Reviews November 2013 week one

As for the exquisite beauty, I give you the most inspired choice of artists imaginable in JH Williams III who didn’t just illustrate Alan Moore’s PROMETHEA, he illuminated its ideas with an intuitive understanding, and in doing so helped render it one of Moore’s two most accomplished endeavours to date.

 – Stephen on Sandman: Overture #1

The Park h/c (£15-99, Self Made Hero) by Oscar Zarate.

“Dad was bitten by a dog but I’m the one who gets rabies!”

And it all starts out so serene.

“The Park. Blue skies, only a few wisps of cloud.
“If you close your eyes for a moment and listen, jumbled sounds gradually become distinct. Kids playing football, a brass band bringing an echo of the past (you think of your parents, something of your childhood comes back to you). You hear fragments of conversation, the squeak of buggies, the chirping of birds, the swoosh of kites, the caw-caw of crows, the rustling of leaves…sudden yells of delight – a kid has scored the most phenomenal goal. Young people are singing a song by Oasis. A dog barks…”
”Carla… fetch!”
“… you smell the grass. Just for a moment you feel intensely alive.”

The titular park is very much the star here, dressed by Zarate in the most splendid livery and lit to perfection both during the bright, sunshine day and the shadowy night. Whether relatively young saplings, their fresh, translucent leaves shimmering in a breeze or hard and hardy oaks, five centuries old, their twisting trunks knotted and whorled and tactile as hell, the trees are its chorus, bursting with birdsong and teaming with squirrels. Willows weep on cue by the lakeside. There’s a superb sense of space.

Lemon-yellow and fuschia-pink flowers bubble and burst with joy all over the shrubbery, between dancers and kite-fliers and screamers and shouters, those picnicing on blankets in the park. Quiet conversations are being had. You can hear the sound of laughter, which is a neat trick for a painting or two. You feel the sun on the back of your neck.

A man throws his dog’s ball into the water…

It splash-lands right in the front of three irrascible, hissing swans but Carla, undaunted, has an instinctive, ingrained, Pavlovian response: it’s her bloody ball and she’ll have it, whatever the cost.

 

This is a book about anger traps: about bullish behaviour and bullies to boot; about everyone talking yet nobody listening; about self-absorbtion, obsession, revenge.

The thought bubble is almost extinct in British and American comics, but here makes a comeback to present preocuppations, inner conflict and contradictions – snapshots of fleeting thoughts and gut reactions.

Carla’s owner, Ivan, is an opinionated columnist unable to listen to reason, a so-called journalist unwilling to be bothered about facts if they get in the way of a good old cathartic, self-serving, self-righteous tirade. He sneers superciliously at medicrioty as he perceives it, oblivious to how fast he’s becoming its epitome. Oh, Ivan dotes upon Carla. She can do no wrong, unlike his eco-activist / artist daughter: she can do no right. There is a distinct generation gap.

The man Carla has bitten is a meek and mild postman and amateur musician with a penchant for Laurel and Hardy called Chris. Instinctively he tried to defend himself but was punched for his efforts by Ivan. His son, Victor, is a gymn trainer and psysiotherapist. It’s he who’s seen red. It is he who can’t let go. Victor claims to hate bullies, but is a bully himself, poisoning his father’s tranquility and rejecting his paternal affection.

“You can’t let yourself be bullied like that,” he instists. “It’s humiliating.”

Guess who feels humiliated?

With neither his father’s knowledge nor consent, Victor sets off seething in search of revenge, mindless of who gets caught in the middle.

It’s all going to go horribly wrong.

SLH

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

Sandman: Overture #1 (£3-50, Vertigo) by Neil Gaiman & JH Williams III.

“And I am pulled halfway across the universe in one fraction of forever, with a pain that feels like birth…”

Morpheus is the Lord of Dreams, his family are The Endless. Each of them is older than you can comprehend, though some are older than others. They are as gods to mortals – though they can surely die – and they can change as we change, for they are reflections of our everyday existence…

So began my review for SANDMAN VOL 1: PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES, now proving somewhat prescient in the light of this brand-new reprise which reveals what happened just prior to the series and how Dream was so easily captured. If you are new to SANDMAN – for me, the finest piece of mythology during the last century – then the rest of that review will tell you everything you know to get the most out of this.

Long-term readers will meet old friends most unexpectedly, and in this very first issue a secret is revealed which will make perfect sense given events later on in [redacted].

Haha! Page 45: teasing you senseless since 1994. I did give out a cryptic clue on Twitter, however, if you want to seek out the hashtag #incarnadine.

I will say little more other than that Morpheus senses that something is very wrong indeed, Death is so troubled that she persuades Destiny to summon her to his realm and Lucien, the librarian of books never written, has a… presentiment.

As for the comic’s exquisite beauty, I give you the most inspired choice of artists imaginable in JH Williams III who didn’t just illustrate Alan Moore’s PROMETHEA, he illuminated its ideas with an intuitive understanding, and in doing so helped render it one of Moore’s two most accomplished endeavours to date. (The other’s FROM HELL, since you ask.)

Swoon over the liquid fire, the pale line and washes of a defiant predator on the prowl, and the most extravagant, inventive and at times delirous page compositions, with panels constructed from teeth or portcullis panes and oh, you are in for a surprise at the end!

As is our Morpheus, swept irresistably halfway across the universe as if summoned by someone with a family sigil.

“I tell myself I am Dream of the Endless. I am DREAM. And I am prepared for whatever awaits me.”

He really isn’t.

SLH

Buy Sandman: Overture #1 JH Williams III cover and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Sandman: Overture #1 McKean cover and read the Page 45 review here

The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde vol 1 s/c new edition (£7-50, NBM) by Oscar Wilde & P. Craig Russell.

“There cometh a bitter wind into the house. And I am cold.”

This is a book about kindess. And kindness is the most important thing in the world.

Kindness may cost you dearly, it may cost just a little, or it may cost you nothing at all. Yet still many withhold it out of sheer spite or lack of empathy; lack of imagination or lack of thought.

Each of those levels on either side of the equation is explored by our dearly beloved Oscar in two tales designed to make us think twice about how we treat each other: The Selfish Giant and The Star Child.

In the former a giant takes umbrage at the innocent and innocuous delight local children display while relishing the beauty of his garden. They are neither vandals nor hoodlums, but nevertheless they are enjoying what is most emphatically his! He therefore decides to build a wall.*

Winter had already crept into his heart and soul; now its icy tendrils spread, wreaking havoc on his garden. And his castle. And so his happiness. Mean-spiritedness: you reap what you sow.

It’s a relatively straightforward tale, albeit with a most unexpected dénouement.

The Star Child, however, is far more involved and complex, touching on Oscar’s dedication to socialism with a small ‘s’ meaning simply that you help provide for others whether you have much or nothing at all. This he and P. Craig Russell most successfully evoke this compassion in THE HAPPY PRINCE which reduced both myself and my mother to tears, but this is a very good start.

A hard-up hunter bags not a stag, but a baby fallen to Earth. He takes the child home only to be chastised by his missus because, frankly, they are finding it nigh-on impossible to make ends meet, and put food on the table for themselves and their own. Nevertheless, she is moved, and sets the babe down to bed with her own.

Over the years they raise the child to young adulthood. But the boy is proud, pretty, petty and narcissistic, cruel to those who he considers ugly or inferior, including his natural mother. He is the very epitome of ingratitude, having understood not one jot the sacrifices his adoptive parents have made, nor why they made them. Well. Is he in for a rude awakening!

This splendid library of Oscar Wilde short stories adapted by P. Craig Russell is overwhelmingly bought by adults for adults who relish the craft and the kindness. And that is the best testament there could be for all-ages graphic novels. Might I suggest, however, that these are the very life lessons which our youngest most need to learn if we are to nurture their growth, empathy and understanding in ways which will foster a much better world for us all?

Please buy one of these for Christmas.

* [Metaphor alert! – ed.]

SLH

Buy The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Mara (£9-99, Image) by Brian Wood & Ming Doyle.

“The thing is, despite everything that’s happened to me, one thing’s been constant: I was never a threat to anyone.
“But you treated me like I was.
“Shame on you all.”

If I reproduced the halting image which accompanied that cliff-hanger you would rightly accuse me of SPOILERS. I do not. But trust me when I tell you that I have seen that image before in the most powerful and important dream I have ever experienced. It is something truly iconic for anyone born in the last century. And it is, I assure you, arresting.

This is not the series I thought it would be. This is not what it said on the tin. Oh, the back of this book makes its direction quite plain, but the first issue didn’t.

And I like that enormously. I dislike it too.

I enjoyed this book so much and so fast, turning page after page after page, unable to stop myself, yet remain ambivalent about it in so many ways. That’s unlike me: I am one opinionated motherfucker, the strength of those opinions – as Mark loved pointing out – almost always in inverse proportion to my knowledge on any given subject.

On the one hand MARA veers so swiftly from one thing to another and has so many Acts whilst being a relative short six chapters that I felt there was much missing: as if entire scenes had been excised. They’re not required – at no point did I or this book lose the plot – but there is so much here that seemed to demand embellishment. On the other hand, fuck embellishment and give me the bulletpoints: don’t get bogged down in extraneous handwringing when there is something so strong to be said. There is much to be said here, and Brian Wood says it. Equally on that other hand, the last two chapters of this collection were quiet, reflective and made so much more clear of what leads up to the main event: of Mara being palmed off to The State, aged six, sent by her parents to the equivalent of a preparatory boarding school but without any mitigating hope of a brief reunion three times a term. They’re giving her up for good. Both for the good of The State and forever.

It’s lonely out there. And so it will be later on.

So what is this? It’s a story about how we treat each other, privately and personally, but also on TV and in the army. It’s about money and power and prowess. About corporate business interests and international hegemony.

I’m pretty pleased with myself, given what followed, of the very first paragraph of my review of issue one during which I stuck my neck out on the line for what could have been a complete misapprehension. That review follows, slightly amended for extra intrigue, thus:

When I first opened this up I ruminated about the bottom half of page one for five minutes. Now that I’ve finished, I’m doing so again.

I could be wrong, but there is a particular treatment in the art at the start which set my suspicions on fire, knowing not for one second what the climax would be. Having attempted to absorb that startling climax – as shocked and puzzled as the wider fictional world it is broadcast to – I’m not necessarily the wiser, but I am most definitely intrigued.

“I find sports culture, especially professional sports, to be rife with the worst of what society puts upon young women, while expecting the best out of them in return,” wrote Brian Wood in an interview. “That’s worth talking about.” It is.

So welcome to the future, and the future is volleyball! This is the sport which now attracts the largest international audiences, viewing figures and so sponsorship. Though there are some pretty dodgy sports sponsors in the future.

Top of the league is Mara Prince. Aged seventeen she is a global celebrity who’s already amassed greater wealth than she could possibly spend in her lifetime. She knows exactly how to play the media game without actually being manipulative. She ticks all the boxes: confident, humble, sexy and smart. But if she’s so bloody smart, what just happened in the final five pages? Five pages yet mere moments in time captured on camera and broadcast worldwide that which could and should destroy her reputation completely.

The public believe Mara cheated. That is the only way they can absorb what they see: Mara defying the laws of physics to scoop up a ball and pound it over the net in two seconds when anyone else would have taken ten. Or twenty. Or thirty. Somehow, she cheated. They used to say that the camera never lies, but it always did: just look at the Loch Ness Monster. But how can physical reality lie? Everyone there saw what had happened, but it couldn’t have happened – it was impossible.

Plenty of politics and personal punch as you’d expect from the writer of THE MASSIVE and NORTHLANDERS et al. Apparently we’ve got over racism (hurrah!) but not global conflict (boo!), although we’re desperately papering over the cracks like we’re trying to sell houses with subsidence (still).

True fact: I was in our school’s volleyball team. It’s unlikely, I grant you, but it’s true.

SLH

Buy Mara and read the Page 45 review here

Legend Of The Scarlet Blades Deluxe h/c Slipcase Edition (£37-99, Humanoids) by Saverio Tenuta.

“I think you still harbour feeling for Raido and myself, yet even so, you ordered his death and have deprived me of the sun. In reality, you are not fully aware of your actions. Do not be so sure that it is you who are the puppeteer.
“That, I never believed. I only cut my own strings and imprisoned the one who controlled them in this temple.”

Terrific surprise, this. I was expecting another SAMURAI: LEGEND, which was certainly very pretty but really little more than another Onimusha.

LEGEND OF THE SCARLET BLADES, on the other hand, is breathtakingly beautiful with vast panoramas of snow-swept mountains and walls snaking up to them; Japanese temples and rooftops, Acer leaves in autumn, cherry blossom petals and birds taking flight; gigantic white wolves called Izuna with ears like the lynx… but it is also an intricately woven story of cause and effect, of nature and nurture, that spans two generations in feudal Japan whose revelations eventually connect almost every event to another and everyone to each other, even if few or even any of the players involved know it until quite near the end. Maybe the wolves know. Yes, maybe the wolves know…

Lone warrior Raido has lost his memory. He’s lost his arm, an eye, and something else – if only he could remember what. Instead he is plagued by voices so loud he can barely sleep. They’re calling to him. He has a tattoo whose symbols don’t bode well and he has a past more complicated than he can imagine which he inadvertently catches up with when he encounters young Meiki and suddenly there’s silence. He sweeps her away from the clutches of Captain Kawakimi, ordered to arrest the girl by Lady Ryin, Shogunai of all that surrounds her. He knows not who they are, but they definitely remember him, as does General Nobu Fudo, the man with three eyes, the man with three arms and the man with two Scarlet Blades. Raido is supposed to be dead.

The past is revealed slowly, subtly and in all the right places, for it’s not as straight forward as you’ll think. For example, does Nobu Fudo have Raido’s eye? He does not. He has an eye that was sacrificed to Raido after Raido as a boy sacrificed his own to feed his starving wolf cub. There’ll be repercussions there. Unfortunately Raido will repay that repayment of kindness with… Ouch. It’s actually pretty affecting in places.

There is a reason, by the way, why the seasons have stopped and the domain of Lady Fujiwara Ryan and Lord Totecu Fujiwara before her is besieged by ice and its raging white Izuna. There’s an explanation for why the Izuna are raging, and why Lady Ryin is such a bitter and cruel mistress. It’s not an excuse but a reason. The same goes for the three-armed Nobu Fudo’s enmity towards Raido.

I can promise you a substantial read and as much eye-candy as you could want whether your thing is majestic landscapes, fantastical wolves or dramatic blade action. It’s not easy painting driven snow, but the blue and purple lights dance off it here perfectly.

SLH

Buy Legend Of The Scarlet Blades Deluxe h/c Slipcase Edition and read the Page 45 review here

Charley’s War vol 10: The End (£14-99, Titan) by Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun…

Final volume, Pat Mills-penned at least (which is a sensitive issue Mills deals with completely without rancour in his afterword), of the anti-war treatise which at times induced a state not entirely dissimilar to shellshock in my mind as a young lad. As Pat informs us, even he couldn’t believe this seditious material was slipping out under the radar amidst the gung-ho strips that surrounded it in Battle.

The perfect counter-point for MAJOR EAZY, THE RAT PACK, JOHNNY RED et al and their cavalier and often comedic approach to war, the story of young Charley Bourne, who foolish signs up aged sixteen in a moment of patriotic bravado, is a tale of one boy’s personal journey through the gates of hell and eventually out the other side, throughout the entirety of World War 1.

Epic in scale, running from 1979 to 1985, from when I was 7 to 13 thirteen years old, it covered every conceivable horrific element of trench warfare imaginable. Even to this day, over thirty years on, I can recall some of Joe Colquhoun’s panels as if it were yesterday. The only material on the same subject I’ve ever read in the intervening years which had the same impact on me would be the recent Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, GODDAMN THIS WAR! by Jacques Tardi. This is a saga which should really be on everyone’s must read list.

JR

Buy Charley’s War vol 10: The End and read the Page 45 review here

Uber Enhanced vol 1 h/c(£25-99, Avatar) by Kieron Gillen & Canaan White…

“I have in my hand a piece of paper…”

Well some pages of comics, actually, which are then according to Avatar <ahem> enhanced with a whole lot of back matter before arriving at the rather expensive cover price of £25-99. Avatar have never been the cheapest publisher, but they do usually release softcovers and hardcovers (as with CROSSED) on the same day. But this does feel rather like blatant opportunism on the back of what has been an extremely popular new title, I must say.

Still, at least Kieron’s quality hand wringing apology for writing a comic about super-Nazis is included, which made me smile just as much second time around. Yes, he clearly has gone out of his way to make sure this isn’t just another gore-fest on an imprint renowned for just that, and it is interesting to see there are certainly some customers who are picking it up just because it is written by Kieron, but there are just as many picking it up simply because it’s a comic all about super-Nazis. Me, I like it on both counts and am enjoying the title immensely. But it’s for you to decide whether you want to shell out £25-99 or wait for a cheaper version.

Right, here was my review of issue #0, which I’m reprinting purely for the joke at Stephen’s expense… [Oh, brilliant. – ed.]

It does amuse me greatly that our very own resident grammar-Nazi, Stephen L. Holland, quite firmly insists that no accents or umlauts must be used in titles or creator names on the Page 45 website. He’s right of course, because no one with an Anglicised keyboard ever bothers typing them into search engines thus causing a perilous lack of results if they are used, but I am quite sure it must be distressing his leather-clad interior editor to see deliberately mis-spelt words. Is it wrong, therefore, that I derive more than a little schadenfreude from this situation heh heh?

I am actually going to suggest anyone reading this starts at the back. Not with the ending obviously, but Kieron’s mini-essay explaining, almost apologetically, precisely why he’s written this work. It’s amusingly self-deprecating and is a roundabout way of politely pointing out that whilst yes, it’s a no-holds-barred gore-fest of a comic about super-Nazis, he is actually trying to make a few points about what WW2 and all its intrinsic horrors says about us as a species.

So… It is the very dying moments of the war, the Russians are already ploughing through the suburbs of Berlin and Adolf is just waiting for the knock on his door to see if he wants to come out and play. Any German soldiers with any common sense whatsoever are doing their very best to look busy whilst shuffling subtly westwards in the hope of surrendering to the Allies rather than the Reds. Except, a certain research division might just have come up with something that, whilst it might be too late to completely turn the tide, could at least ensure the Allies’ victory is a pyrrhic one at best. Cue the super-Nazis! Who really do make Captain America look like a boy scout, as they not only have increased strength but other insanely destructive capabilities like energy manipulation powers. Game on!

There is a substantial cast of characters introduced almost immediately, on all sides, including some whose allegiance might not be quite as it seems, which is as it should be, because espionage was an extremely important part of the war effort on all sides. I have a huge interest in WW2 and I enjoyed Kieron’s attention to detail: he clearly has done his research as he alludes to in his afterword. And we can clearly see he is, as promised, not shying away from displaying the very disturbing underbelly of the conflict and its toll upon the civilian populace.

JR

Buy Uber Enhanced vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Triton Of The Sea vol 1 (£14-99, DMP) by Osamu Tezuka…

Never quite sure with Tezuka material I haven’t read before (previously unpublished in English) whether it is going to be dark and serious with something to say socio-politically like MW or completely light and fluffy like PRINCESS KNIGHT. This is more towards the satirical end of the scale but wrapped in what appears to be, on the surface, a fairly light and fluffy coating. One could be forgiven for thinking it’s all going to be a bit Aqua-Astro Boy to begin with, but it isn’t, though it certainly doesn’t stray into quite so dark territory as MW or BARBARA.

One thing is for sure, it’s published by arch opportunists and kings of the single, tiny print run, DMP, so buy quickly because there will almost certainly be no restocks available whatsoever, nor indeed will it ever be reprinted as with SWALLOWING THE EARTH and BARBARA. Also, the second and concluding volume is out shortly.

JR

Buy Triton Of The Sea vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

My Neighbour Totoro Picture Book h/c (£12-99, Viz) by Hayao Miyazaki & various.

Album-sized, full-colour prose book lavishly illustrated with frames from the film (I think – I haven’t had chance to compare and contrast) and all its dialogue, which isn’t as tricky as you might think: Studio Ghibli is light on dialogue and big on space which allow the films to breathe and its viewers to soak in the wondrous artmosphere.

This is Studio Ghibli at its cutest complete with Catbus (it is a bus; it is also a cat) and Totoro itself. Who could possibly resist a cuddle and a snuggle?

“Eleven-year-old Satsuki and her sassy little sister Mei have moved to the country to be closer to their ailing mother. While their father is working, the girls explore their sprawling old house and the forest and fields that surround it. Soon, Satsuki and Mei discover Totoro, a magical forest spirit who takes them on fantastic adventures through the trees and the clouds– and teaches them a lesson about trusting one another.”

SLH

Buy My Neighbour Totoro Picture Book h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Last Of Us s/c (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Druckmann & Faith Erin Hicks.

It was late into a very long night and I was pausing for breath, halfway up a derelict skyscraper whose basement had proved a death-trap of fungally infected clattery creatures which, at the drop of a pin, could accelerate from 0 to 90 in your terminally doomed direction. I don’t know why I had a pin on me, but I certainly kept dropping it. Where was a BFG when you needed it?

I can’t recall if I had just clambered out through the window and onto a series of precariously lilting swing stages overlooking the lushest of urban parkland, or whether I was about to. (I don’t do heights: I get vertigo on the bathroom scales). But it was raining. It was still inside but outside it was raining, the heavy drops hammering onto the few unbroken panes of glass with that exquisite, hypnotic sound which makes you feel cosy and warm. And, oh lord, the lighting was electric! I stood there, entranced, I kid you not, for half an hour listening to one of my favourite sights and sounds reproduced with hyper-reality in a virtual reality, and if a Clicker had come for me I would have surrendered with a decidedly Shakespearian ecstasy.*

The Last Of Us was almost impossibly beautiful, each individual autumnal leaf floating on a lapping pond’s surface and lit in a way only modern television screens can deliver. Or acid – I really wouldn’t know. It was also terrifying: those Clickers were so swift that you could be immolated any second and, as with the best console games, I was so immersed that it was me being slaughtered. I’d certainly seen so many of my fellow travellers bite that contagious, airborn dust.

… Which brings us yet again to my problem with graphic novel spin-offs of interactive video games. They cannot help be anything but a let down, even with FRIENDS WITH BOYS’ Faith Erin Hicks at the helm. Turning the page could be called interactive but your reading skills aren’t invested in keeping you alive.

I can list dozens of ways in which reading the best graphic novels is a superior experience to playing a game against a computer, and I can list dozens of ways in which button-bashing for your life is a kiddier thrill ran reading some rubbish comics. The simple truth is that they are disparate, incomparable experiences, yet an adaptation from one medium to the other only invites those comparisons.

Which is why I never read this.

Takes place before events in the game.

* Death. For Shakespeare, orgasms were to die for.

SLH

Buy The Last Of Us s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Assassin’s Creed vols 1-3: The Ankh Of Isis Trilogy h/c (£18-99, Titan) by Corbeyran & Djillali Defali.

Collects volumes 1 to 3: Desmond, Aquilus & Accipter.

“Ah, Ezio, ciao bene! And look what you have for me: yet another page of the Codex. Just what I always wanted! You couldn’t have brought prosecco and panini, eh…?
“No matter, let’s see… Hmmm…
“If I transpose the letters for numbers, the directions for plumbers, and the lint in my belly for the leaves in my tea… Yessss… It is perfectly clear to me now! It is essential that you assassinate every minstrel in town. You will gain nothing, but I will be rid of my headache.”

Minstrels: do NOT be pestering me with your luting, fluting jibber-jabber!

I love Assassin’s Creed. After the Italian Baroque, the Renaissance is my favourite era of Art History and Venice my most treasured city in the world. To scale then dive-bomb off the all the Florentine landmarks was a dream come true. It was certainly one way to conquer my crippling fear of heights, and I could not believe the lighting. On the other hand I quickly developed a Pavlovian reaction to each city’s minstrels: come anywhere near me with a lyre and I will garrotte you. You couldn’t commit a worse crime if you’d cried for a team hug. It doesn’t matter if I’m executing the final few seconds of an intricate, fifteen-minute stealth-athon, it’s a “Hey Nonny No!” from me.

Imagine my relief, then, to enter Constantinople in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. No minstrels! Oh, there are the begging women who get in the way and spoil my stride, and I can’t kill them ‘cause they’re laydeez. But see, they’re not strumming and humming the same stupid tune on a loop that makes me see red.

So what do we have here? Well, it’s emphatically not what came out of Wildstorm. This is a brand-new trilogy of graphic novels with a beginning, middle and end written by XIII’s Corbeyran, each more in synch with the games themselves. For a start they star Desmond, held prisoner under high-security at that mysterious… well, I think “laboratory” is the wrong word. It’s a bit like referring to Buckingham Palace as “detached”. Anyway: secrets buried in DNA (check), Animus reactivated (check) and it’s off to relive lives past (check).

Book one sends Desmond back to the marketplaces of the Holy Land during the Third Crusades; book two sees him checking out Gaul under Roman occupation; and by book three it’s a full-on quest for a revenge – destination Rome! Meanwhile, in the present day, things are really heating up.

Confession: I haven’t read them, no. I skimmed for the sake of synopses. Me, I’d rather immerse myself in the computer games themselves, then write spurious reviews extrapolating real-life potential from their game-play. In the spirit of which…

Mission: read all three book on the bus without being spotted, causing a disturbance or being called a big geek. Could be a tricky one: hardly designed for stealth, the Assassins’ garb. For full synchronisation: using your eagle vision, identify the miscreant playing X-Factor downloads on their iPod, gather their headphone wire from behind and silently strangle them before missing your bus stop. Make sure they’re dead. Seriously, take no chances. Destroy that fucking iPod.

Further missions available throughout Nottingham City Centre (see map):

a) Poison anyone pissing in our doorway over the weekend. This unlocks Page 45’s shopfront, and so ‘b’ and ‘h’ below.
b) Protect Page 45 from stumbling junkie theft.
c) Assassinate a traffic warden (stealth not required: no one will come to their rescue).
d) Investigate why Nottingham’s Mayor is allowed to park on the pavement outside Natwest Bank between 10-30am and 4pm when the whole of the city centre is out of bounds for those legitimately delivering to retailers and so keeping their life-blood flowing.
e) Read Page 45’s other game tie-in graphic novel reviews especially SILENT HILL.
f) Tweet these review to your gaming friends/colleagues.
g) Show me how to successfully defend a den. I’ve not managed it once yet. I’m thinking of trying something more basic first, like Mr. Bob-san’s cat flap. I fear we will have intruders.
h) Populate your villa / student bedsit bookshelves by collecting all 7,000 different graphic novels from Page 45. The more you collect, the more visitors you will receive, the more graphic novels will go missing and… oh, I love this mission!

Are they making a graphic novel of Skyrim soon? I hope so. I want to show off my Clopsy.

New graphic novel also out: Assassin’s Creed vol 4: Hawk h/c (£8-99, Titan) by Corbeyran & Djillali Defali

SLH

Buy Assassin’s Creed vols 1-3: The Ankh Of Isis Trilogy h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Satanic Mills (£12-99, Walker) by Marcus Sedgwick, Julian Sedgwick & John Higgins, Marc Olivent…

Feels like a not-quite-successful submission to 2000AD, which is possibly why there is a pull quote from Pat Mills on the front. The post-apocalyptic story, weaving in quotes from William Blake’s poem, is pretty reasonable which I note is what Pat makes mention of, featuring messianic figures and radioactive road warriors, but the art is just too unpolished for me in places, which is astonishing given it is John Higgins.

Some of the facial expressions seem to suggest a character has suddenly developed a strangulated hernia at an unexpected and inconvenient moment, or occasionally the universe has lost the third dimension completely. That’s a pretty harsh couple of statements really, given most of it is great, but there is a lack of consistency which lets it down often enough to make it feel like the great man was either in a rush or slightly ambivalent about the whole thing. Also, why does John Higgins need someone else doing the cover which makes it look like it might a children’s book? Given its on Walker Books I thought it was possibly going to be. It’s a very nice cover, just maybe a tad misleading.

JR

Buy Dark Satanic Mills and read the Page 45 review here

Super Crooks vol 1: The Heist s/c (£12-99, Millarworld) by Mark Millar & Leinil Yu…

“Here comes the pain, dick-bag. I’ll beat so hard your ancestors are gonna bleed!”

No, not Stephen finally catching up with a standing order customer who has left us in lurch with several months of uncollected comics and just disappeared without a trace… but some choice dialogue contained within the latest excellent offering from the self-styled “your chum, Mark Millar” (your chum being his lettercol sign off which, combined with the chin stroking picture, always makes me chuckle) and his artsy Millarworld pals, in this case, beat-down artiste extraordinaire Leinil Yu.

There is much to be said for the limited series format Millar seems to be concentrating on these days, with NEMESIS, SUPERIOR, KICK-ASS and the forthcoming SECRET SERVICE plus the much anticipated JUPITER’S LEGACY. Firstly, it allows him to get his pick of artists like Yu, Romita Jr., Dave Gibbons and Frank Quitely schedule-wise, and secondly he can really concentrate on cramming in a ridiculous amount of ideas and action into each story without worrying about continuity. Also, given that last point, his cast of characters tend to be somewhat more… disposable… than those of Marvel and DC, which always helps up the ultra-violence-ante a welcome notch or two.

I have heard it espoused that he also likes to write this type of self-contained, high-octane yet relatively “simplistic” plots, because they are just begging to be adapted into films, but I don’t personally believe that is his primary motivation at all. I just think he’s found a groove of writing style he’s really enjoying, and has decided to run with it, simple as that. And with this material and indeed much of his current output, he is once again beginning to hit the levels of sophistication of superhero storytelling he achieved with WANTED (note: now available again without the horrific and ill-advised movie cover).

So, all you really need to know about this work, for me to avoid spoiling it in any way, is that a group of super-villains lead by the charismatic Johnny Bolt are planning a very audacious heist, to get their old school chum and mentor, The Heist, out of a rather tight spot. He’s racked up huge gambling debts with the vicious Salamander, who is planning on wiping out said debts by wiping out The Heist, unless he can settle up pronto. But the gang of veteran villains know that they’ve pretty much got no chance of pulling a huge caper off in the USA these days, where the myriad law enforcement agencies, not to mention dearth of superheroes, have made their profession somewhat untenable.

Therefore it’s off to sunny Spain, to target one of their own, the now retired ‘daddy’ of all super-villains, richer than Croesus – and you don’t get to be that wealthy without keeping both eyes firmly fixed on your stash – The Bastard. And errr… as you might expect, he hasn’t earned that name for his sunny disposition and forgiving nature. Cue a classic (super-)heist caper that has heart and humour, plus more than a little fisticuffs to boot… and boots to the head too.

JR

Buy Super Crooks vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Uncanny Avengers vol 2: The Apocalypse Twins h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender, Gerry Duggan & Daniel Acuna, Adam Kubert.

Well, I was a complete bitch about UNCANNY AVENGERS VOL 1, wasn’t I?

Rarely since we began our weekly website reviews have I launched into a book taking so few prisoners. If I don’t care for something, I usually don’t bother reviewing it. But this title is so high-profile I decided a weather warning should be issued. Is this volume any more clement?

It is! This is a vast improvement. The art by John Cassady was never in question, and here both his successors acquit themselves admirably.

It is a vast improvement, at least, if you have an encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel Comics. Come into it cold and you don’t stand a chance until Hell freezes over. There are so many extraneous references to baffle the casual reader but in particular you really do need to have read Remender’s UNCANNY X-FORCE. Jonathan has, hence his review of that first volume, and he loved this semi-sequel in all its convoluted glory. Note: you may have to read more than that first volume – ask J-Lo! [Read all of Remender’s UNCANNY X-FORCE run, volumes 1 to 5, they are excellent – Asst. Ed.]

Basically… *sigh*… Wolverine killed the real Warren Worthington III AKA Archangel who sired two siblings, and Apocalypse did this and Apocalypse did that while the Red Skull will do summat else if the Avengers fail to prevent it. Those twins are having a go too, I think. I forget which side they’re on.

Now Kang The Conqueror AKA Immortus (Guardian of Time – used to be a pharoah called Ramalama Dingdong, flies about in a time machine which looks like a glowing Egyptian pyramid breaking every airspace imaginable and a great many timelines to boot), is taking exception to it all, so he stitches up both Apocalypse and Thor at the same time by posing as the trickster god Loki. And there’s a certain delicious irony to that, isn’t there?

Eons ago he helped Thor enchant an axe so it could chop more than wood and take out Celestial caretaker Apocalypse. It was a grudge match: wounded pride on Thor’s part, basically. Unfortunately that axe is also capable of taking out Celestials (see Neil Gaiman’s ETERNALS), Thor happens to have lost it and Odin did verily spake there’d be trouble. No one listens to Dad, do they?

Meanwhile Rogue has knocked the block off the Grim Reaper, brother of Wonderman, and is benched only isn’t, and I wonder who the new Four Horseman of Apocalypse will be? Clue: they’re all dead.

Does this sound accessible to you?

SLH

Buy Uncanny Avengers vol 2: The Apocalypse Twins h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

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

 

566 Frames (£15-95, Borderline Press) by Dennis Wojda

Adventure Time Encyclopedia (UK Edition) h/c (£14-99, Titan) by Martin Olson

Adventure Time With Fionna & Cake (UK Edition) s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Natasha Allegri, Noelle Stevenson, Lucy Knisley, Kate Leth

Caligula vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by David Lapham & German Nobile

Hyperbole And A Half (£10-99, Square Peg) by Allie Brosh

Law Of The Desert Born h/c (£18-99, Bantam) by Louis L’Amour, various & Tom Yeates

Look Straight Ahead (£14-99, Cuckoo’s Nest Press) by Eliane M. Will

Maria M. Book One h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez

The Chronicles Of Conan vol 25: Exodus And Other Stories (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Jim Owsley & John Buscema, various, George Roussos, Andy Kubert

The Invisible Kingdom h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Rob Ryan

The Manhattan Projects vol 3 (£10-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra

Batman vol 1.5: Night Of The Owls s/c (£14-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, various & Greg Capullo, various

Batman vol 3: Death Of The Family h/c (£18-99, DC) by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Justice League Of America vol 1: World’s Most Dangerous h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns, Matt Kindt, Jeff Lemire & David Finch, many more

Oz: Road To Oz s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Eric Shanower & Skottie Young

Thanos Redemption s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin, Keith Giffen & Jim Starlin, Ron Lim

Another s/c (£22-50, Yen) by Yukito Ayatsuji & Hiro Kiyohara

Black Butler vol 15 s/c (£8-99, Yen) by Yana Toboso

 

ITEM! Welcome to The Beacon, a project restoring community, community spirit and creativity in St. Ann’s, Nottingham, which has stoically endured some pretty troublesome times in the past. Enormous respect from all at Page 45!

ITEM! New Doctor Who prose story written by Neil Gaiman

ITEM! Tory MP claims £5,822-27 on expenses from you, the tax payer, on energy for his second home! That basically means he left the heating on all day, all year round, when most of the time he wasn’t even there. Are you all feeling warm and cozy?

ITEM! British Fantasy Awards 2013 and comics takes home two big wins! Winner of Best Graphic Novel series goes to SAGA and the winner of best artist goes to Sean Phillips of CRIMINAL, FATALE and so much bloody more! PS I completely concur!

ITEM! An exceptional, exemplary, four-page study in form and colour by Robert M Ball. Do you like that? You’ll love Robert M Ball’s WINTER’S KNIGHT and, at the time of typing, all our copies are sketched-in and signed!

ITEM! Equally yowsa, this by Nate DeMio & Dan Berry – A GAS GAS GAS – which won’t see print any time soon, but does have some promising sponsors, heh heh heh.

ITEM! Lovely write-up by Pam McIlroy (AKA @Pamreader on Twitter) of Page 45’s visit to her Broadway Bookclub when I broke the ice, spontaneously, in a manner dictated purely by our physical surroundings. Pam is an absolute natural in encouraging and orchestrating conversation, and I cannot recommend her book club to you highly enough.

ITEM! Page 45 won Nottingham Independents 2013! That’s its first two years in the row! Thank you for voting, voters! Thank you for judging, judges! Click on that first sentence for the Nottingham Post’s official online release and watch J-Lo’s extemporised acceptance speech. (Haha! I did throw him in at the last minute. But then they made me climb a statue! I apologise for the look of extreme discomfort and my double-chin.)

ITEM! As a result Page 45 appeared on the Frances Finn Show on BBC Radio Nottingham on Saturday (Frances is so kind and generous and totally gets it) and – if you’re quick – you can listen to this gibbon’s attempt at phone-in conversation. Not fluent, but I AM GETTING BETTER! You can skip ahead if you like to 2 hours 45 minutes in but Frances does have fine taste in music.

[You are followed immediately by Abba – ed.]

Yes, all right. *cries*

– Stephen

2 Responses to “Reviews November 2013 week one”

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

    […] post Reviews November 2013 week one appeared first on Page 45 | Comics & Graphic Novels | Independent Bookshop | […]

  2. […] in the city we have the legendary Page45, a fixture since 1994 and one time winner of the Diamond Comics Award for Best Retailer In The UK. […]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

spacer
spacer
spacer