Reviews July 2013 week two

Sean Phillips lets rip with sharp teeth, tentacles and several bloodbaths which would put any modern washing powder to the test.

 – Stephen on Fatale vol 3

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

Oh, Joe! He’s a husband, a father, yet still as messy as a teenager. You should see his side of the bed! He’s also a…

Working-class drinker: “Mind your backs, please!”
With middle-class rage: “There’s no fucking artichoke hearts!”
And upper-class work ethic: “I’ll just sit here and wait for the money to roll in.”

Reviewing Joe Decie books without illustrations has always been problematic. The pictures with their pin-point timing are almost always so integral to each joke that I was relieved to find that one translated well, even if I mucked about with his timing.

I’ve long considered Joe the new Eddie Campbell, although I am still much in love with the old one. Eddie’s ALEC OMNIBUS contains longer, more involved and some might say more profound autobiographical observations. I’d agree with the first two propositions, but not the last. Broken glass is a magnet to bare feet. Shopping malls are hell on Earth. I also distribute bank statements around town in different dustbins, but in addition I eat them. You may have seeing me doing so in the shop. I chew the details which run the risk of identity fraud until they’re an unreadable pulp. If I were a wasp I would then build a nest with the regurgitated mass in each bank’s fat cat’s bedroom. Or bathroom. Just under the toilet seat.

I’d also extend the comparison to Eddie and Joe each being their respective household’s alpha males, and both being practically rubbish at it.

This is Decie’s best book so far by a very wide margin. He has refined his already attractive line since THE ACCIDENTAL SALAD and POCKET FULL OF COFFEE so that it is exquisitely sharp and his portraiture really quite moving. Just look at his son! The washes are far more controled now, the light bouncing off the walls and the floors and the faces.

The reproduction values have also matched the artwork on offer. This is another of what appears to be Blank Slate’s new standard format: an A4, album-sized hardcover much like those lavish livres cartonnés I stumbled across 20 years ago in an Aix-en-Provence comic shop which directly inspired the creation of Page 45. We had nothing like that then in the US and UK, and I approve!

Like Eddie Campbell’s occasional succinct shorts in the ALEC OMNIBUS, some of the pages here also benefit from the charm of the progeny, for Joe Decie’s son is now older but thankfully no wiser. Just funnier.

His dad’s no older nor wiser, either. Just funnier still.

Joe has long confessed that although this is ostensibly autobiograhical, a lot is made up. And it’s all the better for it when Joe goes off on one, as when he’s mauled by The Hunt.

In closing, your honours and your honouresseseses, I would just add that comics don’t come much more accessible than this. My Mum has had a soft spot for Joe Decie ever since she spotted his ACCIDENTAL SALAD on my coffee table, picked through its raddishes, cleaned it up and then washed the dishes.

This has therefore solved all my Christmas presents for 2013, not just to friends but also to the last of my family who don’t think they love comics yet. They will.

Please Note: Joe has kindly drawn and signed for us a limited edition of 40 signed bookplates exclusive to Page 45. See what he’s done with that designer label? Brilliant! (I imagine l’ll have to delete this paragraph almost immediately. Be quick or look thick!)


Buy The Listening Agent h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Fatale vol 3: West Of Hell (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.

“And so it went on for several years. Until it didn’t.”

Noir with a Lovecraftian twist, FATALE is our best-selling series matched only by SAGA.

Here the horror comes to the fore in different places, different years – 1936, Texas; 1286, France; 1883, Colorado; 1943, Romania – because, yes, the story is older than we thought.

The bookends find the first two volumes’ Josephine beginning to understand what she might be, having tracked down a writer whose mother succumbed to a cult while they travelled out west. Aged twelve, he saw things that no boy should see – and probably nor should you. His mother’s still there in the attic, as mothers are wont to be. Now Jo sees things differently, which leads her to Mirela in occupied Paris and thence to Romania and Walter, which all pulls back beautifully to FATALE VOL 1. You’ll know the scenes I mean when you get there.

In between these chapters we meet Mathilde and Bonnie, both of whom bear an uncanny resemblance to Jo, and you will discover why the ancient tome which played such a big part in FATALE VOL 2 is so desperately important. ‘A Lovely Sort Of Death’ set in France in 1286 is particularly horrific for they were cruel enough times without Mathilde’s involuntary sorcery triggering the worst in men. And the shame of it all is she could have been happy, for she met a man of honour and no threat to her at all…

There, I do hope I’ve been vague enough. You can then move straight on to FATALE #15 which returns us to the present and the plight of Nicholas Lash which – improbably enough – is about to get even more precarious! Also, someone’s doing something horrible to Josephine yet again, and you’ll meet a band struggling to fund their next album and video in a highly unorthodox manner.

Bettie Breitweiser has arrived as new colour artists and brings some very neat tricks with her, first during the 1286 episode like the exquisite lighting on an early morning as Mathilde negotiates the snow-swept banks of a narrow, woodland river. It’s but one tiny panel, but such is Breitweiser’s attention to detail.

Sean Phillips, meanwhile, lets rip with sharp teeth, tentacles and several bloodbaths which would put any modern washing powder to the test. His eye for design has given this series the best covers in the business, and here he turns his attention to four stunning, scene-setting first pages for each of the four chapters. Also, the eyes: over and over again here there are eyes which see more than the minds behind them can cope with, and I don’t think I’ve seen “petrified” ever conveyed quite so startlingly.

So here’s how it all opens, with Josephine having left her customary mark:

“Texas – 1936.
“Officer Nelson has been drinking for a few hours when he realises she isn’t coming back for him.
“He breaks out in a cold sweat…
“And his hands start to shake…
“As the world collapses in on him.”

Oh, Jo!


Buy Fatale vol 3: West Of Hell and read the Page 45 review here

The From Hell Companion s/c (£19-99, Knockabout) by Eddie Campbell, Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell.

This’ll make your eyes water.

It will make you laugh out loud – for Eddie is one of comics’ finest raconteurs and there is much of mirth to unearth in the creation of FROM HELL – plus almost any other comic artist being presented with scripts like these would have burst into tears and run away long before the end of the prologue.

Presented here (almost all excerpts for the first time) are Alan Moore’s scripts and pre-ambles sent to the artist in preparation for each chapter, arranged by Eddie Campbell into an accessible new narrative of their own, complete with conversational Campbell commentary which is an entertainment in and of itself.

THE FROM HELL COMPANION is, in every way, a biography of the book: FROM HELL’s conception, reception and publishing history; its influences, development and artistic progress including disagreements, regrets and revisions – both at the time and as printed in subsequent editions.

Along the journey Eddie explains his approach to each segment, mostly faithful but requiring no small thought towards interpretation, yet sometimes of necessity piloted off the strict course originally plotted by its navigator. Throughout Alan acknowledges that there is room for manoeuvre and encourages his collaborator if he believes a different approach would serve the same purpose.

Eddie Campbell is a thinker and I believe you’ll find that thinking infectious. Throughout he expounds on his wider theories about comics’ construction from individual pages’ layout to what is required and what should be avoided in any work’s climax and conclusion. There aren’t that many comicbook creators who have given the medium this much minute, phorensic examination; although Alan Moore is most emphatically one of the others as evidenced by these infamously extravagant but gloriously evocative and eloquent extracts which are even more impressive when you consider that they were never intended to see the light of day. All of this beauty – for Eddie’s eyes only!

And you wait until you see Alan expend whole pages justifying his artistic decisions:

“(You see how nervous I get when I’m working with a respected comic book theorist like yourself? All that writing and wriggline just to assure you I’m not getting flashy.)”

Contained both within the scripts and Campbell’s commentary is the thought they also gave to local research, historical verisimilitude and other treatments of similar subject matter. I’m resisting the urge to prove each of my points here by reproducing any of the 1,000-word essays Alan often assigns to a single panel. That’s what Eddie Campbell’s done: you might as well just pick up the book.

There are copious illustrations: each of the original cover paintings, reference photographs accompanied by their use in relevant panels and personal photographs of the creators in question. You may find it better to have a copy either of FROM HELL or the FROM HELL H/C to hand, but each of the pages in question have been reproduced and if you can’t quite read all the dialogue, well, it follows in Alan’s scripts. There are multiple other paintings, Christmas cards, and a fabulous Tarot-like portrait of Alan as the ultimate Gull-Catcher.

Which brings me neatly to the ‘Dance Of The Gull-Catchers’ appendix with all the Ripperologists dancing round in circles vainly trying to snag their prey in butterfly nets. I was unaware until now that a “gull” – in addition to being the name of the hideous protagonist of FROM HELL itself – is “old slang for a fool, or a hoax, to cheat or mislead”.

Oh, the things you will learn…


Buy The From Hell Companion s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Three young kids, far from bored, mess about in town and their zeal is utterly infectious.

Moreover, Medway’s ear for their vernacular, his eye for their body language and empathy for their interaction, so astutely observed and comprehended, took me by surprise and had me glued to my seat. Which is a shame: it was sunny outside.

This isn’t some nihilistic tale of generational ennui wherein all the shops are closed down and a gang of bored youths with fuck all imagination go on a rebellious rampage of casual, ingrained misantropy and vandalism.

These boys are bursting with imagination, find almost everything fascinating – though a few things well weird – and come up with some cracking distractions and low-cost shenanigans. I particularly loved the race through a crowded Debenhams department store, all captured on internal CCTV (I can only imagine the security guards’ reactions), while Connor’s older brother Kieron speeds round the streets outside on his bike to beat them.

Yeah, Jamal and Kieron are twelve and Connor but ten and so, being unaccompanied by an adult and maybe a little too loud, they’re met in some shops with suspicion, distrust and hostility. Particularly when they begin gawping at the knives (oh, how I loved knives!), some so ridiculously elaborate as to be highly impractical (one is basically a shark). Indeed on the one occasion they are welcomed and, far from patronised or rejected, actively helped by a kindly guy showing them how to splice together films using a computer programm, Jamal reacts with barely surpressed anger, so sure is he they’re being laughed at. But they move on and almost immediately return to avid exploration and playing pranks (oh lord, the tram – too, too funny!) but never at anyone’s serious expense.

As to the body language I mentioned earlier, two words: “girls” and “hoodie”. You’ll see what I mean. Defensive, much?

I confess that the cover didn’t do it for me: it sends out the negative, frowny signals I’ve attempted to dispel above. Within, there is far more tenderness both in the lines and the expressions, the kindness and, as I say, the optimism.

For although this isn’t a coming-of-age-story, it is a tale is which Connor is coming to that cusp. This is his summer between little and big school where Kieron and Jamal are already a year or two in. There is a key scene in which young Connor breaks off from his elder idols to revel in the art of mask-making.

“Soz about this, Jamal,” says Kieron apologetically.
“Ah, it’s alright. Look at him go!”

They are almost perfectly patient while the ten-year-old relishes his innocent, instinctive creativity, but when Connor emerges all clowned-up with a mask he adores and shows off, Kieron, not unkindly points out a truth. It’s not that Connor was too long…

“It’s just you’re not gonna be able to act like that come September.”

Brilliantly, there are different end-pages both pre- and post-story. The latter concludes with a perfect narrative ellipsis. I don’t need to know more, this is complete in itself, but if Medway chooses to tell me what happens next, then I would be in heaven.


Buy Playing Out h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Burning Building Comix h/c (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Jeff Zwirek.

Ingenious and inventive storytelling involving a ten-story tenement building carelessly set on fire during a failed suicide attempt.

Possibly inspired by Alan Moore’s tale drawn by Rick Veitch in TOMORROW STORIES (all sadly out of print) which could be read both horizontally and vertically, this isn’t quite as clever but has garnered effusive praise from Matt Madden and Paul Hornschemeier, both of whom know more about comicbook storytelling than I ever will (pop ‘em in our search engine).

After folding the book out into separate storeys (and indeed stories, though you’ll see how they grow increasingly integrated), you start at the bottom in the basement flat where a man decides to end it all, and potentially ends it all for everyone above him. Candles, eh? Which utter idiot could burn his flat down with candles? (Get me drunk and I will tell you. Eastbourne, 25 years ago. Oh, we can laugh now…)

Whether or not he eventually makes it out of his flat door on the right-hand side (a recurring motif as you will see), you then proceed to tier two where the flames will eventually start to burn their way through the first tenant’s ceiling to set fire to the carpet above it. Repeat for all ten storeys, but note that the panels do not correspond chronologically on a vertical axis. Also note how conditioned we are and how difficult it is not to head straight to the top of the book after turning each page. Also, also: as the plights of the various inhabitants become intermingled, some of the panels have wider black borders – these are flashbacks. The flashbacks confused me slightly. You will have to concentrate, but it’s worth it.

Along the way you will meet a pregnant woman, an abusive couple, a frantic dog, and a pair of eyes meeting across the room at a crowded party. At no point does anyone phone the fire brigade or, if they do, that city really needs to look at its congestion.

For more original, inventive storytelling please see the likes of Jason Shiga’s MEANWHILE and Ray Fawkes’ ONE SOUL and Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie’s PHONOGRAM: SINGLES CLUB, all of which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month at one point or another.


Buy Burning Building Comix h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Alternative Comics #4 (£4-25, Alternative Comics) by Some Alternative Comic Artists.

They’re not really alternative at all.

I don’t even know what that word means. It’s like “indie”. They’re alternative to “rubbish”, I’ll give them that, for this is brilliant.

“When I was 10 a boat appeared in my backyard… and it took to a place where I was safe. I was safe because in that place I was 23… and I knew that the things that had scared me as a kid didn’t matter to adults.

“Now I’m 23 and I get scared of different things. And so when I need it, the boat will take me back… and I’ll be safe from my problems in a place when I am 10.”

Give or take the boat, which never appeared in my own backyard, that, by Sam Alden, really speaks to me. What you don’t see is the beautifully laid out art which put me in mind of Craig Thompson circa BLANKETS.

Speaking of Craig Thompson, he’s here on the back-cover story in somewhat psychedelic mode being illustrated by Theo Ellsworth of CAPACITY.

There’s also the first new Allison Cole material I have seen in a long, long time, in which a stray cat’s true ownership is sought. Novel investigative approach, that. You should all try it! There’s over a dozen pages of James Kochalka, you can pop your head round the door of the Frustrated Artist’s Society, it’s always a joy to see Sam Henderson being naughty and cartoonists everywhere will be able to relate to Noah Van Sciver’s depiction of the overwhelmingly high esteem society all holds you in.

“My admiration for your cartoon drawings knows no bounds, sir. May I touch the hem of your coat?”
“I am no on display to be fondled by walking chamber pots! Taste the lead from my derringer and consider it my autograph to you!”

Note: not actual cover.


Buy Alternative Comics #4 and read the Page 45 review here

Satellite Sam #1 (£2-75, Image) by Matt Fraction & Howard Chaykin.

“Mikey, any chance that dick you call a dad will grace us with his presence today?”

New York City, 1951, and Satellite Sam is the name of a space-faring television show recorded live – though thankfully not in front of a studio audience. Its titular star, Carlyle White, is ever so slightly unreliable, you see, and although he’s only got one line this week – and right at the end of the show – no one is confident he’ll make it.

A shame, then, that a) some vital investors have popped into the studio control room unannounced and b) this week’s episode has just begun filming. Looks like its time for some improvised stalling in the form of over-egged extemporised lines and a mad dash across town for the network’s Elizabeth Meyers to Carlyle’s secret pad. I wonder how she knows where it is? I wonder what she will find there? I wonder what miraculous cliff-hanger they can come up with in the next half an hour in case Carlyle is a no-show for the show?

Howard Chaykin is perfect for this period piece, relishing the fashions, and his art’s a lot softer than of late. Not everything’s inked – there’s pencil shading and well placed tones. Fraction, meanwhile, has nailed the on-the-hoof histrionics and network skullduggery/ambition.

Normally I wouldn’t bother mentioning this, but because you would expect an Image book to be in colour, I will just add that it’s black and white – just like the television of the times.


Buy Satellite Sam #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu vol 2 (£13-50, jaPress) by Junko Mizuno.

A love forever thwarted. *sobs*

I learned loads about Japanese culture: there are so many footnotes! I learned about Soaplands, a speciality of the Japanese sex industry which offers customers a brothel-plus-bathing experience. I learned about White Day, which is a Japanese holiday on 4th March, when a man gives a woman a gift in return for the one she gave him on Valentine’s Day. I suspect in this country if the man leaves it a whole month before reciprocation, then that relationship would be long over! I learned about Talents: “Japanese media personalities, ironically possessing no discernible talents.” Yeah, we have the same over here; we call them celebutards. Finally I learned about Japanese iced lollies whose sticks, when licked, often revealed prizes using the words for win (“Atari”) and lose (“Xbox One”).*

The protagonist Pelu is little and fluffy and – in at least one episode involving a family of nymphomaniacs – a bit of a gigolo. As we learned in LITTLE FLUFF GIGOLO PELU VOL 1, he is also from the Princess Kotobuki and in want of someone to mate with and make babies. It’s something of a biological imperative for him, to which end he has travelled to Earth but it’s not working out of him. He’s homeless for a start, and his companion in alms, Su-san (male), keeps nicking the money they make selling second-hand books to stuff his feckless face with strawberries.

The most promising hope lies in a fancy woollen glove-puppet made by Murako, wife to Mamoru. They met at a high-school knitting club where their fellow members kept stuffing M & M’s home-made toys down the toilet. They’ve barely spoken to each other in two years – partly because Mamoru has given himself over to some slightly unorthodox medical experiments – which makes Murako sad. Murako’s sadness animates her glove puppet and Pelu falls in love with it immediately. You can probably see that one unravelling.

Beyond bonkers, it is the most innocent of erotica (a lot lighter than some of Mizuno’s more murderous creations) although quite who would get turned on by it, I have absolutely no idea.

* Okay, no, it’s “Hazure”.


Buy Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Witch Doctor vol 2: Mal Practice s/c (£10-99, Image) by Brandon Seifert & Lukas Ketner.

A man wakes up in an iced bath with an incision in his abdomen and a stick-it note stuck to his forehead:


But he still has two kidneys, there’s no blue in his urine, no evidence of drugs in his system and the incision’s healed up just fine. The problem is, one of those kidneys isn’t his. It’s time for a second opinion courtesy of Dr. Vincent Morrow, Eric, and the skull-like Penny Dreadful.

“Dr. Morrow is the leading expert in these cases.”
“What kind of cases is that?”
“Really weird ones. That’s Penny. Say hi, Penny. Penny’s… another of Dr. Morrow’s patients. And also his, uh, anaesthesiologist.”
“Does he have to anesthetize a lot of people?”
“You have no idea.”

Dr. Morrow runs a very peculiar practice. Hopefully one day he won’t have to practise: he’ll get it right first time.

“There’s an infection witches sometimes get that causes them to steal organs. But it’s only endemic in India – and it makes them steal livers, not kidneys.”
“You can just tell me when you don’t know stuff. You don’t have to brag about all the stuff you do know.”

Oh yes, he does, he can’t keep his gob shut – no internal editor at all. It doesn’t make for the most reassuring bedside manner.

Quick-fire comedy horror, then with some of the most gruesome manifestations, monsters and throat-choking giant parasites designed with such evident relish by Lukas Ketner. For more, far more, please see my review of WITCH DOCTOR VOL 1.


Buy Witch Doctor vol 2: Mal Practice s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

Matt Murdock is dead. He was beaten to death in full view of the public, and the ugly images were transmitted uncensored across the nation, across the world, to an audience transfixed by their grotesque brutality. And I do warn you right now that Klaus and Billy have ensured that it is very uncomfortable viewing. It’s supposed to be.

But if you were to listen closely on playback, if you were to turn up the volume and really, really concentrate, you would hear a single word muttered by Murdock as his last breath passed his lips. Bugle veteran Ben Urich, once one of Matt’s sole confidants, heard what was said and will not let it lie. Disgusted by the sensationalism, he is equally confounded by the circumstances of Matt’s death and the events leading up to it during which Matt killed the Kingpin, alienating all of his peers, then completely fell off the radar. But Ben is nothing if not dogged, and determined to do his old friend one last kindness. He wants to tell the world what Murdock was doing before he died.

Unfortunately no one is pleased to see him.

As Urich begins to revisit Murdock’s past and those who populated it you’ll begin to see the depth and scope of this story gradually unfurl and then comprehend – like Urich himself – the extent of the silence he’s up against. It’s not a wall as such, but a void. An evasion. And a secret almost nobody knows.

Out of the shadows steps someone who should know what happened; someone who is old and angry and claiming that Urich’s best lead – Matt’s former lover, the Black Widow – is dead. Then into the shadows steps Urich when he tracks the license plate of an SUV from Matt’s funeral, ill-attended apart from the media vultures, to a park where children are playing soccer and one particular mother is watching, missing knowing.

“It’s very brave of you to come here, Mister Urich. You remember me when I had nothing to lose… Imagine what I’m like now.”

Oh yes, almost everyone you would expect to see makes most unexpected appearances. The strange fate of Typhoid Mary, for example, is both surprising and delightful but packed with poignancy. Oh, her final panel!

The art is absolutely extraordinary throughout and grows increasingly refined as everyone settles in, with additional bursts of David Mack splendour when appropriate. But right from the beginning there is the sheer sense of space in the Daily Bugle office in a double-page spread whose interior windows I stared at for ages; the breathtaking, Sienkiewicz-solo of the Kingpin at night, brooding as he stares out at the neon-blazed city he ‘owns’, or two separate panels of gritted teeth in the second chapter’s dark, dank, behind-the-bar alley – the first coming off like Byrne at his best, the second perfectly recapturing the glory days of Frank Miller as inked by our good Klaus Janson, present and correct on pencils.

What you see here are artists at one – no egos – each working in unison in service to the story, and there’s a considerable gallery of process pieces in the back which will show you Janson’s original pencils for that Daily Bugle spread, Bill Sienkiewicz’s sketches and inimitable inks (and I used the word “inimitable” with precision), David Mack washes you can bathe your sore eyes in, plus a host of unused covers.

Meanwhile, Bullseye himself is discovered dead in a rented room, a bullet blown straight through his skull. Above him, scrawled in his own blood, is the last word Matt Murdock ever uttered: “Mapone”.


Buy Daredevil: End Of Days h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Goddess, oh goddess.
“Save me from what this world demands.
“Save me from righteous men.
“Save me from thinkers.
“Save me from summoners.
“Save me from midnight kings…
“And the devil himself.
“Oh goddess, save me…
“Save me from what we are about to do.”

Both Jonathan Hickman’s AVENGERS books are about Big Ideas, eloquently and indeed ominously expressed. This one will have you shivering, even more so on the second read-through once you realise all of its awful predictions comes true.

They’re certainly not about the supervillain du jour although, unexpectedly, a couple of very big players do pop their helmeted heads round the multi-dimensional door, and that last page bodes well for no one. Of the two, however, this boasts the closest relationship to its previous incarnations in that there is a set team and sense of family. It’s just that this particular family is The Illuminati (see NEW AVENGERS: ILLUMINATI and – even more relevant here – AVENGERS VOL 2), so there’s a lot less trust involved given a) their past, b) what is at stake and c) the drastic solutions proposed.

The still-covert Illuminati are now Reed Richards, Captain America, Iron Man, Dr Strange, Black Bolt, the Beast, Namor the Submariner… and the Black Panther who previously, quite adamantly, refused to join. It is he who summons them now, even though Namor was last seen slaughtering thousands of his Wakandan subjects (see AVENGERS VS X-MEN).

I keep saying “see” but that’s merely a service: Jonathan Hickman is a keenly intelligent writer and will show you all that you need to know as you go along while chilling your blood to sub-zero.

In addition, Steve Epting’s art is so beautiful I could almost cry. His Black Panther is everything I cherished in John Buscema, John Perez and John Byrne’s interpretations but, if anything,  he is here lither still. And when he confronts Namor in public with not threats but a promise, his eyes blaze with the fiercest of intensities.

Epting’s ability to convey scale is well off the… scale, and it needs to be for what the Black Panther witnesses is a giant purple planet – and it is another Earth – bearing down on our own on a collision course of mutual destruction. From this parallel Earth descends a white-haired woman with cohorts, one of whom bears the trigger for a bomb. The bomb is an anti-matter bomb and has been armed on the alternate Earth. It is detonated.

But according to this white-headed woman – now their captive and called the Black Swan – this is only the first such Incursion. Every single Earth in the multiverse is headed for collision, one after the other, each destroying the universe it lives in. Something has triggered a mass, multi-dimensional implosion. Her solution was to blow up one Earth to save another. She saved this entire universe’s lives, and indeed the one she came from )give or take its planet Earth). Will The Illuminati be prepared to do the same?

“It breaks hope – it crushes what makes us decent and steals what little honour remains. You have no idea what is coming.”

They don’t. And, one by one, the Black Swan is proved right on every single count.

Friends fall apart, and more dramatically than you can possibly imagine.


Buy New Avengers vol 1: Everything Dies Now h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“Scott Summers is not the face of the mutant race. He is not the face of the future. He is a murdering monster.
“You need to get Scott Summers to reveal himself to the world. You need him to self-destruct in public.
“It won’t take much and it won’t take long…
“And I’m here to help make it happen.”

Companion title to Bendis’ ALL-NEW X-MEN, and I leave you to read our review for that to glean both the background and status quo .

This is Cyclops’ side of the story, whipping in to rescue new mutants in such a violent and confrontational manner as to risk whipping up renewed fear and hatred towards all mutants world-wide. Hence the ALL-NEW X-MEN’s determination to stop him. And yes, you will see that second confrontation from the other side of the coin with some neat uses of mid-panel stark black and white, for this runs parallel to the other title though approximately one volume behind at the moment.

Chris Bachalo’s art is exquisite, particularly his icy outdoors which he coloured himself. It was he who so successfully designed Cyclops’ black-and-red, blind-eyed mask to better reflect the man’s new, even more blinkered, X-focussed outlook. A++ There are sketches in the back.

Frazer Irving, however, when we come to the scenes set in [redacted], has given them his fully painted all. So much fucking work has gone into each infernal rage-page. Blistering. The results are catastrophic, and I mean that in a good way.

The only caveat I would add is that if you are allergic to nuanced dialogue and smart characterisation, then this is not the book for you. This one is wordy, but I rather like words.

Some are deployed for deception, for one member of the team is playing an ambiguous game of dubious intent; others are employed for the sort of “What the fuck have I let myself in for?” that any young teen would scream when moved to a new school – let alone being confronted with a new genetic evaluation, peers and pressure.

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,” wrote Erasmus.

Someone certainly has aspirations.


Buy Uncanny X-Men vol 1: Revolution h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Sky: The Art Of Final Fantasy Slipcase Ed (£65-00, Dark Horse) by Yoshitaka Amano.

Beautiful (and massive), satin-sheened boxed set with a ribbon-tipped lip for you to pull revealing three hardcovers of illustrations for the first ten Final Fantasy games by SANDMAN: THE DREAM HUNTERS’ original artist, Yoshitaka Amano. More deetz:

“Each hardcover book in The Sky Slipcased Edition is 11 5/8′ high by 10 5/8′ wide, and printed on glossy stock. Volume 1 contains Amano’s work for Final Fantasy I-III. Volume 2 contains his contributions for Final Fantasy IV-VI, and volume 3 features his art for Final Fantasy VII-X. The slipcase containing The Sky I, II, and III features the same wraparound exterior artwork as The Sky Boxed Set, with a double-hinged flap that folds around the open edge and is held flat to the back side with a hidden magnetic closure, making it easy both to remove the books and to display the set closed.”


Buy The Sky: The Art Of Final Fantasy Slipcase Ed 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.

Giant Days 2 (£4-99, self-published) by John Allison

Family Fun vol 1: On Sanity, Madness & Family Tunnel Construction (£2-99, Unbecoming Press) by Una

Family Fun vol 2: On Deserving A Medal (£2-99, Unbecoming Press) by Una

Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code – The Graphic Novel (£7-50, Disney) by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin & Giovanni Rigano

Percy Jackson And The Sea Of Monsters s/c (£9-99, Penguin) by Rick Riordan, Robert Venditti & Attila Futaki

Lost Cat h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics Books) by Jason

Avatar, The Last Airbender vol 5: The Search Part 2 (£8-50, Dark Horse ) by Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru

Diablo Sword Of Justice s/c (£10-99, DC) by Aaron Williams & Joseph Lacroix

Star Wars: Darth Maul: Death Sentence s/c (£11-99, Dark Horse) by Tom Taylor & Bruno Redondo

Dark Tower vol 9: The Gunslinger – The Way Station s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Peter David, Robin Furth & Laurence Campbell

Saga Of The Swamp Thing Book vol 4 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Alan Moore & Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, Stan Woch, Rick Veitch, Alfredo Alcala, Ron Randall, Tom Mandrake

Locke & Key vol 5: Clockworks s/c (£14-99, IDW) by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars h/c (£11-99, Quirk) by Ian Doescher

Sonic The Hedgehog Archives vol 21 s/c (£5-99, Archie) by Patrick Spaz Spaziante

Bravest Warriors vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by Joey Comeau & Mike Holmes

Justice League Dark vol 2: The Books Of Magic s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter Milligan, Jeff Lemire & Mikel Janin, Ryan Sook

Before Watchmen: Comedian & Rorschach h/c (£22-50, DC ) by Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo, J.G. Jones

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl & Dr Manhattan h/c (£22-50, DC ) by J. Michael Straczynski & Adam Hughes, Adam Kubert, Joe Kubert, Eduardo Risso

Captain America vol 1: Castaway Dimension Z Book 1 s/c (UK Ed’n) (£10-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & John Romita

Gambit vol 2: Tombstone Blues s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by James Asmus & Pasqual Ferry, Clay Mann

Hawkeye vol 2: Little Hits Now s/c (£11-99, Marvel ) by Matt Fraction & David Aja

FF vol 1: Fantastic Faux s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Mike Allred, Joe Quinones

Avengers vol 2: The Last White Event h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Mike Deodato, Dustin Weaver

Demon Love Spell vol 3 (£7-50, Viz) by Mayu Shinjo

Tokyo Babylon vol 2 (£14-99, Dark Horse ) by  Clamp

Loveless 2-in-1 Edition vols 7 & 8 (£9-99, Viz) by Yun Kouga

ITEM! Loads of quality, creator-owned Image comics announced new books by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting, Bettie Breitweiser; Straczynski & Bill Sienkiewicz; Mark Millar & Duncan Fegredo; Matt Fraction and more! IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO PRE-ORDER! or 0115 9508045.

ITEM! Are you going to Lakes International Comic Art Festival The whole town is going to be given over to comics, beautiful comics with so many top-tier creators including Ed Brubaker’s first appearance in the UK (see FATALE VOL 3 reviewed above – Sean Phillips will be there too; he’s one of the festival’s founding patrons)!

They even have a Prize competition to design new character for The Beano!

ITEM! Beautiful, tender short comic online about being an introvert. It’s by @luchie_hm   Believe it or not, this really is me at parties. I can’t handle them at all.

ITEM! Ha! This is better than “MY MUM THREW ALL MY COMICS OUT!” I laughed – I laughed loads. And winced.

ITEM! I liked these drawn Daleks. Funny!

ITEM! Paul Duffield’s THE FIRELIGHT ISLE page one. Spectacular! Researched, plotted and designed  for over a year now, this comic is going to be absolutely epic. But please note, Paul’s only just started it in earnest.

ITEM! You can’t complain about the cancellation of your favourite childhood comic if you didn’t buy that comic for you own children. Buy comics for kids! Jamie Smart (The Phoenix, Beano etc) issues an exhilarating call to arms about creating more weekly comics for kids – and how to go about it! Hint: employ more female creators; they will attract more female readers. That is 50% of your target readership, after all.

ITEM! The judges for the British Comics Awards 2013 has been announced! What a fab line up – apart from this gobsmacked gibbon. What on Earth am I doing there again?!

I’m the only returning judge!

I’m.. I’m… Oh God…

I’m the Simon Cowell of comics!

 – Stephen

One Response to “Reviews July 2013 week two”

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

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