Unlike many a space station full of free-standing stalls, the shopping streets are precisely that: streets with window-fronted shops, raised pavements and everything. This is all so familiar, creating a contrast all the more striking when you peer out of the passenger window to gawp at the sheer majesty of the five-mile-wide energy platform, shining in the night.
– Stephen on The Fuse #1.
I was so knocked out that there is a rare preview below.
Grey Area: The Old Straight Track (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tim Bird…
Ha ha, who hasn’t thought that! Hard to believe a homage to the great British institution that is the motorway could be, well, so moving if you’ll pardon the pun, but this really is! The veritably poetic narration over the comfortably relaxed black and white artwork gives life to what is, in a certain sense, the very backbone of our modern nation. As the creator Tim Bird tells us above a particular panel showing two signs reading ‘SOUTH M1’ and ‘NORTH M1’, perched one directly above the other, but pointing in polar opposite directions…
“The M1 is biography.”
Quite so, quite so. And yet, it wasn’t always there, our beloved-by-some and much-maligned-by-others motorway network, no. As the creator lyrically points out, in ancient times, before service stations were built on pagan sites, standing stones made small by swathes of electricity pylons, ours was truly a green and pleasant land. You… errr… just couldn’t get anywhere very quickly. This juxtaposition of ancient and present day reaches its very logical conclusion where the A303 joins the A344, and drivers pass right by that most celebrated of druidic monuments, Stonehenge, something which has also personally struck me as strange, almost blasphemous, on the couple of occasions I’ve driven that way myself. If there is another location where the Albion of old and our Great Britain of the present day so incongruously and egregiously overlap, I’m struggling to think of it off the top of my head.
This is such an emotional work, I would have scarcely believed someone could inject such… near baroque romance into such a topic! Our motorways do have a peculiar grandeur all of their own, with all the attendant ever changing dramas that unfold upon their tarmac surfaces day after day, unceasingly. Sometimes it truly is all about the journey and I heartily recommend you let Tim Bird take you along on this one. Just make sure you buckle up safely.
Seasons (£5-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Mike Medaglia…
Four vibrantly illustrated vignettes, each not only pertaining to a season in the meteorological sense, but also in the metaphorical seasons of life. They are actually a beautiful example of how concise need not necessarily be lacking in content or emotional punch, for taken together, these form an endearing and askance look at some of the emotional milestones we will probably all pass by on our journey through life. Some are uplifting, some tinged with slight sadness, but all are poignant, indeed all four scenes produced a smile for completely different reasons, which is probably exactly as intended.
Even the cover art is seasonally themed with a floral flourish and the comic also comes with a beautiful bookmark entitled ‘Stolen Season’ showing a rather bitter-sweet illustrated poem about a passionate love once known and now presumably lost. Aww. Adorned with apt quotations by poets and holy men throughout for added gravitas, including a personal favourite of mine by Sōtō Zen Master Ryōkan on the inside back cover, SEASONS is a pleasure to read from well crafted beginning to end.
Here is a link to an interview with the creator talking about the work http://www.averyhillpublishing.com/articles/seasons-the-movie/
The Festival (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Jazz Greenhill…
“I wanna have a look around.”
“What! Now? It’s still dark!”
“Yeah, it’s late so no one will be around. We can just quickly look.”
“What if there’s like strange people around?”
“We can just quickly look!”
“Mum and Dad would kill us! I’m going back to sleep.”
“Fine! You stay here.”
“Whadya say Rob?”
“I knew you’d come through.”
“WAIT! I’m not staying here on my own.”
I am sure there are many of you out there who as a child had a sibling or indeed a friend like Ari. You know, the one who always started the trouble you all inevitably ended up in… So, Ari, Rob and their apparently unnamed sister have been taken to a big music festival by their parents. After a typically tedious car journey they’ve finally arrived on the evening before the festival proper, hurriedly pitched their tents in feverish excitement… then promptly been informed by their parents they all need to get a good night’s sleep.
Being energetic kids sharing a tent together, they’re obviously finding it difficult to get to sleep, unlike their weary parents in the adjoining tent, so when Ari decides he’s going to go for a midnight wander, he manages to coerce his reluctant siblings into accompanying him.
I did at this point wonder just how dark this was going to get, but happily whilst our trio have an adventure that does involving encountering acid-tripping geezers stargazing on a hillside and dreadlocked crusties raving it up in a big top, they do make it back unscathed, and perhaps most importantly of all, without their parents ever finding out.
Illustrated in black and white, in a style that made think me a little bit of Gareth Brookes (minus the embroidery) with maybe even the odd touch of Paul Pope here and there in the facial features, this just perfectly reminded me of some of the shenanigans and crazy fun my mates and I used to get up to as kids, when we would camp out in the fields near our houses, then go off wandering around the village in the dead of night. But then when you’re kids, an adventure like covertly sneaking through an entire street of back gardens in the fastest possible time, busting moves like urban ninjas, is simply hedge-hopping. Do it when you’re an adult, you’re likely to have some serious explaining to do to the long arm of the law. Anyway, THE FESTIVAL is a lovely little reminder of the secret (and fun) lives of kids which as time goes by seems more and more like a distant dream now. Read it and be transported back to when the only thing you really had to worry was your parents grounding you, cracking stuff.
The Megatherium Club vol 1: The Great Ape (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Owen D. Pomery…
“If you reprobates have any scientific faculties whatsoever, you shall go forth and find this ‘yeti’ or at least the proof thereof. Succeed and I continue to tolerate The Megatherium Club under my roof, fail and this ‘gin, taxidermy and fucking about group’ will have to grace some other poor bastard’s premises.”
“Fucked if I know, or indeed care!”
“You Sir, shall have your proof of the yeti in your very hands within a week, or my name is not William Simpson!”
“Yeah, it’ll be easy you nob!”
Sometimes, puerile is good. Sometimes… it’s very, very good. At first glance, I wasn’t entirely sure about the art style, but I quickly realised the faux woodcut effect is merely a vehicle for some uproarious lampoonery of the gentlemen explorers’ clubs of yesterday. The Megatherium Club (1857 – 1866) love nothing more than being louche wastrels at the heavily subsidised expense of the Smithsonian Institute. Exploring is all well and good, but holding forth after several decanters of vintage port is considerably less taxing and thus altogether more agreeable.
Alackaday, however, because Smithsonian custodian Joseph Henry has had enough of their juvenile antics, not to mention their repeated efforts to try to and cop off with his two daughters. Thus he’s issued them a challenge to mount an expedition worthy of scientific merit, to prove the existence of the yeti, which obviously he’s pretty sure they’re not going to be able to manage, or face eviction from their cushy number at the Institute.
The redoubtable members of the club aren’t going to go down without at least talking a good fight, though, and decide to split themselves into two distinct groups as they answer the clarion call to action. I’ll let the members themselves regale you with their plans…
“The yeti DOES indeed exist, in these very hills, and I will find him and skin him! Lock ‘n’ fuckin’ load!”
The second opinion was offered by Stimpson, eager to find a practical solution to the problem he had created…
“…Er… has anyone got a spare yeti costume and a camera?”
As I said, puerile, but very very good!
Empire Of The Dead #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by George A. Romero & Alex Maleev.
As in, he really did write this and did so for comics. I’ve no idea if it contains original ideas: outside of the successfully satirical NEW DEADWARDIANS, I’ve never read a zombie comic before, not even WALKING DEAD – which is shocking behaviour, I know! But since Dominique and Jonathan lap the series up, as did Mark and Tom before them, I don’t have to. I can’t read everything, let alone review it all, otherwise I’d have no time for prose!
I rather liked this, though, not least because of SCARLET’s Alex Maleev. It’s perpetually twilight or at least a deep-red sunset here, even mid-afternoon. His shadow-strewn cityscapes and downright dirty textures are perfect for a New York infested with blood-caked shamblers, where even rat meat is a black-marketeer’s pay packet. Picnics in Central Park are a thing of the past, although the rich do enjoy their private booths at the Circus Maximus Arena where they glory in zombies biting several shades of shit out of each other. Look, there’s the Mayor now along with his son who’s more intent on seducing a society belle. Zombies aren’t the only predators: we’ve always been pretty good at that ourselves.
Interestingly the lumbering ones with appalling dental hygiene aren’t forever on the prowl for fresh flesh. Some are municipally minded:
“This stinker is smarter than average.”
“Because he’s sweeping the sidewalk? Remembered behaviour. Now if he was playing chess…”
“Zombies can’t play chess.”
“There might be one out there who can. That’s the one I’m looking for.”
That’s Dr. Penny Jones from Columbia University being escorted round the city by Paul Barnum, himself under the protection of an off-duty SWAT team assigned to him by the Mayor. The Mayor, as I say, likes his own private performances at the Arena, and Barnum supplies the combatants. A couple of weeks ago Barnum lost an officer – a woman called Frances Xavier – bitten by a stinker and presumed dead. She’s not. She’s not playing chess, either, but nor is she entirely brain-dead…
The tension is terrific, not least because Jones and Barnum spend the first quarter of the comic observing the stinkers’ surprisingly passive behaviour mostly from afar, Romero wisely leaving the sudden surges until later, while Maleev shows the SWAT team continually looking over their shoulders left, right and even upwards in case they’re assaulted from above.
Unwisely, I suspect, Dr. Jones finds later herself on the Mayor’s radar after spying on his private box at the Arena through binoculars. She singles his son out for his curious dress sense but all will become a great deal clearer down in the subway. And Maleev’s subway is absolutely terrific, although his knock-out number is the double-page spread of what’s become of Central Park.
Meanwhile back at Battery Park, Dr. Jones gets a taste of what she’s searching for.
“You said they couldn’t do that.”
“I said they couldn’t play chess. That’s only checkers.”
Young Avengers vol 2: Alternative Culture s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Mike Norton, Kate Brown.
These Avengers are young and they are hungry. For adventure, yes, but also breakfast. And lunch. And supper. Led there by Loki, Norse God of Mischief, they spend so long in that diner it’s virtually their secret HQ. They’ll be voting in new members there next – new members like Prodigy. He knows stuff like where to find them: in the diner.
It’s also a book about love: about current boyfriends and rejected, dejected ex-girlfriends: “Hel hath no fury” etc. You’ll be meeting an awful lot of them, because the awful lot are in a meeting and Hulkling’s been invited. He’s in therapy, see.
He loves his boyfriend Billy very much indeed, but Billy is a reality warper. Such is his power that Billy/Wiccan brought Teddy/Hulkling’s mother back from the dead. More precisely, he swiped a version of Teddy’s mum from another dimension in which she hadn’t died. Or at least he thought he had but it proved a mistake and now they’re in a great deal of trouble. My point, however, is that Teddy’s got the idea into his head that Billy could be warping reality to make Teddy love him. I wonder who could have put it there?
There are revelations galore in this second of three books, including who is manipulating whom and it’s not as obvious as it looks, I assure you. You’ll have to read carefully, though; this is a series which demands and rewards it.
One revelation you’ll have to wait for is the identity and purpose of the new Patriot (the first Patriot used to lead this team), discovered by Prodigy in a warehouse where he works alongside Wiccan’s brother Speed. This ghostly manifestation appears hobbled and hunched like a zombie, yet he/she/it abducts lightning-fast Speed as if he were a tortoise in treacle. He leaves little more behind him than a puff of white smoke and a bunch of cryptic proclamations.
Which brings us full circle to Prodigy waiting for our friends in the diner. It’s also what propels the second volume: the search for Speed. It’s all connected, but how?
The art for that first chapter comes courtesy of FISH + CHOCOLATE’s Kate Brown. Her gleeful body language is a hoot and she plays the dour and doubtful Prodigy off against the hyperactive, shouty-shouty, up-for-anything Speed to perfection. Her line is much softer than McKelvie’s, the resulting forms more malleable yet I couldn’t imagine a more in-synch substitute, at least until Emma Vieceli’s oh-so sexy pages in volume three. The teenage proportions complement Jamie’s to perfection.
As to McKelvie himself, there are yet more innovative page layouts, a lot of glass shards, and Mother’s own alien dimension is, as in YOUNG AVENGERS VOL 1, a feast of thrilling new special effects while Matthew Wilson contrasts the brightly coloured characters with the crisp, white vacuum of their surroundings. This suggests infinite space (up and down too), into which McKelvie has inserted artfully arranged, geometrical wonders which play with empty panels and some tentacles of doom. All still using white space. You’ll see, but basically this: you’re not in Kansas anymore.
The visual star of the show, however, remains young Loki’s face. His expressions are to die for: gutted by a misordered plate of pancakes, furious at being proved right and “whoops” when it all goes wrong:
“You probably shouldn’t have seen that.”
Just like Jamie’s fashion sense, Gillen’s wit is thoroughly contemporary, whether it’s the language or the circumstances in which that language is employed. One of the funniest pages is a one-page, nine-panel pastiche of a Facebook/Twitter hybrid which I cannot quote here for it requires a certain degree of context, but it involves the cast members taking time out (and thereby indicating the passage of time) to communicate through online social media. There is a great deal of pic-tweeting, unfriending and reporting each other for spam. Specifically there is smooching, and Loki dislikes that a lot. Like any seeming 9-year-old, he doesn’t like anything icky, body fluids in particular.
“Conversations about saliva are henceforth out of bounds until I have breakfast before me! Can’t this spaceship go any faster? Breakfast! Give me breakfast! The Norse God of Mischief craves the congress of breakfast meat!”
Vegetarians will cry.
Superior Spider-Man vol 4: Necessary Evil s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Ryan Stegman, Giuseppe Camuncoli.
The premise for SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN is relatively simple but its execution has proved surprisingly thorough: in SPIDER-MAN: DYING WISH one of Spider-Man’s oldest, ugliest foes, mop-topped minger Otto Octavius PhD, finally won the day by switching his consciousness with Peter Parker’s just before his own body expired.
Dr. Octopus has made maximum use of this fitter new body and inflicted maximum abuse on both Spider-Man’s villains and Peter’s own family and friends. He’s been very resourceful, and so it proves here as Peter’s employer, Horizon Labs, comes under temporal assault when they attempt to shake off a corporate take-over by Peter’s old friend Liz Allan (once married to Norman Osborn’s son and now with one of her own) and Tiberius Stone, Horizon Labs’ ex-employee and past saboteur. Cue Spider-Man 2099 comin’ atcha and possibly here to stay.
It’s complicated to describe here, but perfectly clear if you read the book itself, revel in its fireball, nail-biting, game-changing climax so well illustrated in all its time-bubble, eye-popping glory by Ryan Stegman, and then move on to part two involving one of Dr. Octopus’ old flames, newly rekindled, who believes he was killed by Spider-Man. Oh.
This is proceeding at a cracking pace and I can finally confirm that this series will be six volumes long before Peter finally wrestles his way back through Marvels’ revolving death’s-door, as was corporately inevitable. Make no mistake, though: for once this has been no mere gimmick and the journey has proved thoroughly entertaining, rammed to the rafters with dramatic irony and “Why didn’t Peter do that?” Plus I wonder what Peter will finally come back to? He can’t explain these months away to everyone: not everyone knows he is Spider-Man!
Two people do: Forensics Officer Carlie Cooper whom Peter once attempted to date with all the suave sophistication of a highly conflicted and emergency-afflicted Alice-In-Wonderland White Rabbit (it went tits-up, yeah) and Police Officer Yuri Someone-Or-Other AKA The Wraith. Suspicious of this supposedly superior Spider-Man with his bottomless resources and knowing that Peter was broke, they are following the money trail. Unfortunately Carlie is being followed by somebody else.
And, all this while, the Green Goblin lies in wait, biding his time and building…
Next: Venom. Then finally: the Green Goblin.
If Peter survived, then how? P.S. I DON’T KNOW!
The Fuse is out on 12th February 2014. CAN WE HAVE YOUR PRE-ORDERS, PLEASE!
The Fuse #1 (£2-75, Image) by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood.
Do you think Dietrich is fucked back on Earth?
On paper Klem’s new partner in The Fuse’s Homicide Department is a catch. Aged 28 with a 75% clearance over three years in Munich, he would be shooting up the ranks back on Earth. So why has he volunteered for an understaffed police department in an underfunded, patched-up, makeshift steel city on an energy platform orbiting 22,000 miles above terra firma? We don’t know yet. Nor do we know when he’ll finally make friends with veteran Klem.
“Short for “Klementina”. You assumed I’d be a guy.”
“I assumed you would not be old enough to retire.”
“And I assumed you would be too old for High School.”
For a German, Dietrich can sure hold his own in a sharp-tongued bout of American verbal sabres. Let’s see how good he is at being thrown in at the deep end when a cabler – one of The Fuse’s homeless – staggers out of the darkness and falls dead in front of him. In her pocket are a phone card which cablers don’t use and an electronic card for a shuttleport locker which cablers can’t afford.
It’s a fast and frantic first issue, perfectly paced, which made me scour every inch of every panel for clues, for details: I couldn’t help myself. As for those details I loved them.
Aside from the term “cabler” which will no doubt prove contextual, there wasn’t a single piece of the neologistic slang which always make me wince. Nor was there much in the way of futuristic design for the sake of it. The space shuttle interior was identical to a regular passenger aircraft’s. Why wouldn’t it be? We’ve already spent decades perfecting its functionality and design. The only difference is in docking: passengers are advised to be awake when the airlock’s thrown open or they’re likely to throw up.
Similarly, unlike many a space station full of free-standing stalls, the shopping streets are precisely that: streets with window-fronted shops, raised pavements and everything. This is all so familiar, creating a contrast all the more striking when you peer out of the passenger window to gawp at the sheer majesty of the five-mile-wide energy platform, shining in the night.
Justin Greenwood and colourist Shari Chankhamma have made the most of that moment, just as Justin makes the most of the crowd scenes and different physicalities: handsome, sprightly, dark-skinned Dietrich partnered with silver-haired, duty-worn Klem who has evidently seen so little sunlight of late that she is virtually an albino.
Let’s not forget another of Johnston’s passions: design. This is a classily designed comic whose cover doubles as a quick lesson in orbital physics.
For more on THE FUSE, please see the ITEM!s below the following list…
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.
Lost At Sea h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Bryan Lee O’Malley
RASL h/c (£29-99, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith
I Want My Hat Back s/c (£6-99, Walker Books) by Jon Klassen
Snowpiercer vol 1: The Escape h/c (£14-99, Random House / Vertical) by Lob & Jean-Marc Rochette
Green Lantern – New Guardians vol 2: Beyond Hope s/c (£10-99, DC) by Antony Bedard & Tyler Kirkham
Green Lantern – New Guardians vol 3: Love & Death h/c (£18-99, DC) by Antony Bedard & Aaron Kuder
Justice League Dark vol 3: Death Of Magic s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes & Mikel Janin
The Unwritten vol 8: Orpheus In The Underworlds (£12-99, DC) by Mike Carey & Peter Gorss, Dean Ormston, Yuko Shimizu
Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 2: Angela h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli, Francesco Francavilla
Marvel Masterworks: X-Men vol 6 (£18-99, Marvel) by Neal Adams, various
Superior Carnage s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kevin Shinick & Stephen Segovia, Clayton Crain
Thunderbolts vol 3: Infinity s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by various
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 5 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli
Warlock By Jim Starlin Complete Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin
Akira vol 4 (£19-99, Kodansha) by Katsuhiro Otomo
Attack On Titan vol 11 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama
Bokurano Ours vol 10 (£9-99, Viz) by Mohiro Kitoh
Black Butler vol 16 (£9-99, Yen) by Yana Toboso
Deflower The Boss (£9-99, June) by Ayan Sakuragi
Durarara!! Saika vol 3 (£9-99, Yen) by Ryohgo Narita & Akiyo Satorigi
Gantz vol 30 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku
Soul Eater vol 18 (£9-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo
Assassin’s Creed: Brahman s/c (£14-99, Ubi Workshop) by Karl Kerschl, Brendan Fletcher & Karl Kerschl, Cameron Stewart
ITEM! Extraordinary design and breath-taking panels! Preview of THE MOTHERLESS OVEN by Rob Davis and I cannot bloody wait. Rob Davis was the mastermind behind British Comics Awards winner NELSON and the oh-so sublime DON QUIXOTE adaptation. The man is in possession of a powerful wit.
ITEM! Speaking of exceptional, I have just read the whole of THE FUSE #1 by Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood! Yowsa! So impressed I previewed it, above. Plenty of previews on THE FUSE tumblr.
ITEM! Interview with Eddie Campbell about his ALEC OMNIBUS which I still declare “the single finest body of work in comics”. You’ll see his diary/notebook for The King Canute Crowd segment alone, and it is virtually cylindrical after all the extra observations he stapled in. Never seen that before! Also: his own reasons for working in a 9-panel grid. Clever! So anyway: Eddie Campbell interviewed for Bleeding Cool.
ITEM! Holy moley will you look at this art book? If you’re into tech, mechs and orgasmic sci-fi scenarios then this by Ian McQue is a thriller. I know for a fact that Duncan Fegredo and Sean Phillips both ordered copies for themselves.
ITEM! Ian McQue also promoted these sterling sci-fi beauties by Theo Prins (whom I confess I have never heard of). I’m still studying them.
ITEM! Have I already run this item? I may have already run this item. Two covers (scroll down for the second, my favourite) for The New Yorker by Chris Ware.
ITEM! GENESIS by Nathan Edmondson and Alison Sampson looks amazing. And when I say it looks amazing, I’ve seen the whole thing: it is amazing! You can pre-order the GENESIS one-shot here. Please do: it’s a one-shot so you’ll only get one shot at it – there will never be a collection.
ITEM! Subtle and fascinating! BAD MACHINERY’s John Allison (we have so much more! Pop him in our search engine!) revisits an old page from five years ago and inks a panel from it with his current sensibility, then analyses the differences. Anyway, yes, fascinating hindsight process piece by John Allison.
ITEM! Jonathan discovered this: a map of the London Underground in 1914 as seen from above and envisaged as a Medieval walled town! Such exquisite colours and design!
ITEM! And our own Jodie Paterson is creating the most beautiful images of foxes and goldfish etc here. Please beg her to create a comic about them!
ITEM! Comics for kids should never be sexualised. I think this is incontrovertibly self-evident and, at seven words long, reasonably succinct. A retailer shouts out about the sexualisation of a POWERPUFF GIRLS cover – hurrah! – but does so in the longest-winded way possible.