a couple of instances already of weaselling out of apparent deaths in true 1930s’ black and white Saturday morning Flash Gordon weekly serial fashion, I am still very sceptical about what the final body count out of the sixteen initial participants will be. But I am enjoying this immensely as the pressure mounts and everything starts going all Lord Of The Flies / BATTLE ROYALE. Regular Marvel readers will probably know some of the cast including X-23, Hazmat, Darkhawk, Mettle for example, but there are a fair true Z-listers in the mix as well. Is it wrong I’m actually rooting for Arcade to take a few, errr… all, of them out?


Buy Avengers Arena vol 1: Kill Or Die s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Thunderbolts vol 1: No Quarter Now s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & Steve Dillon.

In which the Thunderbolts now consist of Deadpool, The Punisher, Elektra, Venom… and one other whose secret identity – and so titular joke – almost certainly formed the entire raison d’être for this latest incarnation.

And that’s fine: it did make me laugh.

Also, Steve PREACHER Dillon art is always a bonus, but if you want the very finest era, which is completely standalone, it’s Warren Ellis’ THUNDERBOLTS ULTIMATE COLLECTION, sweatily illustrated by Mike Deodato, in which the Thunderbolts, who up to now have always consisted of supervillains, are led post-CIVIL WAR by Norman Osborn.


Buy Thunderbolts vol 1: No Quarter Now s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

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

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Stephen Collins

Scott Pilgrim vol 3 h/c Colour Edition (£18-99, Other A-Z) by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Science Tales h/c (Revised Edition) (£11-99, Myriad) by Darryl Cunningham

Naming Monsters (£12-99, Myriad) by Hannah Eaton

Strange Attractors h/c (£14-99, Other A-Z) by Charles Soule & Greg Scott

Crossed: Wish You Were Here vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Avatar Press Inc) by Simon Spurrier & Fernando Melek, Jacen Burrows

Avalon Chronicles Book One: Once In A Blue Moon h/c (£14-99, Oni) by Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir & Emma Vieceli

Aquaman vol 1: The Trench s/c (£10-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis

Aquaman vol 2: The Others h/c (£16-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis

Batman Beyond: 10000 Clowns s/c (£12-99, DC) by Adam Beechen & Norm Breyfogle

The Authority vol 1 h/c (£22-50, DC) by Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch

Avengers Vs. X-Men Companion h/c (£75-00, Marvel) by various

Wolverine And The X-Men vol 4 s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Jorge Molina

Indestructible Hulk vol 1: Agent Of Shield h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Leinil Francis Yu

Captain Marvel vol 2: Down s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Dexter Soy

New Avengers vol 4 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Will Conrad

Marvel Universe: Ultimate Spider-Man Digest vol 3 (£7-50, Marvel) by various

Black Butler vol 13 (£8-99, Other A-Z) by Yana Toboso

Bunny Drop vol 8 (£10-50, Other A-Z) by Yumi Unita

ITEM! Tickets for the first-ever Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October are on sale now!

What a beautiful backdrop for a much more European enterprise – all those trees in the autumnal colours: the reflections are going to be gorgeous!

As to the special guests, obviously El Presidentes Bryan Talbot, Mary Talbot and Sean Phillips will be in attendance, as will Ed Brubaker, Duncan Fegredo, Posy Simmonds, Hannah Berry, Joe Sacco, Isabel Greenberg, Luke Pearson, David Lloyd, Al Davison, Glyn Dillon, Dougie Braithwaite, Oscar Zarate, Charlie Adlard and so many more.

Just look at The Lakes International Comics Art Festival Events Listings! Yowsa!

ITEM! LOVE AND ROCKETS’ Jaime Hernandez in conversation with Woodrow Phoenix here in the UK! Thursday 30th May.

– Stephen

One Response to “Reviews May 2013 week three”

  1. Reviews May 2013 week three « Escape Pod Comics Escape Pod Comics says:

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