“We also got thrown off a train at gunpoint.”
– Jaime Hernandez’s first trip abroad in The Love & Rockets Companion. Addictive!
The Killer vol 4 h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Matz & Luc Jacamon.
“Exxon Mobil is richer than Pakistan or Peru. Its yearly turnover equals the budget of all the African countries combined.”
With that much money at stake – and what I can only describe as a long-standing, deep-seated hatred of Cuba – it is no surprise that America lies, and is delighted to play host to the Miami Exiles who fled the Cuban revolution.
“In 1976, they blew up a Cubana plane, 73 dead. They planted bombs in Havana. They’ve killed 3,500 Cubans – as many as the 9/11 attacks, but apparently those deaths don’t matter much. And they live like kings here, on C.I.A. money meant to fund more attacks.”
The “here” is Miami, Florida, whose glorious aquamarine coastline is but one of several Jacamon flourishes which will have you gasping. His reflector sunglasses are out of this world – you’d think the paper had been chemically treated. Also, I love the way a puff of dusty sand, kicked up by the Cuban heels of our Killer’s cowboy boots as he strides across the Mexican desert, curls into the clouds on the very next panel.
The Killer and Katia have flown to Miami following intelligence that the Miami Exiles are planning to blow up their oil rig. Although if you were to believe American politicians warmongering on television, that oil belongs to the USA even though it is being drilled for in Cuban territorial waters. Heaven forbid Cuba should harvest its own resources: that could boosts its economy, feed its citizens and – worst of all – give it independence, circumnavigating America and selling to China!
Yes, The Killer now co-owns an oil rig in partnership with ex-C.I.A. agent Haywood and Mariano, financed by laundering Padrino’s drug money. He is now on a legitimate payroll and it’s taken him by surprise.
“I’ve never wanted to spend my days watching stupid Youtube videos or swapping inanities on Facebook while pretending to work. Maybe that limits my career prospects in the corporate world. Oh, well.”
Fortunately that’s not why he was invited into the deal. His actual job description isn’t something he’ll be printing on a business card, his working day will be spent far away from any office desk, and “negotiations” will take him to Miami, London and Paris where, of course, he will bide his time in boulevard bars, musing on human nature.
“Optimism can sometimes seem like naïveté, but pessimism is often a fruitless affectation. I’m all for clear-sightedness. Not wearing blinders, not getting hoodwinked by pretenders and received ideas.
“Meanwhile, I wait and watch. I want to see what’s coming.”
Includes gallery of the original European covers.
The Killer Omnibus vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Matz & Luc Jacamon.
Slick and intense European thriller in which we get inside the head of a hitman who seems so disengaged from humanity that it’s all facts and figures, an endless stream of self-justification for being a cool-hearted killer without a care in the world.
“Don’t talk to me about justice or morals. Even God himself I wouldn’t listen to. Not with His track record. I take orders from no one. I report to no one. I have a single motive for what I’m doing: money… I help rich people kill one another. Poor people, they can’t afford me. They handle it themselves. And they end up in jail for life.”
Normally he researches then executes his assignments calmly, methodically, all around the world. Patience is the one virtue he would own to possessing, but this time his target hasn’t even shown, and it’s starting to unsettle him…
Like CRIMINAL, this gets right under the skin of the individual in question who makes more than a few valid points about our own culpabilities, whilst the art is lush with jagged jungle leaves, classily coloured and splinters expressionistically as the pressure builds to force this most dispassionate of men to make a critical blunder. At which point everything unravels, and he’s forced from his natural comfort zone into an environment he does not control.
Of book two:
Welcome to the return of the ruminative assassin. Here he’s particularly preoccupied with the disadvantages of dying in your sleep. And whom it is wise to hang out with.
“The hard part is not the loneliness. The hard part is choosing the right people to have around you, when you finally decide to have people around you. Loneliness offers guarantees that vanish as soon as you try and trust someone. Stepping away from it is running a risk. Especially for me.”
You never do know whom he should trust. It’s a source of suspense which builds and builds.
Previously even the man he’d always placed the greatest trust in, long-time accountant Edward, turned out to be capable of treachery – and pretty stupid into the bargain. Edward had been the conduit in a contract on a man called Martini, and then gone one further and tried to take out The Killer himself. It didn’t really work out for Edward, no.
Now lying low in luxurious seclusion, our anti-hero is visited by a man called Mariano, god-son to a Columbian drug baron called Padrino. Seems Martini was one of three men Padrino had set up in high society Paris in order to distribute his wares. The way Padrino sees it, taking out Martini has caused him some serious inconvenience even though The Killer saw the man under police surveillance and may have done Padrino a favour in silencing him. Unconvinced, Padrino insists The Killer accepts contracts of his own in exchange for forgiveness. It remains a lucrative deal so although the worryingly talkative and inexperienced Mariano is foisted upon him, The Killer accepts.
From Buenos Aires to New York City things go (sort of) well until, while cruising down the Amazon, there’s a vicious attack back home on his lover. Instinct leads him to question whether it was Padrino, but that simply doesn’t add up and The Killer hates it when things don’t add up. He doesn’t like coincidences, either, like the assassination of a second of those three drug dealers in Paris, or being befriended by a cop who’s being investigated for police brutality. Who’s after him now, and what connection does it have to Martini and Edward?
There, I think I’ve accurately set the scene whilst leading you all astray! Your turn now to grow as paranoid on The Killer’s behalf as I was this sunny Sunday afternoon.
That you will all fear for this hitman’s safety is a telling testament to Matz’s skills as a writer. The Killer’s cogitations on his career and craft and its implication for life in general play a substantial part in this. They’re well reasoned and betray a heart he denies having, as do his new sentiments towards the woman he’s chosen to trust. I think you’ll like the cop too.
As to Luc Jacamon, his colouring has always impressed me no end, particularly when it comes to the dappled shadows under a boulevard of trees, and I love the way that there’s this constant presence throughout, even outlined in negative on the side of a building, of an Orinoco Crocodile – the very essence of patient, predatory guile. He excels at details others would never think to incorporate like scaffolding, netted in green, supporting the side of already impressive edifices. There’s a gorgeous sense of space no matter what he’s asked to draw, in whichever country, and there’s plenty of globe-trotting to be done here. I’m an enormous fan of the wit-ridden 100 BULLETS, but it can become bogged down by words whereas Matz never allows any self-indulgence to crowd out Luc Jacamon, maintaining a perfect equilibrium for a pleasurable read as smooth as the operator himself.
The Great War h/c Slipcase Edition (£20-00, Jonathan Cape) by Joe Sacco.
Spectacular, but also clever.
By “spectacular” I mean this accordian-style hardcover folds out into a seamless, ridiculously detailed 24-foot-long panorama silently detailing the events which led up to the Battle Of The Somme, before launching into the offensive itself on July 1st, 1916.
“Almost 20,000 British soldiers were killed and another 40,000 were wounded that first day, and there were more than one million casualties by the time the offensive halted a few months later.”
It’s clever because although there are no panel borders which leaves the landscape to bleed unstaunched over each successive page, it is nonetheless a comic: it tells the story in precisely the same way with the passage of time represented by space travelled by the eye from left to right.
It kicks off, of course, in the perfect calm and safe, sequestered splendour of General Haig’s personal HQ, the Château de Beaurepaire, where every morning he takes a stroll round the grounds and then, in the afternoons, enjoys a spot of horse-riding escorted by the 17th Lancers. All very orderly. Jolly good!
Gradually the troops who actually have to do the fighting arrive (and by “fighting” I mean charge like sitting ducks onto an open battlefield to be blown to smithereens), along with the heavy artillery, crates of ammunition and fresh supplies. It’s starting to get rather crowded but it’s still lovely and sunny with birds and bi-planes breezing across the sky above open fields, lush coppices and bucolic churches. Look, here comes the infantry, all jovial and jaunty, snaking between officers puffing on pipes and queuing outside a make-shift mess while cannons are being loaded and – yeah…
Welcome to the trenches.
The next sequence is particularly impressive, the shadow of night passing over the miles of maze lit only from the occasional bunker below and explosions in the distance – explosions which, as the sun rises, are growing terrifyingly nearer, obliterating first the horizon then those careering over the top. Suddenly the landscape is no longer flat but pocked with craters, a million man-made volcanos spewing earth and entrails into the air in a pointlillistic inferno. I think you can guess where it ends.
Every step of the way, Sacco’s art remains perfectly clear and balanced. He does lead the eye but never impedes it which, given the detail and chaos unfolding, is absolutely remarkable. Also, you have to admire the ingenuity with which he brings the background of the battlefield forward by curving the frontline trenches under the bottom edge of the page, so bringing us over the top as well. It recedes behind ruins and the military policemen arresting any soldier leaving the trenches without permission.
If you’re wondering how I know some of these opening and closing details, a 16-page booklet is enclosed which includes an author’s note, an introduction by Adam Hochschild and a reproduction of the plates along the bottom of the pages annotated with these details by Joe Sacco himself.
I honestly believe this will be massive. Well, it is massive: it’s 24 feet long – you could use it as infant’s playroom dado. Give them some crayons to colour it in! However, figure its quality, the anniversary of WWI and the vast numbers of Page 45 customers buying presents for their dads and grandads and – when asked what their relatives are interest in – telling us that both generations are obsessed with war, well, this is what it’s good for: respectfully expressed and powerfully produced protest art.
Available October 10th 2013.
Walrus s/c (£14-99, Picturebox) by Brandon Graham.
Yay! More puns, warm-up strips, fleeting thoughts, full-blown sketches and a wealth of archival material stretching far further back than you might imagine, all from the creator of KING CITY and MULTIPLE WARHEADS and the writer of PROPHET.
Well no, actually, not all of them: there are visual exchanges from BEAST’s Marian Churchland who guest-stars heavily as a model, while SHARKNIFE’s Corey S. Lewis finds his intense seriousness the butt of some very funny jokes in the four-page ‘Ninjarage’. Strips like those come with some anecdotal annotations and process revelations.
As to ancient, there’s a reproduction from 1992 of a 16-year-old Brandon’s NINJA HIGH SCHOOL SWIMSUIT SPECIAL pin-up along with a 2011 update replacing the gun with a ‘nana and the cliché manga-sexpot-style with something altogether softer and sexier. Hey, he was sixteen: we all kick off in emulation mode, and that Graham has so successfully found his own style (already much emulated) should give all nascent artists hope for their future.
There are short, experimental strips as sketchy as you like (and I like sketchy) as well as a wealth of fully formed noodling inked to crisp perfection and coloured with restraint. Although there are several straight landscapes of contemporary crumbling walls, shacks and riverside views, a lot of these – as well as the figures – are transformed by Brandon’s sci-fi leanings, but they are emphatically Brandon’s. There’s one particularly gorgeous, full-colour vista looking down a fashionable, far-from-dystopian future High Street full of light and space rather than the dirty, crowded, rowdy free-for-all you’ll find in the likes of TRANSMETROPOLITAN. If I was going to let anyone redesign the Page 45 shop front, it would be Brandon Graham – I could spend hours window shopping here, gawping at all the signage.
It’s evidence of a fertile, organic creativity even when bottled-up during the Tokyopop KING CITY fiasco in which the publishers would neither re-release nor relinquish the title to Brandon’s control, and the man sums up what you can expect from WALRUS beautifully:
“I like the idea that a reader would get a version of the artist through the work that’s them at their most unguarded and comfortable – alone at their desk doing what they love to do. Ideally, them at their most them.”
Bonus: Graham’s John Wayne Airport encounter with their security’s fashion police: “Pull your pants up higher!” one guard demands. I doubt he can spell “jurisdiction”.
The Love And Rockets Companion – 30 Years (And Counting) s/c (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Los Bros Hernandez, edited by Marc Sobel, Kristy Valenti.
Learn all about Jaime Hernandez’s first trip abroad – to Lucca and Paris via an unscheduled stop in Genovese! Poor Gary Groth – he was doing his best.
Page 45’s love affair with LOVE AND ROCKETS, one of the very pinnacles of comicbook achievement sustained for over three decades now, pre-dates Page 45 by many years; and Mark had been relishing it long before he introduced to me at Fantastic Store.
But before we go any further, a genuine FAQ: you can start anywhere, even as late as LOVE AND ROCKETS: ESPERANZA as I explained in that review, or the recent JULIO’S DAY. And please, don’t be put off by the body of work published over three decades: you don’t have to read it all, you can dip in and out as you like, and come away each time completely satisfied.
Linger a little longer and you will see that the brothers have created entire communities with generations of history. I remember Mark writing that one of the details which impressed him the most was that the crowd scenes were far from anonymous – those suited and booted individuals drinking in the background were either already well established members of the expansive cast, or about to step into limelight themselves.
There’s both a timeline and handy character guide here, as well as checklist of publications which is over seventy pages long, albeit including introductions and pin-ups published in anthologies. The brothers pay homage to their own favourite comics, plus there’s a selection of letter column highlights culled from the first fifty issues including many a familiar name from Andi Watson and Evan Dorkin to Scott Hampton and Steve Leialoha, such was the breadth of the book’s appeal. Regardless of the recognition factor, what is fascinating is how quickly LOVE AND ROCKETS’ readers recognised what it was they held in their hands: something completely fresh and new and intoxicating.
Best of all, however, are the interviews, so utterly addictive that I almost missed my review deadline. All four interviews, coming in at a combined 150 pages, are phenomenal: Fantagraphics’ publisher Gary Groth interviewing Los Bros Hernandez; Neil Gaiman interviewing the brothers; Marc Sobel interviewing the brothers; then Marc Sobel interviewing Fantagraphics’ publisher, Gary Groth himself, beginning with his recollection of the earliest years.
Editor Marc Sobel’s interview with Los Bros Hernandez delivers some astonishing insights into the cycle of each story’s conception, execution, then complete burned-out numbness in Jaime… and workaholic Gilbert’s crippling self-doubt halfway through each chapter early on.
“Halfway through I’d start telling myself, “This is the worst thing I’ve ever done. This is boring. The readers don’t deserve this crap.” It’s just this weird thing that pops into my head halfway through, and I noticed the pattern after a while, so stopped believing in it… I really don’t have that problem so much anymore, because I recognise my patterns of depression. Depression is just… some psychologist on TV said once and I always remembered it… it’s anything that keeps you from doing something.”
They also talk about how the physical changes in their bodies over the years have affected how their hands and wrists operate, how they have adapted accordingly (I think many a younger artist would to well to read this in advance) and how Gilbert was initially confounded by how his work for other publishers, which required he use their standard-sized paper, affected his stress levels and strain.
What startled me is how they perceive the work of others around them. Not individual creators, but entire movements – in particular the genre of autobiography, citing PERSEPOLIS and BLANKETS – and formats like graphic novels as long as HABIBI. Which is interesting in the light of Neil Gaiman’s interview in which they exchange anecdotes about their most complex, long-form, pre-planned episodes, and how they were received when serialised (with difficultly) as opposed to collected together in more coherent graphic novels.
At one point Sobel asks “Can you elaborate on what you mean by calling indy comics a “ghetto”?” The answer will – as corporate comics are so fond of promising – surprise you. But then as Gilbert is swift to admit, he doesn’t have access to everything published. This isn’t unusual for comicbook creators. Many work so hard on their own books that they don’t have time to look up above the parapet and take in the full extent of what else is going on around them. That’s not their job.
But if I am allowed a personal, self-serving observation, the world of comics looks very different and much more optimistic to those of us on the retailer frontline who can witness, first-hand, the overwhelmingly positive reception on the shop floor of the full diversity of graphic novels when stocked. As well as that full diversity itself! But then we are, as I am also swift to admit, in a very privileged position.
There is obviously so much more on offer than I can cover here but, on a more frivolous note, you will love the candid exchanges with Neil Gaiman subtitled ‘The Name Game’ in which they each talk about how their names have been mispronounced and even misspelled over the years and, oh boy, I put my own hand up in shame.
In despair, Jaime even resorted to calling himself “James” for a year. Did you know that?
Buy this book and receive 100 revelations of equally astonishing ilk and free entry into a whole new world of comicbook bliss.*
*Please note: conditions apply. The price of entry does not include the cost of those comics, and then the spiralling repercussions of your new-found addiction. Still, we are on hand to help you access those comics and enable your addiction for free.**
** Please note: conditions also apply. That access is free; those comics are not. You will shortly be broke. We thank you for your wanton suggestibility.
Revival vol 2: Live Like You Mean It (£10-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton.
Previously on REVIVAL VOL 1:
Wausau, Wisconsin, and the dead are coming back to life.
They’re not zombies, they’re fully sentient individuals with a new lease of life, and most are as chipper as ever. Others are distraught for reasons which will become painfully clear. As to the families… some will know new grief in the wake of these resurrections.
Amongst those returned from the dead is Officer Dana Cypress’ younger, resentful sister Martha. Dana’s son, meanwhile, has come into contact with a wraith-like creature which may be trying to say something. Dana’s father, the sheriff, has friends with dubious prior allegiances and agendas of his own, and her ex-husband’s girlfriend may not be the best babysitter in town. Add in a wider cast full of extra-marital affairs, religious fervour, and plans for internment camps, and you have fertile grounds for heightened anxieties, distrust and outright personal grudges.
The entire area has been quarantined, but resources are stretched and such a large rural perimeter so easily springs leaks. It’s not just the news crews and evangelists sneaking it, it’s what’s being smuggled out.
Think about it: the so-called-medicinal black market for body parts of those risen from the dead would outstrip even that for tiger cock. And with revivalists slowly regrowing their organs after each gory harvest, well, think about that, too…
No matter what you imagine, Tim Seeley has concocted more, creating some truly grotesque characters both on stage and off. Anyone who’s watched The Jeremy Kyle Show will know that some relationships are truly fucked up, and I find absolutely none of this implausible – I’d just never have been quick enough to come up with it myself.
Mike Norton’s art is glossy, his storytelling crystal clear, and I’ve just remembered where I first heard his name fifteen years ago: THE WAITING PLACE of which we have one full set of graphic novels left – at the time of typing!
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 4 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez, Sara Pichelli.
Don’t worry, there will be no spoilers.
I have just redacted an entire paragraph to make even the vaguest hint disappear – even the tone of it – vamoosh! Please read my review of young, sweet Miles Morales’ debut as Spider-Man in ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN VOL 1 instead. I spent hours on that. Or the related SPIDER-MEN whose review, I am astonished to discover, I actually relinquished to Jonathan. Because I’ve loved everything Bendis has done on ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN then ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN for the last decade, and I am far too selfish to share.
Entirely spoiler-free, then (which is a shame because I could sell a lot more copies if you knew what was coming):
ITEM! Following the death of Peter Parker, witness some more exceptional soul-searching on the part of J. Jonah Jameson. What Bendis has done there is both radical and phenomenal.
ITEM! Worry at the return of the perceptive and receptive officer investigating the death of Miles Morales’ uncle. There is always a death of an uncle in Spider-Man mythology but, again, what a clever twist on the blame-game front.
ITEM! Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson. They’re not an item, obviously, but is it just me, or does MJ now look increasingly like Enid from GHOST WORLD? Especially sitting next to Gwen “Becky” Stacy.
ITEM! Venom is back.
And due to some monumental fuckwittery on Betty Brant’s part, it believes that Miles Morales’ dad is Spider-Man. It also knows where the family lives.
There goes that friendly neighbourhood, then.
Avengers Assemble vol 1 s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley.
It is that Marvel’s hubris has ballooned to the extent that it imagines you are prepared to fork out an outrageous £22-50 on a flimsy eight issues. Eight flimsy issues, at that.
Eight flimsy issues which, I might add, have nothing to do with Bendis’ epic AVENGERS run (this is a complete non-sequitur) but which were lazily lobbed out as a transparent cash-in on the film. See that cast list? It’s the film’s.
I have no objection to anyone wishing to capitalise on success if it’s done with intelligence, but if the only intelligence in question is the reader’s being insulted, I curl my lip in disgust. I endured the first couple of issues wondering whether Bendis had in fact been supplanted by a Skrull.
If you loved the film, please do yourself an enormous favour and read either Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch’s four fabulous volumes of THE ULTIMATES (the top tier in that section on our website – it’s what the film was stylistically based on, but you will be reading a very different story), or Brian Michael Bendis’ run proper which begins with AVENGERS: DISASSEMBLED or, if you prefer, NEW AVENGERS VOL 1.
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 Reason For Dragons h/c (£14-99, Archaia Entertainment) by Chris Northrop & Jeff Stokely
Fariest vol 2: The Hidden Kingdom s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Bill Willingham, Lauren Beukes & Inaki Miranda, Barry Kitson
Monster On The Hill (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Rob Harrell
Star Wars: Purge (£14-99, Dark Horse) by John Ostrander & Jim Hall, Douglas Wheatley
Slaine vol 2: Time Killer (£13-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Glenn Fabry, Massimo Belardinelli, David Pugh, Bryan Talbot
Slaine vol 3: The King (£15-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Glenn Fabry, David Pugh, Mike Collins
Nightwing vol 2: Night Of The Owls s/c (£10-99, DC) by Kyle Higgins, Tom Defalco & Eddy Barrows, Andres Guinaldo, others
Avengers vol 5 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Brandon Peterson, Gabrielle Dell’Otto, Terry Dodson, Mike Mayhew
Uncanny X-Men vol 1: Revolution s/c (UK Ed’n) (£10-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo
Attack On Titan vol 5 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama
Fairy Tail vol 28 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima
Skip Beat! Omnibus vols 13-15 (£9-99, Viz) by Yoshiki Nakamura
ITEM! Comics and games! Are you looking forward to GameCity 2013? We have something verrrrrry special planned October 20-26th: you will want to be in Nottingham – particularly around the middle of that week. Heh.
ITEM! In the meantime, Framed, a narrative puzzle game in which you rearrange comicbook panels to change the story and aid the protagonist.
ITEM! Parents! Young Readers! Schools! Get involved in the British Comics Awards by voting for your favourite graphic novel in the Young People’s Comics Awards! Each school signed up with receive FREE GRAPHIC NOVELS!
ITEM! Young People’s British Comics Awards Winner (HILDA AND THE MIDNIGHT GIANT) Luke Pearson interviewed on Make Then Tell! It’s the best podcast in the business with Dan Berry, the creator of THE SUITCASE, our current Comicbook Of The Month, at the helm.
ITEM! Weekly Lakes International Comic Art Festival update (central news hub, there – and remember, that’s just the front page – click on the numbered buttons at the bottom for more!): book tickets for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival here! Top-tip: try booking before the events are sold out!
I’m fully on board next year to join Dr. Mel Gibson on the schools and library programme., presenting more in-the-round show-and-tells.
ITEM! Download the first part of Hannah Berry’s chiller ADAMTINE for free! Why? Why would you want to do that? Page 45 reviews ADAMTINE. Do not read on a train…
ITEM! Speaking of chillers, FATALE – an interview with Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.
ITEM! Lastly, your first glimpse of ORDINARY by Rob Williams and D’Israeli! Oh, that light and those colours!