Reviews July 2013 week one

Bravo! A book about cherishing your individuality, celebrating the difference in others and jettisoning neither to suck up to the sheep. Possibly the most important early life lesson ever. 

 – Stephen on Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci & Sara Varon 

Tonnes and tonnes of news under the reviews – and one very revealing photograph! 

The Mire (£5-99, self-published) by Becky Cloonan.

“Please remember, this letter means the difference between life and death.”

What a gorgeous, silk-screened, card-stock cover – it positively glows in the dark! You wait until you see the other side… This isn’t distributed by Diamond so I’m not sure where else you will find it in the UK.

On the eve of battle, Sir Owain dispatches his young squire on an urgent errand. He is to deliver to Castle Ironwood a letter which is sealed with wax and stamped with the knight’s Signet Ring. The squire protests, for he swore an oath to fight at his master’s side, but when Sir Owain insists that this is a most noble and vital task, the squire promises to be back before the fighting is done.

However, the swiftest route is via the Withering Swamp, a stagnant mire rumoured to be haunted. What will our squire encounter during this treacherous endeavour?

“We all have ghosts that haunt us.”

This is Cloonan at her finest, crafting a tale so clever that you will want to re-read the second you are done, for hindsight is a funny old thing.

It’s also beautifully written: I love how Cloonan maintains the metaphor between these two sentences:

“The trees stood guard like a row of immovable sentinels. Any light that managed to break their lines felt old and mouldy.”

She’s also employed a neat little trick which David Mazzucchelli utilised in CITY OF GLASS whereby speech bubbles drifting directly out of the mouth imply that the words aren’t spoken – no lips are moving – so much emanate from somewhere deeper and darker and colder within

From the creator of WOLVES, DEMETER, the co-creator of PIXU and the artist on Brian Wood’s DEMO VOL 1, DEMO VOL 2 and CONAN, I commend this to you with all my heart.

“So I kept moving. You should keep moving too.”


Buy The Mire and read the Page 45 review here

Wolves (£5-99, self-published) by Becky Cloonan.

A haunting tale of blood and lust that gives up its secrets slowly.

There is a naked man gone feral in the forest. A skilled hunter, he can down birds with a single stone then feast on them raw. But he is cursed – cursed by his king, cursed by what he has done, and cursed by its memory which won’t go away.

It’s all in the eyes.

This is a lovingly hand-crafted, self-published mini-comic with 24 pages of black and white interior art under a swish, silk-screened, card-stock cover. From the creator of THE MIRE, DEMETER, the co-creator of PIXU and the artist on Brian Wood’s DEMO VOL 1, DEMO VOL 2 and CONAN. Like the first two, it’s not distributed by Diamond, we went direct to America and our stock is limited.


Buy Wolves and read the Page 45 review here

Winter’s Knight Day One (£5-99, Great Beast Comics) by Robert M. Ball.

Whoo! Beautiful colours and quality printing. At the time of typing all our copies have exquisite, signed, original head sketches in the back, like DON QUIXOTE’s Rob Davis washed over with HEY YOU!’s Dan Berry.

Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning, and there’s a raven up there on the snow-swept, mountain-top graveyard. I doubt this will prove a good day for our white-haired knight. I don’t really think it’s been a good year. He’s all hunched up, his thick olive cloak is ragged at the edges and he’s so very hungry it looks as though he’ll eat anything: that handsome black stag should probably bolt.

Utterly beguiling, this is virtually wordless, for to begin with there’s no one to talk to and those who turn up aren’t very interested in small talk.

Instead, it’s all about the colours and the shapes – the shapes of colour, for there are no lines, and most of the shapes are sharp, jagged affairs while the colours are so rich, even the pastels, that you can virtually taste each one of them. I don’t normally “do” pink, but then I’ve never seen it used so skilfully again ice-white and deep, slate blue.

The title is wittily hewn out of gravestones. Death hangs heavy in the air.


Buy Winter’s Knight Day One and read the Page 45 review here

Saga vol 2 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples.

Hilarious, beautiful, brilliant.

Previously in SAGA VOL 1:

Alana and Marko are in love. She’s from the planet Landfall; he’s from its moon called Wreath. Unfortunately their races have been at war with each other for as long as anyone called remember. But both factions realised a long time ago that either world’s destruction would cause the other to spin right out of orbit. Such an assault would be suicidal.

So what they’ve kindly done is taken their fight right across the galaxy, using other planets as their playground. Which is nice.

Caught in that crossfire is the planet called Cleave. Marko was sent to its frontline, didn’t like what he saw and surrendered. Alana was his captor and freed him. Each, therefore, is now on their run from their own people for desertion… and blasphemy. Because, worst of all, they’ve successfully mated to produce a beautiful baby girl. This unholy union is despised by all sides and, for morale’s sake – to ensure no one else gets the wretched idea that love might be better than hatred – all traces of it must be eradicated.

Marko’s people have dispatched The Will, a phenomenal assassin with a Lying Cat. It is a cat that can tell if you’re lying. Problematically, it is likely to say so right in the middle of your bluff. Alana’s people have dispatched Prince Robot IV from a race of walking, talking, fornicating television sets. You’ll be surprised what pops up on his screen. But Marko and Alana have at least finally found sanctuary in a semi-sentient, organic rocket ship along with an impromptu babysitter from what’s left of Cleave’s indigenous population. She’s a floating, glowing, pink ghost of a girl with her lower half missing, trailing her intestines behind her.

Now: meet the in-laws. They’re not best pleased, either.

The thing about SAGA is that it’s so damn surprising, so revealing any more about this volume would not be a kindness. I can tell you, however, that Marko encounters the very last thing you’d like to see in the company of your Mum. So if you’re reading this book at home, beware: Fiona pulls no punches! Also: exes are a right pain, aren’t they? There’s rarely such a thing as a clean break.

Brian K. Vaughn you may already know from Y – THE LAST MAN, the series in which everyone with a Y chromosome (apart from escape artist Yorick) drops dead and EX MACHINA which combines politics with pugilism and had some of the best dialogue in the business. Also, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD about a pride of lions – in Baghdad. 

Fiona Staples you probably won’t know from Adam, but you will be knocked out to meet her acquaintance. Her expressions are exquisite, the design work ingenious, and her capacity for underplayed comedy virtually unparalleled. Above all, her work is very, very sexy.

“One more step, and I tell my rocket ship to blow you out an airlock or something. It’s already seen me naked, so I’m pretty sure it’ll do what I say.”


Buy Saga vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

A Matter Of Life h/c (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Jeffrey Brown…

“Hey dad.”
“Do you know what the sun looks like to me?”
“A bug!”
“Hey Oscar? Are you chewing on my hair?”

The first full colour autobiographical work from Jeffrey finds him in a relatively sanguine mood by his standards! As a contented husband and parent he’s reflecting upon two extremely different elements of his life, that of fatherhood and faith. Very much brought up in the church, tricky to avoid when your dad is a minister really I would have thought, Jeffrey followed a similar path to many such kids faced with relentless biblical indoctrination. Namely extreme boredom followed by a gradual process of extricating oneself as teenage years began to offer far more enticing alternatives.

There’s pressure, even as an adult, polite enough, for him to maintain his Christianity, from family and friends, but unless one hears the calling for themselves, no amount of worrying about someone’s soul is going to lure them back into the flock. I always personally thought the metaphor of the general public as sheep and the preachers as good shepherds was a mildly disturbing one myself, sheep not being particularly highly regarded for their capacity for thinking for themselves, make of that what you will… He’s not without beliefs, spirituality, call it whatever you like, our Jeffrey, commenting as he does very early on in this work, almost apologetically, that this lack of faith in Christ doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe in something bigger than himself, but this element of the work certainly provides some insight into how he believes that part of his life shaped who he is today.

It’s interesting, to me at least, therefore, that the other aspect of his life he chooses to illuminate for us, in comparison as contrast is too strong a word to use, I think, is that of being a parent. Becoming a parent, provided you stick around and do your bit, I suppose, is to create a bedrock so solid, for your entire life to be very firmly grounded upon, that you won’t have any time for worrying about your soul, or indeed whether Jesus or even his Dad might just find you special enough to want to whisper in your ear. On the other hand you’ll find yourself so delirious with tiredness at certain moments that you’ll be gazing skyward at the firmament requesting divine intervention, true believer or otherwise.

Being a parent, as Jeffrey ably shows us, instantly means you become part of something bigger than yourself anyway, whether you’re ready or not. And whilst Jesus may or may not have died to save us, you will feel like ending your own life after sacrificing everything, from your social life to your sanity, to keep your little bundle of joy happy and healthy.

Here are Jeffrey and his wife having to pacify their highly medicated son Oscar, suffering from an allergic rash on his entire body and a double ear infection to boot… with the power of the Smurfs. Sounds straightforward? No, even a saint would have their patience tested by an ill toddler…

“Oscar, can we watch something else? Mummy’s getting tired of the Smurfs?”
“I can’t take it anymore! We’ve watched nothing but Smurfs for four days!”
“I know, but look at him, he’s miserable.”
“I’m going to buy more Smurf DVD’s. We can at least watch different episodes.”
“Crap, this is the only Smurf DVD they have.”
“Got it!”
“No, REAL Smurfs! Real Smurfs!”
“Oscar, this is the Smurfs.”
“I think he can tell this is from later seasons!”
“Don’t argue with a three-year-old on steroids.”


Buy A Matter Of Life h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Strange Tale Of Panorama Island (£18-99, Last Gasp) by Suehiro Maruo.

Quite the revelation, this is a breath-takingly beautiful book whose exotic, erotic island will have you gasping over and again as each new, sweeping panorama is unveiled to startling and spectacular effect just as it is to the wife of phenomenally rich industrialist Genzaburo Komoda.

Truly it is a pleasure paradise sequestered in the middle of a remote island and accessed only via transparent tunnels which snake over the tropical seabed before bursting into the open air and dazzling sunshine to reveal the first of so many set pieces: waterfalls the size of Niagara’s, ornamental edifices, a multi-tiered Indian-themed acropolis and botanical vistas which make the formal French gardens of Loire Châteaux like Villandry and Chambord look tame and restrained. Each of these is populated both by monumental sculptures of dragons and snakes and satyrs and a hundreds of performers paid to be naked at play. And I do mean play – frolicking through meadows – but also at play with each other, yes. Eighteens and over, please.

All of which put me much in mind of Milo Manara but inked with a detailed ligne claire more akin to Jiro Taniguchi’s. It’s gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. And I love a good orgy.

This, then, was constructed as the dream of a lifetime, but here is the rub for Genzaburo Komoda: the dream wasn’t his. The dream was that of failing novelist Hitomi Hirosuke whose manuscript containing this elaborate fantasy was repeatedly rejected. He went to college with Genzaburo Komoda and looked so alike that they were nicknamed twins. So when Hitomi learns of Genzaburo Komoda’s death he hatches a plan fake his own death then to exhume the multi-millionaire’s corpse and take his place, not raised from the dead as a miracle but recovering from a medically well documented cataleptic episode.

Now all he has to do to fool Komoda’s entourage: his managers, his servants, his family… his wife.


Buy The Strange Tale Of Panorama Island and read the Page 45 review here

Utsubora: The Story Of A Novelist (£13-99, Random House) by Asumiko Nakamura…

“Now do this. See? It shifts a bit.”
“Uh, yeah.”
“In other words, the left and the right eye see slightly different things. The one for which they stay put is your dominant eye. You thought you were seeing the same thing with both did you? You’re not.”
“Uh, but then… why do we have two eyeballs?”

This work really stuck with me after finishing it, as over the course of the next couple of days a few realisations of additional angles to the plot and also the characters kept popping into my mind, thus subtly changing my interpretation and increasing my appreciation of the piece. I thought it was very clever to begin with, now I know it is exceptionally so, as the core theme of duality runs very deeply through it indeed.

I started to realise that there is quite literally no one who does not have a hidden secret or side, either huge or on the face of it inconsequential, which either influences the plot or the motivations and emotional state of the character in question in some way, small or large. Very clever, because there is also a huge amount of ambiguity throughout, continually obscuring precisely what is actually going on, particularly with one of the two main characters, who actually may or may not be one or two people. It’s not often that a work spontaneously deconstructs itself in my mind over time in this manner, but I think it is a measure of the craft with which this has been written, and also drawn.

The story itself begins which a murder, which may in fact be a suicide. And in mirror fashion concludes with a suicide, which being one of the things that occurred to me after the fact, could well be a murder. What is certain, to the public at large at least, is that Shun Mizorogi, the renowned and enigmatic author, has finally begun writing again after a somewhat difficult fallow period. Or has he…?

It seems as though he has been inspired by a new muse, a beautiful young lady going by the name of Aki Fujino. A lady with a very mysterious past, who has apparently, for no reason whatsoever, jumped off the top of a very tall building. The police are suspicious, not least because they are struggling to make a positive identification, the only connection to the lady being Mizorogi. But he himself had only met her on a handful of occasions. Long enough though to be intrigued, not just by her looks, but also her writing. His latest work, also titled Utsubora, turns out to be plagiarised from her submission to a first-time writers contest in the very magazine currently serialising it on his behalf.

As one of the judges, Mizorogi, was able to ensure that no one else read the girl’s submission so, at this moment in time, he is the only person aware of his… appropriation. Obviously given that would give him the perfect motive, he’s not about to volunteer that information to the police. But everything is then turned on its head as the girl’s identical twin sister appears. She claims they were brought up by different parents, not having seen her sister for years, but something about her seems… very familiar. Is it possible that Aki – if that really is her name, which itself seems increasingly doubtful – is in fact dead at all? Has she staged her own death? But why stage the death of someone who doesn’t even exist? And how, given the police can find no evidence of anyone else being up on the roof with the jumper, is that even possible?

Question after question, with only more uncertainty for answers, you’ll find yourself drawn into Mizorogi’s increasingly unsettled world, a world made even more complicated by his increasingly suspicious editor, who also has his sights on Mizorogi’s niece (in reality a close family friend’s young daughter), who in turn is secretly in love with Mizorogi. Something which may or may not have been encouraged by her family. I think I’ve probably revealed enough, though in reality I have actually given precisely nothing away. This is definitely one for those who like to be bewitched and beguiled. Lovely art too, which reminded me a little of Natsume HOUSE OF FIVE LEAVES Ono, though this is even more delicate, with some clever mirror and dualist devices thrown in for good measure.


Buy Utsubora: The Story Of A Novelist and read the Page 45 review here

Attack On Titan vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama –

ATTACK ON TITAN is set in a world which has been all but overrun by giant humanoid beasts many metres tall. No one knows where they came from or what they are; the only thing they seem to want to do is eat human beings whole. And so, over 100 years after the beasts emerged humanity has been pushed back into one little corner of the planet. A few small cities (well, more like large towns, really) exist inside a series of walls which are constantly guarded in case the behemoths should attack again. But it has been a century since the wall was last breached so everyone is probably safe right? Yeah…

When we meet the group of youngsters we are going to follow through the story we see some familiar themes. A headstrong young man who wonders about the world outside the walls. He dreams of joining the Survey Corps who undertake the dangerous mission of going out into the world to try to make sense of everything. His group of peers, some of whom share his dream while others thinking he is barmy and his sister, who never leaves his side, muttering something about her duty to protect him after she was brought back from the dead. She never seems particularly happy, sad or anything else. Just resigned and, occasionally, worried. We never see her without a scarf around her neck.

Though we begin with a perfectly normal day things, of course, soon go to pot. One minute our guy is having dinner with his family, his father (slightly incongruously) promising to finally show him the big secret in the basement. Then the alarm sounds and chaos descends as a colossus appears and begins destroying the wall. In fact you can see him *over* the wall, at 50 metres tall he is many times the size of a Titan. 100 years of preparing for an attack evaporate in a heartbeat as the outer wall is devoured by this new monster. A desperate evacuation follows but many lives are lost.

A year later we find our group (those who survived, anyway) about to graduate from their training and humanity holed up inside an even tighter boundary, the lands behind the first wall lost to the Titan invasion. The colossus is still out there, the Titans are still out there and it feels for all the world like humanity is just waiting, maybe even hoping for the coup de grace. What can our heroes do in the face of such (literally) massive opposition?

So this manga has a bunch of classic elements: wilful protagonists, family tragedy and a foe so hideous it seems like a case of when, not if humanity will be destroyed. There are a few touches and elements which set it apart from run of the mill, though, which is probably why the manga has proved so popular in Japan. There are flashes of repressed memory which get you thinking that all may not be as it seems inside the walled enclave. It seems like there are lots of secrets and undercurrents to be explored. And there is a very detailed and ingenious combat system involving lines and winches which allows the tiny humans to actually go into combat with the giant enemy, though always at great personal risk. There are no punches pulled when it comes to that combat: death isn’t by a tidy death ray or an annihilating stomp. It’s all bitey and disgusting and in places really quite disturbing, which actually brings the characters closer to your heart because, bless them, they don’t have it easy.

Most striking for me was the sheer ickyness of the Titans. They are so close to being human and yet so obviously inhuman, all teeth and unsheathed tendons. They seem mindless, except for their determination to devour their prey and their lack of obvious reason or communication skills leaves any negotiation or bargaining out of the question. They give me the same visceral heebie-jeebies as the album cover to News of The World by Queen used to as a kid, or the sleeve art to the Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds. Just… *shiver*. I can see why this series is so popular in Japan and I can’t wait to read more.


Buy Attack On Titan vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Also out now: Attack On Titan vol 2, Attack On Titan vol 3 and Attack On Titan vol 4

Odd Duck h/c (£10-99, St. Martins Press) by Cecil Castellucci & Sara Varon.

Bravo! A book about cherishing your individuality, celebrating the difference in others and jettisoning neither to suck up to the sheep. Possibly the most important early life lesson ever.

In this instance the sheep are ducks, all gleefully and colourfully portrayed like everything else here by Sara Varon, creator of BAKE SALE (perfect for youngster who love cooking), ROBOT DREAMS (a silent and startlingly dark graphic novel recommended to all as a present for a friend you promise never to leave on the metaphorical beach) and contributor to NURSERY RHYME COMICS whose iconoclastic visualisation of traditional infant ditties will entertain the adults who read it aloud as much as the youngsters who listen.

There is so much attention to detail, as evidenced by the opening double-page spread of the mildly eccentric Theodora who sleeps in a waterbed with a difference. Makes perfect sense if you are an anthropomorphised duck. Theodora is sartorially genteel and decades out of fashion and swims in a straight line in smartly polished shoes and a bathing cap with a cup of tea on her head. She buys all the regular duck food but likes to spice it up a bit with some mango salsa who nobody else will buy. She borrows all the regularly recommended books from the local library but is aesthetically curious and so checks out several each week that have been so neglected that they have literally gathered dust! She even likes to try her hand at crafts which no ordinary duck would even consider.

But she likes her routine, does our quiet Theodora and she’s slightly stuck in her ways. So when a new neighbour arrives Theodora is slightly apprehensive. Chad is not the sort she is used to; in fact he is decidedly outré. He makes unconventional conceptual sculptures in his garden, dyes his feathers in multi-coloured highlights, and sings enthusiastically yet off-key while violently dancing to loud music. Theodora likes to exercise every morning too, but she does so with dignity. And although she tries to reach out with a neighbourly cake and Chad receives her with zeal… no, it will never work out.

I loved everything about this. It has been so well thought-through, especially the clash of the idiosyncrasies. Nor does this journey safely on in the straightforward trajectory you’d anticipate. Yes, Theodora and Chad do make friends because, in spite of their differences, they have so much in common.

But careless, callous spite, when overheard, can be so upsetting, can’t it? And it always comes from those snickering together safely in a circle.

Don’t worry, it all works out fine: this is a gloriously positive message for each and every child in the world. Embrace your unique talents and interests and deportment – even if others consider you odd! Enthusiasm is a glorious thing.


Buy Odd Duck h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens vol 1 (£9-99, Titan) by Meredith Gran…

“This is the most… UNACCEPTABLE THING EVER!!!”

No, not Stephen berating a tardy standing order customer for having failed to collect for over three months, but everyone’s second-favourite sourpuss, the Earl of Lemondrop discovering that Jake and Finn have set up a lemonade stand! I think, in this particular instance, I can understand why he is a bit peeved!

The main event of Marceline going on tour with Princess Bubblegum as her trusty personal assistant / roadie and falling out then making up every five minutes is great fun too, but the little bonus stories that came at the end of every single issue from superlative scribblers such as Liz Prince, Jen Wang and Kate Leth manage to steal the show for me. A case of the support act overshadowing the headliners perhaps. Fans of the show will know exactly what to expect. Anyone else deserves a million years dungeon for not watching…


Buy Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Crater XV h/c (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Kevin Cannon…

Utterly insane.

That probably sums this up perfectly. Possibly the most surreal adventure I’ve read since FAR ARDEN, the first tale of the redoubtable Amy Swanks, salty sea-dog and swashbuckler par excellence! This time around he matches up against rabid walruses, devilish femmes fatales plus some astronauts with their own covert agenda. And pirates, of course – there have to be pirates involved somewhere, this time of the Siberian variety. All this occurs during wild speedboat chases, visits to abandoned moonbases and other equally implausible scenarios.

Superlative nonsensical story-telling of the most absurd variety. Dare I say the thinking man’s AXE COP? I think I just did!


Buy Crater XV h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Change s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ales Kot & Morgan Jeske…

This really is the week for the rum and uncanny, isn’t it, as Bix Barton might have commented? I remember being utterly baffled by issue #1. Well, I still am to a degree, but I really enjoyed this frontal-lobe-bending, pre-apocalyptic tale. The world is most definitely looking like it is going to end in somewhat spectacular fashion and our potential saviours are… well… not the sort of people you would want handling this type of situation. Not remotely, given they include a failed screenwriter, a rather obnoxious rapper, an astronaut who doesn’t look in the best of conditions to say the least, and a child with some serious issues.

Difficult to say exactly what CHANGE is like. In terms of recent material I was probably most minded of PROPHET, actually, more so the art but also the story to an extent, though this is probably even more surreal, on a level with, say, Grant Morrison’s THE FILTH. Maybe a bit of Shaky Kane too – yeah definitely thinking about it – see THE BULLETPROOF COFFIN. I was also obviously reminded of the excellent WILD CHILDREN, which isn’t too surprising given Ales Kot also wrote that too, and opened my eyes to the genuine scientific theory that life could exist inside black holes on planets orbiting the singularity cores, held in asymmetric orbits by gravitational repulsion.

Ales may or may not be a heavy user of psychedelic drugs. Judging by this picture of him I would guess it is a distinct possibility.


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

Uncanny #1 (£2-99, Dynamite) by Andy Diggle & Aaron Campbell.

“How the fuck did I get Lee so wrong…? I shook his hand before the game. Got a good solid read on him.
“His head was full of angles, every one of them a bluff. I saw it. I took it in. Turned it against him.
“Unless somehow he knows what I can do. Prepared for it… and played me like a violin.”

Oh, we loved this! Simple set up, maximum action, charismatic voice.

Weaver is a man who can, for a limited span, absorb other people’s memories and physical capabilities. Afterwards there’s a crashing come-down but, hey, with skills like those you could do a lot of good for the world. You could also do one hell of a lot of damage.

Weaver has no such ambitions either way. He’s just a gambler and a thief, enjoying the kiddie thrill of conning people, getting one over them and taking their money. Currently he’s in Singapore sitting opposite Mr. Lee with a poker face on. Then there’s a smile. It’s about to wiped right off his face.

But I mentioned the physical abilities too, right? Mr Lee’s bodyguard is a black-belt in Taekwondo, so now Weaver is too – plus he also “remembers” exactly what the bodyguard’s packing. Well, almost. There’s a limit to what you have time to recall in the middle of a duff-up.

As slick as you like with barely a second for breath, the first printing has sold out at the publishers but we’ve already ordered some second prints – hurrah! If it matters to you whether or not your comics are first printings… then please get a life.


Buy Uncanny #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer: Death And Cigarettes (£14-99, DC) by Peter Milligan & Giuseppe Camuncoli, Simon Bisley.

That’s it, it’s over, kaput. The last dozen or so issues of HELLBLAZER taking you up to #300.

Will trickster John get his karmic comeuppance and finally bite the big one, buried under a cascade of cancer sticks and the lorry they fell off the back of?

Or will DC editorial transform John into a superhero replete with rippling thighs that bulge through his trousers in a new title CONSTANTINE which everyone – even the English – will studiously mispronounce for now and evermore? There are some fates worse than death you know.

P.S. The answer is “yes”.

P.P.S. Clue: it’s Constan-tyne as in the Emperor Constantine, not Constan-teen as in a scrofulous yoof.

You’re welcome.


Buy Hellblazer: Death And Cigarettes and read the Page 45 review here

Clockwerx h/c (£22-50, Humanoids Inc) by Jason Henderson & Jean-Baptiste Hostache…

Victorian-era steampunk conspiracy shenanigans illustrated in delightful ligne claire fashion as we have come to expect from Humanoids. It’s not the strongest title plot-wise on the imprint by any means, slightly by the numbers really which is mildly ironic given there are three writers credited, but enjoyable enough. Looks as though this is the opening volume of a continuing story given the ending, though this is not credited as volume one and I can find no information regarding any sequel being published in French to date. Certainly not sci-fi enough for the usual big robot tech-head crowd, more one just for genteel purveyors of nice art really.


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

The Cape: 1969 h/c (£16-50, IDW) by Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella & Nelson Daniel…

“You surprise me, Captain… For a seasoned pilot you seem to be making a habit of falling from the sky.”

Fans of THE CAPE will finally get their answer to the big question left unresolved by that horror / superhero mash-up. How is it in our real world that the cape can give the wearer the power of flight? I suspected the regiment patch of Eric’s father, lost in Vietnam, had something to do with it, and it turns out I was correct. For this is his story, a tale equally dark and disturbing as the original, which despite the fact we already know the ending, that obviously isn’t a happy one, is equally as gripping. Captain Chase, his helicopter shot down, and then captured by the Vietcong, has got big problems. All he wants to do is make it back to his wife and sons, but when he has the chance to make good his escape, will he pick salvation or revenge? Errr… I’m sure you can guess, but it’s a tale well told, and if you enjoyed the first book, well worth reading.


Buy The Cape: 1969 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman/Superman #1 (£2-99, DC) by Greg Pak & Jae Lee.

I have no idea what I just read.

I wasn’t drunk when I read it, but I confess that I have been driven to drink since.

I love Jae Lee. His neo-gothic art on Grant Morrison’s nihilistic FANTASTIC FOUR: 1234 was to die for and it is no less exquisite here – just wasted on a script I couldn’t comprehend. [Jonathan writes, “Stephen, you are a moron. It was clearly about other stuff I have already read and so understand.”]

Also: maybe it was a deadline snafu, a last-minute editorial rewrite or – I don’t know – maybe they sacked Jae post-solicitation (you can never tell with corporate comics), but the fact that he fails to finish the very first issue of a new flagship title and pages are assigned to Ben Oliver instead does not bode well for this title’s future. [Jonathan writes: “The whole thing was intentional. For God’s sake get a grip.”]

Maybe Jae walked. I wouldn’t blame him. I didn’t blame him when the second half of Paul Jenkins’ excellent BATMAN: JEKYL & HYDE was finished by Sean Phillips – largely because for me that is a comicbook upgrade. [Jonathan writes: “Agreed!”]

If you’re looking for some prime Superman, may I recommend instead either the brand-new SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #1 by Scott Snyder and Jim Lee, ALL-STAR SUPERMAN by Grant Morrison, SUPERMAN AND THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank, KINGDOM COME by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, and even – you’ll see what I mean – SECRET IDENTITY by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen which is lush!

Diversion Ends. You may now resume your regular comicbook journey. Did you remember to bring sweets?


Buy Batman / Superman #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Masterworks Avengers vol 5 s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas & John Buscema, Don Heck.

In which John Buscema arrives on the scene and kickstarts my life-long crush on the title.

Oh, we’ve had our lovers’ tiffs! In fact, apart from a few drunken phone calls when Buscema returned twenty years ago, we weren’t speaking to each other for decades until Brian Michael Bendis came along with AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED.

Nor is this John’s peak period, but it’s just around the corner when he inspires Roy Thomas to think bigger, better and more thoughtfully about the human condition etc (see Even An Android Can Cry, the wedding of Yellowjacket and The Wasp et al) and it is at least the start.

Includes the Wasp’s inheritance (and subsequent fashion-fest), Hawkeye and Hercules sulking each other to death, the Black Widow lost, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch falling pray to daddy dearest (Magneto), Dragon Man, the Black Knight II and – let me come clean – way too much awful exposition. But it was all so colourful and my nine-year-old mind was ignited.

Note: not actual cover. (Nor is that cover Buscema – it’s Don Heck.) All our MARVEL MASTERWORKS covers are the modern, painted variations with black backgrounds – infinitely classier.


Buy Marvel Masterworks Avengers vol 5 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 1-3 (£10-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama –

A retelling of the Chinese Monkey King legend that a lot of you will know from the ’70s Monkey television series. Both DRAGONBALL and DRAGONBALL Z are part of the same storyline, the first is the beginning of the travels of Son Goku while the second is quite a few years later when he’s grown up and lost his tail. Fun, knockabout storytelling. The group of adventurers search for the legendary seven dragon balls that, when collected, will summon the dragon that can grant them one wish. ‘Z’ is more fight-orientated and got more attention due to the cartoon being shown on afternoon tv.

The publisher writes:

Legend has it that if all seven of the precious orbs called ‘Dragon Balls’ are gathered together, an incredibly powerful dragon god will appear to grant one wish. Unfortunately, the orbs are scattered across the world, making them extremely difficult to collect. Enter 16-year-old Bulma, a scientific genius who has constructed a radar to detect the exact locations of the Dragon Balls. She’s on a mission to fi nd all seven orbs, but fi rst she must convince young Son Goku to join her on her quest. With a monkey tail, superhuman strength and a magic staff for a weapon, Son Goku is ready to set out on the adventure of a lifetime.”


Buy Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 1-3 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.


Playing Out h/c (£8-99, Blank Slate) by Jim Medway

The Listening Agent h/c (£8-99, Blank Slate) by Joe Decie

Wasteland vol 8: Lost In The Ozone (£10-99, Oni) by Anthony Johnston & Russell Roeling

Paul Joins The Scouts (£14-99, Other By A-Z) by Michel Rabagliati

Axe Cop vol 4: President Of The World (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Malachai Nicolle & Ethan Nicolle

Green Lantern Corps vol 1: Fearsome s/c (£10-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Fernando Pasarin, various

Green Lantern Corps vol 2: Alpha War h/c (£18-99, DC ) by Peter J. Tomasi & Fernando Pasarin

Daredevil: End Of Days h/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack & Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alex Maleev, David Mack

New Avengers vol 1: Everything Dies Now h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Steve Epting

Uncanny X-Men vol 1: Revolution h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo, Frazer Irving

Venom: The Enemy Within s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Peter David, others & various

Kingdom Hearts vol 1: Final Mix (£9-99, Yen Press) by Shiro Amano

Pandora Hearts vol 16 (£8-99, Hachette Book Group Usa) by Jun Mochizuki

Spice And Wolf vol 8 (£9-99, Hachette Book Group Usa) by Isuna Hasekura & Keito Koume

Puella Magi Kazumi Magica vol 1 (£8-99, Hachette Book Group Usa) by Masaki Hiramatsu & Takashi Tensugi

Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 2: Garma (£22-50, Random House) by Yoshiyuki Tomino, Hajime Yatate & Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

Star Wars: Lost Tribe Of The Sith: Spiral (£14-99, Titan) by John Jackson Miller & Andrea Mutti

Chronicles Of Conan vol 24: The Blood Dawn And Other Stories (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Jim Owsley & John Buscema


ITEM! Full-colour LOST AT SEA 2002 SPECIAL by Bryan Lee O’Malley

ITEM! This bit’s simple: a whole host of new Vertigo titles heading your way… and here you’ll find details of the SANDMAN: OVERTURE mini-series by Neil Gaiman and JH Williams III. Pre-order, pre-order, pre-order! or 0115 9508045. Never too early.

ITEM! The phenomenally fucked up DC Villains Month: a concise, customer-centric guide.

These are the DC comics solicited for September 2013. (You can navigate to other publishers or graphic novels using the bar of type underneath the black ribbon at the top.)

Firstly, there is a one-shot or mini-series (I know not which) called FOREVER EVIL #1. Fair enough. But then, instead of one regular issue of your favourite titles, there are multiple issues of the best sellers (e.g. BATMAN #23.1, BATMAN #23.2, BATMAN #23.3, BATMAN #23.4) so that some are, effectively, weekly… but written and drawn with few exceptions by creators other than those you actually signed up for so that they are, effectively, weakly.

Apparently they all feature some flashy, enhanced cover of some sort so I hope that will mollify you, though I suspect it may not. In our experience those signed up with us on standing orders (asking us to reserve each issue of a title as it comes out) are completists and so won’t want to miss out even if you smell “filler” when you read it. So you will receive these issues from us automatically, though if you do want to throw them back on the shelves (please don’t – ask us to do that thing for you!) I would not blame you for five fucking seconds.

All I would add is please, please don’t blame us. We didn’t ask for this insanity. At least you have the option of saying “no” rather than wanting them after they have all gone out of print.

These are Comix Experience owner Brian Hibbs’ Tilting At Windmills thoughts. It’s rather long winded but right on the money and will give you some sort of context from a retailer’s point of view. I’ve no idea what he’s going on about with his automatic ordering system and changing their names and what have you. We won’t do that – we will pop them straight in your files and let U decide.

ITEM! Oh, this is fascinating! HAWKEYE #11: Anthropomorphic Skeuomorphisms. I didn’t even know what a skeuomorphism was until now. Brilliant!

ITEM! Outrageous sexualisation of men in computer games. I would like to see more!

ITEM! Page 45 exclusive signed bookplate for Joe Decie’s THE LISTENING AGENT. 40 copies only! So beautiful and so very, very witty.

ITEM! Following ALTONTOWERSGATE which saw me screaming like a big boy’s blouse (scroll down to bottom of the blog) there have been requests for further photos of this editorial buffoon, so try these taken at my Auntie Mandy and Uncle John’s Golden Wedding Anniversary. The first is innocuous enough as I slip outside for a crafty fag (you can’t smoke in Auntie and Uncle’s house – it’s an original Tudor mansion) and hang around outside the dining room window so as not to miss anything. At which point Uncle decides to enjoy his first cigarette in exactly one decade.

It was mine he nicked 10 years ago too.

And below… I show my true colours.

You all figured me for a blood-sucking Nosferatu anyway, right?

 – Stephen

One Response to “Reviews July 2013 week one”

  1. Reviews July 2013 week one - Escape Pod Comics says:

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