“Gleeful, ebullient and utterly bananas, but make no mistake: you will see your own soul reflected here time and again. Lizz Lunney knows precisely what she is doing.”
– Stephen on Take Away! not in the review but on the back of the book! *swells with pride*
Room For Love h/c (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by Ilya…
Pamela Green is lonely and bereft, after her husband has left and divorced her. A lifetime spent writing trashy romance novels probably isn’t helping her mood either, frankly, and she’s currently struggling in that department anyway, crippled with writer’s block. Plus her publisher and best friend, who just so happened to be the ‘other woman’ for a while, is now not-so-gently starting to put the pressure on for another book. Enter ‘Cougar’, a young homeless rent boy, whom Pamela stops from leaping from a bridge, and subsequently finds herself taking in. Before too long, Pamela finds herself in a passionate clinch with her young charge, repeatedly, and it rekindles her zest for life. But it’s a tale of two very different worlds, and unlike in the realm of chick-lit, surely there can’t possibly be a happily-ever-after ending?
No, in a word, but that doesn’t stop Pamela from beginning to believe she might get one with young Cougar. When the wheels finally come off, as of course they do, in truly spectacular fashion at a dinner party she’s hosting for her closest friends, the penny drops with Pamela as to just why it was never going to work. Strangely enough, it had gone under my radar too, until that point, which seems surprising upon reflection, but I think it’s just a testament to Ilya’s writing as to how engaged in the drama of it all I was to miss what was right under my nose. That dinner party scene is so spectacularly cringe-worthy, I did find myself closing my eyes slightly whilst reading it, feeling by proxy the devastatingly excruciating embarrassment that poor Pamela is enduring…
Art-wise, the first thing you’ll notice, if you purchase your copy from us in the not too distant future, is a gorgeous exclusive bookplate which SelfMadeHero has kindly given to us. The next thing you’ll notice is gorgeous art, coloured in two different two tones of blue and brown, in combination with white, depending on which of the main characters we are focussing on. As the two stories intertwine, you’ll notice the switching back and forth between both colours, and then them appearing in the same panels. It’s subtly done, and just adds a nice touch to the whole affair. Overall highly recommended for those, like Pamela, looking for a little easy on the eye escapism.
Take Away! (£9-99, Blank Slate) by Lizz Lunney.
At last! The queen of the UK mini-comic scene has her own big book with lavish production values and French flaps so large and extravagant that they encompass the whole of the E.U.
Long have I longed for long-form Lizz Lunney, and here DEPRESSED CAT stars in his first full-length feature called ‘A Day In Nine Lives’. He’s looking a little dubious about it.
Depressed Cat is trapped – not in a neighbour’s shed, but in a dreary, dead-end, nine-to-five existence under a witless, unappreciative boss and his own defeatist resignation. To add insult to injury the world conspires to make him even more miserable: his car won’t start, public transport is pathetic, his psychologist is a moron and his medication isn’t working. Plus he has fleas.
“These nine lives seem to go on forever.”
Perhaps a change of scenery is required, a journey to the far-off Triple Peaks where lives the fabled Wise Cat. The Wise Cat is no fool: he charges fifty quid a pop! Will Depressed Cat learn the secret to unfettered joy, experience satori and sort himself out? Will he at least bring back from this trip an upgrade? Well, yeah, sort of. I howled with laughter.
Depressed Cat is an exceptional piece of minimalist design: a square, chinless head; ears that are lifeless and locked into place, a down-turned, moaning mouth and a patternless jumper over which drip the tips of his starched shirt collar. He is what you might call stiff.
All of Lunney’s linework is minimalist with rare deployment of tone but, save for the intentional inertia of Depressed Cat, her forms are far from stiff. Her line is gloriously expressive – minimum fuss for maximum empathy – as seen in ‘What If These Were The Dominant Forms of Communication’. The forms are baking, mime, sculpture and interpretive dance; the question is “Will you go out with me?” and the answers are uproariously elaborate, especially when expressed in interpretive dance. I am now begging someone to ask me out now, if only to re-enact that answer. I hope it’s no one I actually fancy.
Oh yes, the colours! We have colours now: burgundy, green, purple and an orange which positively glows. And she understands space! I don’t mean outer space – although Professor Lizz Lunney is on hand to give you a lesson on particle physics (or something) – I mean letting the pages, the panels and the shapes all breathe. She doesn’t even need panels. Sometimes the arrangements themselves form perfectly positioned and partitioned bundles, satisfying pockets of beautiful art with crystal-clear lettering.
Some of this you may have seen before in anthologies, on cards or in Lizz’s micro-mini-comics. But there’s plenty of new material and maybe you don’t like mini-comics anyhoo and would rather buy books!
Among the reprints are ROMANTIC BISON #1 and ROMANTIC BISON #2 but now, for the first time ever, there is a concluding instalment! Brief reminder: after admiring from afar (though maybe not far enough: hiding in the bulrushes all day and just staring seemed like stalking) our mud-loving bovine beast, blissed-up on the beauty of Sylvia the rabbit, finally made his move…via a love letter which Sweary Cat hid from Sylvia, such was Sweary Cat’s jealousy. Sweary Cat pretended that she was Sylvia’s boyfriend and told Romantic Bison to back off. Romantic Bison backed off. Largely because he failed to notice that Sweary Cat was not a tom, but a con. It’s so difficult to tell with cats, isn’t it?
However, all this Shakespearian subterfuge and high dramatic irony finally resolved itself and everyone lived happily ever after. Or did they? Our Romantic Bison is utterly bereft.
“Oh Sweary Cat, my life is over.”
“My heart is literally broken.”
“Literally? It’s not, though, is it. Not literally, it’s just a metaphor.”
“Oh, Sweary! I literally can’t handle your grammatical corrections right now.”
“You kids need to talk. It’s all a misunderstanding.”
“Is love really worth all this trouble Sylvia?”
“For me it is.”
“You’re so deluded by the movies. But I guess you’ve found someone as equally deluded as you, and if that’s not love I don’t know what is.”
Once more so much of the comedy comes through in the cartooning, Sweary Cat’s unimpressed eyes or disapproving frown juxtaposed against the boo-hooing bull’s flood of free-flowing tears or Sylvia’s rose-tinted hearts. And in spite of its seemingly throwaway comedy, Lunney nails so much about friendships when someone starts playing the dating game.
“Obviously we can only feel smug as a couple if there is someone single nearby for us to offend!”
Or did I mean the grating game?
Black Is The Colour s/c (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by Julia Gfrörer.
What a thrilling, frightening, fabulous cover! It runs over the back and through the French flaps, so open it up, then open it up some more! The squalling sea will be revealed in all its terrifying, tempest-tossed rage. You can almost hear its thunderous roar.
What on earth are the women and beardy blokes doing, bobbing along in the swelling cusp so equanimous to the storm? I think one of them is smiling. You’ll find all of them are giggling. You just can’t see what they’re laughing at or giggling about yet.
Oh, this is tremendous! Gently intense, tender at times, and often very cheeky indeed. Adults only, please!
Aboard a luckless galleon things have not gone well. Storms have held them back and provisions are running so low that they won’t last much longer – not with so many mouths to feed. Not with every crew member still on board. Warren and Xavier are called down below and told it’s the customary case of “last in, first out”. They are cast adrift in a tiny boat in the middle of the ocean with no sign of shore in sight. Xavier has a cough. Warren has a pocket knife which he bequeaths in a small, subtle scene of muted affection whose full meaning, if you don’t twig immediately, will become clearer as events play themselves out. It will be reprised later on, and I wonder if it’s that act of denial which catalyses the spectacle which follows.
I can’t do much more now than invoke specific scenes I love for fear of giving the game away.
The first is of Warren lying flat in the boat when a shark starts circling. Is it so that the shark won’t see him? Or is it so that he can no longer see the shark? That’s why I would sink so low!
The second is the gigantic, silent seascapes, reminiscent in their pen lines and textures of Tony Millionaire, divided into six panels or panes. The whole book is conducted in this simple, easily accessible format as well as style. There’s not just a wobbly fragility to the lines, there is a bleakness to them as well – for it is cold at sea – even during sensual embraces.
What made laugh most, however (oh, there is laughter to be had), was the proposed orchestration of a new siren call as if laying down a new track for an album. You do need to get the harmonies, right, don’t you?
Uzumaki 3-in-1 Complete h/c (£17-99, Viz) by Junji Ito –
I was a teenage gorehound. While mum was doing the food shopping I’d browse through the book section reading the backs of all the horror novels and imagining the chills inside. Give me a good scare and I’m happy.
UZUMAKI makes me very happy.
Nasty, nasty, nasty horror. There are some gut-churning images and a sticky sense of claustrophobia and unease. I feel as if I’ve lived through the paranoia, the queasy unreality and otherworldly dread that befalls Kirie. Only she is putting together the twisted pieces as friends and family fall under the spell of the encroaching sickness. It’s rare that a horror comic will make me recoil (THROUGH THE HABITRAILS and pieces by Woodring have done it) but each chapter will have a finely detailed page that disturbs and disgusts as it compels.
Spirals are attacking the way of life in Kurôzu-Cho. One slimy schoolboy gradually transforms into a snail, crawling up the school building. Two girls, competing for attention, find their hair curling and twisting higher and higher until their styles take them over, almost draining the energy from their bodies. A potter makes diseased ceramics, his kiln winding the clay into new, strange shapes. Any cremation is marked by an ominous whirl of ash and smoke above the chimney. Chills.
Gold Pollen And Other Stories h/c (£19-99, Picturebox) by Seiichi Hayashi…
“How did I come to live in this town?
“No deep reason, I just went for it.
“I was having woman problems. I thought if I found a decent house, this place was as good as any to clear my mind.
“Sure when I first got here, I did worry that is was far from work.
“Having no image myself of the kind of place I wanted, the choice was really the real estate agent’s.
“Moving was a cinch. Just a cabinet, bedding, kitchen utensils, and my work tools. Then ‘that person’ spent an entire day polishing the place.”
This work will have very niche appeal for sure, but in terms of avant garde manga it is seminal stuff. These particular works are from the late sixties and very early seventies and both in terms of content and artistic composition are, well, pretty out there. Stream of consciousness, waking fantasy combined with autobiographical influences provide the foundation for visual experimentation that mixes stylistic elements of woodcuts, pop art, European comics and even cameos from Batman and Superman, in a respectful nod to western superhero comics. The four different stories here also utilise completely different colour palettes from intense, verging on psychedelic, through various red and blue monotones to black and white.
“Write what you know” is the age-old maxim, and as the author freely admits in his ‘childhood remembrance’ essay and as Ryan Holmberg elaborates upon in his Seiichi Hayashi’s Maternal Roots essay, this material draws heavily upon his childhood and relationship with his mother, who despite her mental illness did remarkably well bringing him up in the absence of a father figure. Even when it’s not autobiographical material, you can see when he has leaned heavily upon his own experiences for characters, and that’s not a negative comment, just an observation. As I say, I am sure the appeal of this material will be limited, but he was clearly a forerunner of the current crop of creators who more recently contributed to the AX VOL 1: ALTERNATIVE MANGA anthology, and you may already be familiar with his RED COLOURED ELEGY.
The Ring Of The Seven Worlds h/c (£19-99, Sloth Comics) by Giovanni Gualdoni, Gabrielle Clima & Matteo Piana…
Another Humanoids title picked up for reprinting by Sloth Comics, this Euro sci-fi fantasy caper was original published in four album-sized French editions. Seven planets are linked together by a multidimensional ring teleportation system, built by long-forgotten, mysterious creators in a previous eon. One planet has been severed from the others for three centuries after they started a war against the rest of the Empire, but now, somehow, they have launched a devastating surprise attack through a different ring. The reveal as to how this is possible, when it comes, is very clever, albeit a touch deus ex machina. Clues were dropped, in retrospect, but I didn’t guess. A highly enjoyable romp with not inconsiderable steampunk elements, and exquisitely illustrated to boot.
Amazing Spider-Man #700.1 (£2-99, Marvel) by David Morrell & Klaus Janson.
You know what? Unless something goes disastrously wrong, this and the next issue would make a cracking Christmas present for yer proverbial young Jimmy if he’s wide-eyed and into superheroes. And there aren’t a lot of Marvel Comics about which you can say that any more.
[Confirmed: just read AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700.2 and they form a perfect, self-contained, two-parter for young readers. A) No fighting, B) They’re all about helping others – and that’s not just Spider-Man, C) THERE’S LOTS OF SNOW! NB: I know they share the same cover on our website – it’s what Marvel sent us via Diamond. Also, and please don’t buy them #700.3 because there it’s a new story, different creators, and there are third-degree burns!]
Janson hasn’t lost it. As evidenced in DARDEVIL: END OF DAYS I think he’s improved with age, and there is one tremendous double-page countryside snowscape here as well as several city scenes at night which – thanks in part to colour artist Steve Buccellatto – are freezing but in a warm and fuzzy way. It’s all about the relatively old architecture and the street lights: you really do feel as if you’re looking out from a toasty bedroom window or wrapped up as warm as warm can be.
Peter Parker, alas, is far from warm. It’s as if there is ice in his veins. Also, this snowstorm is unusually early and abnormally fast to sweep in. Meanwhile, there’s a region-wide power cut and a tree has crashed through Aunt May’s bathroom window. As her candle burns down and eventually out, she’s left alone on her sofa in a house without power or heating, the skeletal branches of another tree casting shadows on the blacked-out living room wall…
Quick intro by John Romita Jr with some amazing trouser creases and you are in! As I say, perfect for young new readers.
Iron Man vol 3: The Secret Origin Of Tony Stark Book 2 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Dale Eaglesham, Greg Land, Carlo Pagulayan.
Tony Stark’s parents wanted a child. They were having… difficulties.
Recorder 451 wanted to create the ultimate protection for Earth. He had a plan: while saving Howard and Maria Stark’s baby he would genetically programme it in the womb in order to utilise him as an adult. The Starks weren’t told.
A lifetime later and Tony Stark wants to be anywhere else in the universe other than in a spaceship speeding towards a Dyson Sphere surrounding a stabilized micro-star. It houses The Godkiller. Unfortunately Recorder 451 has compromised P.E.P.P.E.R., the sentient piece of software which controls Tony Stark’s Iron Man armour, so that he can neither assault Recorder 451 nor leave the Godkiller. For yes, they are now inside the Godkiller. And what is the Godkiller? It is a 5-mile-tall exoskeleton built to destroy Celestials which, on a scale of 1 to Galactus, are off that scale. It is also Tony Stark’s destiny, for that is what Howard and Maria Stark’s child was programmed to do: pilot the Godkiller and wipe out all threats to Earth. Didn’t you ever wonder why Stark was so obsessed with exoskeletons? Once synchronised with the Godkiller, Stark will have no will of his own. There is nothing he can do about it.
I’d like to tell you exactly how the stakes get raised then raised again but SPOILERS. I would also like to tell you exactly how cleverly this 50-year game of poker has been played by all and sundry but SPOILERS. I would like to tell you how radically this alters what you thought you knew about Tony Stark’s history and his potential future but SPOILERS. Better still, I’d like to tell you how this changes nothing about Stark’s core being at the very same time but… yeah, you get the idea.
As I say, this book is all about ingenuity. Every single character here from Recorder 451 and Death’s Head to Howard Stark, Tony Stark and indeed Pepper Potts will prove to be ingenious. One of them, however, will make a terrible mistake and it isn’t Recorder 451 or Death’s Head.
All three artists are slick, sturdy and mesh seamlessly. I have nothing more to report on that matter.
Inhumanity (£2-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Olivier Coipel.
Awwww… Coipel’s Petras Petragon emerging from the Terrigenesis chamber is so unbelievably cute. He’s Gorgon’s son, transformed prematurely by Gorgon and Karnak in a desperate bid to protect him from the destruction of Attilan. It probably wasn’t a good idea…
Now turn back to page three panel three. Yeah? Yeah.
A game-changer which builds ominously into an awful climax, this one-shot written by HAWKEYE’s Fraction sets the scene for his INHUMAN series next month. It will tell you everything you need to know about the race and its history as updated recently during INFINITY without boring you for a single second.
For Fraction makes it all about motivation – about defection, dispersal and survival – as a distraught Karnak detained by the Avengers wonders what each faction was thinking as it made its fateful decisions over the last 25,000 years. And I don’t deploy “fateful” loosely for it is the results of those very decisions which informed Black Bolt’s own to sacrifice Attilan for the greater catalytic good. The city of the Inhumans may have been blown to smithereens but it wasn’t their only home, and you know how nail bombs work, right? Now imagine a genetic bomb.
As Karnak, the wise one able to detect faults and flaws, follows his suppositions to an increasingly alarming conclusion his now-widowed queen Medusa arrives with questions of her own. High among them: where is the rest of the royal family?
I can’t promise you much action, I’m afraid, but I can promise you Coipel controls the emotion perfectly, avoiding all melodrama for the sake of maximum, devastating drama.
Here, have a barely relevant reference to Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee’s classic INHUMANS book because I love it so much.
Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy
Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.
The Snow Queen And Other Stories (£4-99, Great Beast) by Isabel Greenber
Show Me The Map To Your Heart (Extended Edition) (£5-99, Great Beast) by John Cei Douglas
Snapshot s/c (£9-99, Image) by Andy Diggle & Jock
The Everyday h/c (£11-99, Great Beast) by Adam Cadwell
A.B.C. Warriors: Return To Earth h/c (£14-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Clint Langley
aama vol 1: The Smell Of Warm Dust h/c (£12-99, Self Made Hero) by Frederik Peeters
Abe Sapien vol 3: Dark And Terrible (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie, John Arcudi & Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara
Adventure Time Sugary Shorts vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Titan) by various including Paul Pope, Shannon Wheeler, Lucy Knisley, Jim Rugg and many more
Crossed vol 7 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Christos N. Gage, David Lapham & Christian Zanier, Miguel Ruiz
Cyanide & Happiness vol 1 s/c (£10-99, ItBooks) by Kris, Rob, Matt, Dave
Cyanide & Happiness vol 2: Ice Cream & Sadness s/c (£10-99, ItBooks) by Kris, Rob, Matt, Dave
Judge Dredd: Day Of Chaos – The Fourth Faction (£17-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner & Ben Willsher, Staz Johnson, Colin MacNeil, Henry Flint
Lost Planet: The First Colony h/c (£8-99, Capcom) by Izu & Dall’Oglio
Morning Glories vol 6 (£10-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma
Parker: Slayground h/c (£13-50, IDW) by Richard Stark & Darwyn Cooke
Polarity vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Boom! Studios) by Max Bemis & Jorge Coelho
Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 5 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Alan Moore & Rick Veitch, John Totleben
Thumbprint h/c (£16-50, IDW) by Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella & Vic Malhotra
Superman Action Comics vol 2: Bulletproof s/c (£12-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Rags Morales
Superman Action Comics vol 3: End Of Days h/c (£18-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Rags Morales
Captain America vol 2: Castaway Dimension Z Book 2 s/c (UK Ed’n) (£10-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & John Romita Jr.
Daredevil vol 6 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Javier Rodriguez, Chris Samnee, Matteo Scalera
Deadpool: Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & various
The Immortal Iron Fist: Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction & David Aja, various
Superior Spider-Man vol 3: No Escape (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Guiseppe Camuncoli, Humberto Ramos
Thanos: Infinity Abyss s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin
Uncanny X-Men vol 2: Broken (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Fraser Irving, Chris Bachalo
X-Men: Primer (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Brian Wood & Oliver Coipel
Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 7-9 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama
One Piece vol 69 (£7-50, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda
Judge vol 2 (£9-99, Yen) by Yoshiki Tonogai
K-ON! vol 5 (£8-99, Yen) by Kakifly
ITEM! Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! Lavishly illustrated interview with Tomer Hanuka You can buy his art here in OVERKILL which I have singularly failed to review but, hey, there’s that link to the interview, so…
ITEM! A page of David Mazzucchelli’s DAREDEVIL art which I discussed at length on Twitter with @ronsalas, a phenomenal comicbook artist in his own right whom you really should follow. Look at the extended bicep in the bottom panel: pure Frank Miller. Also, the streamlined head above it. Since he transformed himself like few other creators before or since in more recent works like CITY OF GLASS and ASTERIOS POLYP, people forget that Mazzzucchelli was such a stunning action artist. But I’d never detected a Frank Miller influence until Ron made me look at it twice. Eddie Campbell (of all people) admires Mazzucchelli’s superhero compositions from (yes, we have it) DAREDEVIL BORN AGAIN.
ITEM! As you read this BOO comic for kids should have arrived! Self-contained and spooky! Review up ASAP.
ITEM! Speaking of comics for kids, Neill Cameron celebrates 100 issues of THE PHOENIX and rightly so! Parents, this comes highly recommended. None o’ yer supermarket plastic-toy tat! Fully of fun and variety, this is superb, and it’s important that young ‘uns look forward to reading! This is basically comicbook crack cocaine for kids. Ummm… *rethinks marketing strategy*
ITEM! Bringing you back down to the cold, wintery earth for one second: no, I won’t shut up. It is appalling that the UK has become a country in which foodbanks – Jesus, foodbanks! – are considered necessary. You want to know what’s worse? Politicians grinning inanely at foodbanks’ opening, oblivious to what their opening implies about the poverty which they have inflicted upon those who now need them.
ITEM! BLACK IS THE COLOUR (reviewed above) is previewed by Fantagraphics with lots of interior art.
ITEM! Comicbook creators: how to make and sell your comics as e-books. In 12 seconds! That was sent dispatched into the mintyweb by Andy Diggle, I think, and of course I don’t understand a single technical sentence of it, but you will.
ITEM! Sara McIntyre interviews Philippa Rice about WE’RE OUT! See some of Philippa’s pages brought to animated life! WE’RE OUT is Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month and could not be more perfect for Christmas! Plus all our copies are signed and sketched in for free! You don’t have to be a member to buy it! Just like on the cover in the grid to read the review rather than the first one you see at the top!
ITEM! In a fortnight’s time it will be Christmas Day! Yippee, yippee and yah! Before that, however, you may want to do some Christmas Shopping, so I dun wrote a blog:
Oh, we are having fun with those shop-floor show-and-tells!