Reviews March 2014 week three

If you have an interest in finding out more about one of the most infamous episodes of Japanese mediaeval history, you’ll love this, because it is well written and skilfully executed, as indeed were the 47 rōnin eventually.

 – Jonathan on 47 Rōnin.

Hilda And The Black Hound h/c (£12-95, Flying Eye) by Luke Pearson.

“How does an armchair fall down the back of a sofa anyway?”

Good point, well made, and in the strangest of circumstances.

Did you ever wonder what happened to those odd socks, hats, scarves, sixth issue of your favourite comic and that 5lb slab of milk chocolate you can’t find?

Err, I can explain the milk chocolate and I’m ever so sorry, but the rest didn’t get lost in the wash, you know! You don’t even put comics in the wash, do you? Do you…? No, there is a far more thrilling explanation which lies in bits of your house which you won’t find revealed in the average home survey!

Now what, do you think, does all this have to do with the gigantic black wolf-like creature, nearly two storeys high, which has been seen lurking at night in the heart of the city of Trolberg? Even Hilda’s mother has spotted it out of the corner of her eye and the papers are calling it The Black Beast Of Trolberg! It could make Hilda’s first weekend camp with the Sparrow Scouts ever so slightly dangerous.

Welcome to the fourth British Comics Awards-winning HILDA mystery in which you will discover that the countryside doesn’t hold the monopoly on fanciful creatures and geographical wonders. There are House Spirits called Nisses hidden in your home, you know. Yes, yours! They have big bulbous noses and they’re so very hairy that you can’t even see their eyes. They’re solitary creatures and highly territorial, which is why you’ve probably not met one before. You will, though, you will…


Hilda and her mother are slowly adjusting to life in the city, but Hilda still yearns for camping under canvas. When her mother is nearly slapped in the face by a wind-tossed leaflet advertising the Sparrow Scouts’ next meeting she recalls how much fun she had erecting tents, building bonfires and earning more badges than anyone else in her flock! Hilda is dutifully enrolled with its Raven Leader in time for a six-week course preparing for their weekend camping expedition, learning to secure shelters, tie herself in knots, read maps and rescue a family of inch-tall elves from the bundle of kindling they had reasonably presumed to be some sort of tepee. They’d moved their entire lounge in.

Hilda is determined to impress her mother and win as many trophies as possible, but her Camping Badge comes under threat when she discovers in the woods a Nisse who’d been summarily evicted from his house for trashing it. He claims that he hadn’t, but once banished he cannot return. Later that night she sneaks out with provisions but instead of finding the House Spirit, she is faced with a giant black shadow with huge white eyes glowing in the dark!

All of these things are connected, as well as the sudden growth in homeless House Spirits. With so much for our insatiably inquisitive Hilda to investigate with her white-furred, antlered Twig it will be a wonder if she earns any badges at all!

With Flying Eye Books you can guarantee top-quality production values, lavished here on art which deserves all the pampering it receives. The beast is a black beauty, while dappled pet Twig is one of the cutest creatures ever drawn. More than once he is tossed from his basket by the frantic goings-on in comedic panels worthy of Charles Schultz. It’s an odd thing to pick out, but I also adore the way coloured hair falls over one of Hilda’s eyes – and her mother’s – yet you can see the rest of its outline underneath. Even a trip to the grocery store is a visual feast, with such exciting jars, bottles and paper packets lining the shelves that you wonder what on earth’s in them and can’t help but speculate how tasty they’d be. There’s a great deal of nose-to-nose contact, a sneaky guest-appearance by Philippa Rice and Luke Pearson himself in a typically domestic SOPPY tableau, and an action-packed, runaway, space-hopping finale that will have you on the edge of your car seat.

It seems to me that three things drive the HILDA series: the magic of the art, the curiosity of a cat, and Hilda’s overriding instinct to help, even when she’s advised against it or the odds are all stacked against her. Not everything goes to plan, and there are quietly affecting moments of silent contemplation staring out of windows, but then in the morning resolve is renewed and Hilda will try once again!

I’d be proud of that sort of determined compassion in any of my children, and I beam to see it portrayed in the pluckiest of young people here.


Buy Hilda And The Black Hound h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Stray Bullets #1 (£2-75, Image) by David Lapham…

“They wiggle like my mom’s jello cake.”
“Did you touch one?”
“If he touched a boob other than his mom’s I’ll eat dirt.”
“Haven’t touched one yet but I’ve seen lots.”
“That’s a really good drawing.”
“These are just some kinds. They’re all completely different.”
“Boobs are awesome.”

Indeed they are, indeed they are. I’ll leave it for you to discover just how it is that young Eli has managed to purvey so many breasts without ever actually having touched any, but rest assured it’s all done in the name of good old fashioned teenage horniness and you’ll get a good eye-full, just like Eli, right on page one to perfectly set the scene. Straightaway, we realise we’re back on familiar Lapham ground, lurking in dens of seedy iniquity, surrounded by the pond life of humanity, riding the ripples on the vile underbelly of society. I love it!

But whilst poor old Eli might think he’s having the time of his life, careening headlong into the undiscovered country of the finery of the female form – even adorned with mesmerising tassels as they are – he’s going to be yearning for his lost days of innocence by the end of this issue. What an opener! Talking about hard-hitting, this is like getting ploughed into by an oil tanker whilst you’re just lighting up…

David Lapham, the real David Lapham writing stuff you so obviously care about, we have missed you and we salute you, sir. For this, this is real comics.

For those of you new to STRAY BULLETS, just take a moment to study this cover closely. Very, very closely… because, it actually sums up the complete and utter mayhem you will find within to perfection. And, at the centre of it all, on the pages inside just like on the cover, is that most cool of cool bad-ass motherfuckers, Spanish Scott, solitary finger raised to lips, instructing us, politely, for that is his way, to quieten ourselves before we read on.





There is a two-page driving sequence, Spanish Scott at the wheel, an unsuspecting Eli in the passenger seat that is pure Grand Theft Auto in its execution. At its conclusion, dropping Eli back off at his house, our superfly bad guy is behoved to dispense a few words of wisdom, to complement the (terminal) life lesson he’s just dispensed to a couple of not-so-wise guys.

“Sorry about that, kid. You have to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. Your loser father probably won’t tell you that.”

Eli’s father… yes… he’s a strange one…

Ah, some people are just made to create a particular comic, and so it is with David Lapham. He is STRAY BULLETS and STRAY BULLETS is him. The snappy dialogue, so street, so witty and so on the money, is beyond even Bendis at his finest. The plot, pure convoluted, gritty, brutal contemporary-fiction unpleasantness, made real for our guilty and salacious enjoyment. Is he the best at what he does to borrow a well used phrase? I think so, I think so, he is certainly right up there. To give this material some context, there are a handful of other comics of this ilk over the last twenty years that have had as much impact on me as this one issue. Some of SCALPED and 100 BULLETS probably, much of CRIMINAL certainly, but then STRAY BULLETS is that good, it always was.

There are some artists – and this is the only way I can describe it – about whom you get the sense they are drawing it entirely for themselves, not for anyone else, just for them. I get the strongest sense that Lapham is precisely like that. This is his comic, written just how he wants, then drawn just how he likes: tough, uncompromising, exactly how a contemporary crime comic should be. I believe he has found the perfect home at Image for this title and I hope this new series runs for a very long time.


Buy Stray Bullets #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Bojeffries Saga (£9-99, Knockabout) by Alan Moore & Steve Parkhouse.

A suburban sitcom created over the course of three decades to poke light-hearted fun at British society and contemporary culture, this is Alan Moore’s most accessible work of all time.

Well, it is if you’re British, ever paid rent, despised officiousness and despaired of the tabloids.

“Right! Inchmale. Council. I’m coming in. Don’t try to stop me… So, another member of the family, eh? There are rules on overcrowding, you know. Five people at least not counting a baby and a dog.”
“Yes. A dog. Didn’t think I knew about the dog, eh?”
“Døck? Vhere is døck? You shøw me døck.”
“I rather think you’ll show me, sir. I have a warrant.”
“Vørrant? You are pøliz come about døck? I never ate døck. Vos nøt døck anyway. Voss pøødle.”

In case you hadn’t gathered, Uncle Raoul is a Slavic werewolf and the joke never tires. Over and over innocent animals are left just a little too close for the poor creatures’ comfort and ravenous Raoul does what only comes naturally. The reprises grow cumulatively funnier and Parkhouse’s visual ellipses are hilarious.

Moore describes this as a “paranormal soap opera” for it is riddled with Chas Addams twists. The Bojeffries clan includes barking-mad, malapropism-prone werewolf Uncle Raoul, Festus the vegetarian vampire, Ginda the mop-topped minger who can “turn a cream egg into a diamond and then eat it anyway”, a basement-bound baby so toxic that you need biohazard suits to feed it… and then there is Dad. Dad is in flux. Dad may be moving on to the next stage in organic evolution. You’ll find him in the greenhouse. Or on the greenhouse. Slime is subjective, you know?

Without Steve Parkhouse – and, I would contend, only Steve Parkhouse – this would flail flat on its furry-fat feet. His is a burlesque, grotesque cartooning worthy of Leo Baxendale’s. His butch-ugly Ginda is a hippo-jowled, tooth-gapped joy except to those she voraciously attempts to bed. It is no small mercy that she must have played truant during sex education classes. We’re talking Roger Langridge’s The Gump from ART D’ECCO in an all-too-short skirt but with an even shorter temper and infinitely higher self-esteem.

Soft targets gently dealt with include seaside holidays in a caravan, goth and deaf metal (I know what I wrote), Big Brother (the televisual fiasco not the Orwellian dystopia) and the wisdom dispensed free both of charge and of any discernible intelligence:

“Quite right, guv. Hang asylum seekers, boost house prices, common fackin’ sense, ennit?”

Matching page-panel later:

“Now yer talkin’! Public blindings for underage drinkers, repatriate global warming. Sorted!”

Oh yes, our still-rampant racism is given several more kicks in the comedic cods, especially during the light opera / libretto.

This definite package is given an all-new 24-page send off in the form of a “Where Are They Now?” documentary delivered to camera by Professor Mark Glasses in a thick, phonetic, broad-Brummie accent (so when I typed “accessible” I do apologise) and I so wish I could communicate what had become of our vegan vampire Festus, now cross-dressing on goth-rock stage but both the cartooning and the typography are integral to the joke. However, Alan liked to leave each episode with a fond farewell, so it is only fitting that I do the same by concluding with this from the Christmas special:

“Somewhere, a traditional reliant robin trilled plaintively from a snowdrift.
“Statistically, people killed themselves, drank heavily, and listened to Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’…
“Although not necessarily in that order…
“Happy New Year, everybody!”


Buy The Bojeffries Saga and read the Page 45 review here

Mouse Guard: Legends Of The Guard vol 2 h/c (£14-99, Titan) by various.

An all-ages feudal fantasy created by David Petersen, MOUSE GUARD’s central series is written and drawn by David Petersen himself and I cannot commend its latest instalment, MOUSE GUARD VOL 3: THE BLACK AXE highly enough as the best place to start, taking place as it does several decades prior to volume one.

This is the second of its satellite series in which Petersen opens the world up to other creators he admires for short stories linked by his own framing sequences. There are all kinds of treatments here for you to discover, but two of my favourites were ‘Love Of The Sea’ by Christian Slade and ‘Back & Forth’ by Jackson Sze. Visually they couldn’t be more different.

The latter finds veteran explorer Faramond and newly qualified guardmouse Owain journeying from harbour to harbour, mountain to tree-tops, mapping out potential safe passages and trading routes while discarding those they deem perilous like the cavernous Forgotten Realm. Undoubtedly computer generated – you can just see the backlight shining through – the effect is yet one of bright brushstrokes of vivid colour as the rustic, riverside Bridgeporte, for example, its lodgings set atop a natural arch, gleams in the sun.


‘Love Of The Sea’, by contrast, is closer to Jeremy A. Bastien’s CURSED PIRATE GIRL liberated from such insanely intricate detail. The faces have a mid-Disney look to them (think: The Rescuers), but the silent story is performed in clean sepia line with lovely textures on panels coloured and frayed to pass as old paper. A mouse, a mermaid, and the passage of time. Simple, but effortlessly moving. Awww.


Buy Mouse Guard: Legends Of The Guard vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

47 Ronin h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Richardson & Stan Sakai…

Arguably the most famous example of bushidō (the code of Samurai honour) in Japanese history, this recounts the tale of the 47 brave men who decided to avenge the unjust death of their daimyo (feudal lord) knowing full well it would certainly mean their own. Asano Naganori, by all accounts quite a nice chap as feudal lords go, heads to the Imperial court where, despite being forewarned to expect rampant corruption amongst the civil service officials and demands for bribes being the norm, he finds himself being goaded into attacking one of them.

The only possible sentence for his actions in drawing his sword on a court official, as that official well knew, was death by seppuku or ritual suicide. Being an honourable man, and hoping to protect his family, Asano took his own life, but the damage was done and the decree came down that his family also be stripped of its title and its land. All to set ‘an example’ of what happens to those who disobey the rules of the Imperial court, just so the Emperor did not look weak. This was despite the Emperor knowing full well that the blame truly lay with the official in question, Kira, who was also ‘reassigned’ from the court to the countryside, thus leaving him fully exposed to revenge as his punishment.

Asano’s chief retainer decided his loyalty to his late lord demanded such revenge and asked who amongst the three hundred plus men under him were prepared to swear an oath to ensure such revenge was exacted, no matter what the personal cost. In total, they numbered 47 and once their mission was complete, they entered into legend.

Truly a heartbreaking tale, rendered sympathetically by the man best known for his anthropomorphic rabbit bodyguard Usagi Yojimbo, this actually has far more in common tone-wise, if not in terms of art style, with the fictionalised biographical epic that is VAGABOND – i.e. no rabbits of either the common garden or indeed sword wielding variety… This work also perfectly shows how ossified the codified strictures that permeated pretty much every aspect of Japanese life at that time had become. Eventually, put under stress, something had to give.

Whilst we may consider modern Japan to still be a fairly structured society, and obviously we can trace the roots of that back to myriad such cultural institutions as bushidō, it’s happily a far more relaxed place today, though it perhaps took WW2 and the American occupation that followed to finally administer the true killing blow, severing the head of the past. Honour is one thing, but to undertake such a task, knowing it will mean certain death, either in battle, or at one’s own hand because again honour demands it, I couldn’t live my life that way. On the other hand, you don’t pick up your standing order for several months and mysteriously disappear without having the good manners to cancel, I am coming round to your house to fuck you up and burn your comic collection before your eyes.

Looked at in one sense, bushidō is simply brainwashing, conditioning. When you consider that originally according to bushidō a samurai was supposed to commit seppuku simply upon the death of his master, and if you didn’t you chose the life of shame and became a rōnin, it’s clearly a nonsense. The whole rōnin thing came about because other feudal lords didn’t want those men simply signing up to serve someone else en masse thus increasing their power at a stroke potentially tipping the balance of power against them. Paranoia, in a word. Unsurprisingly, more and more samurai became rōnin, choosing dishonour over death, and eventually rules were relaxed to allow samurai to serve someone else, but it’s clear that they were viewed by many in their ivory towers as little more than low ranking chess pieces on the board of power. But for some, brainwashed or not, honour was everything.

But I digress. If you have an interest in finding out more about one of the most infamous episodes of Japanese mediaeval history, you’ll love this, because it is well written and skilfully executed, as indeed were the 47 rōnin eventually. They did get their ‘revenge’ first, though whether their wives and children thought it was all worth it is a different matter.


Buy 47 Ronin h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Stray Bullets #41 (£2-75, Image) by David Lapham…

“Come. Sit down. Kevin and I have been having a conversation.”
“About what you boys have been up to.”
“Up to?”
“Huss, he knows.”
“Knows what, Kevin?”
“Kidnapping? Violence? Blackmail? What the hell have you got my son into?”

Nine long years we have waited… and finally that patience has been rewarded! Talk about a cliff-hanger?!!! I am so, so happy for David that he has got this issue out at long last; and of course about the joyous news that the entirety of STRAY BULLETS has been reprinted in one glorious volume out this week, plus there will be much, much more to come, starting with STRAY BULLETS: KILLERS #1 out now!

After the previous forty issues, spread over nearly ten years, it would be fair to say that I needed closure about the exploits of Virginia Applejack et al. I never doubted the toughest teen out there would be able to smash up the bad guys one last time and rescue her friend Leon, but I just never thought I would see it writ and drawn large, for real!

I was having a conversation with a customer recently, how longer-form drama has become the big thing in the on-screen entertainment medium over the last ten or fifteen years beginning with TV shows like 24 and The Sopranos through to Breaking Bad and True Detective today. But long before the Sopranos started back in 1999, David Lapham was telling gripping, bleak, even frightening stories of contemporary fiction in the longer form. Yes folks, comics got there first. For those who were along for the whole rollercoaster ride like myself, you will get a huge kick out of the denouement, whereas Huss is just going to get a huge kick in the nuts. It’s a perfectly fitting finale to what was a groundbreaking, award-winning title, with both the creator and the title itself winning Eisners, back in the days when that really meant something. Now, if Paul Pope could just kindly finish off THB… ha ha, ha ha, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.


Buy Stray Bullets #41 and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer: Shoot (£10-99, DC) by Warren Ellis, Darko Macan, Jason Aaron, Dave Gibbons, Jamie Delano, Brian Azzarello, Peter Milligan, China Mieville & Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, Gary Erskine, Sean Murphy, David Lloyd, Rafael Grampa, Eddie Campbell, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Stefano Landini.

“Impressive member you’ve got there, old boy.
“But you’re forgetting one thing…
“Mine’s bigger.
“Shall we measure?”

He’s talking to a thirty-foot, bipedal wolf. It’s an awful thing.

Now, will you just look at that top-tier talent! Even the seasonal short stories deliver the “Oh God, no!” goods with wit, depth and some ingenious twists. Sean Phillips’s art – on the Dave Gibbons piece set round the banks of the New-Year’s-Night Thames – is so rich in action and architectural detail that it bears some serious study.

However, the gruesome two-part ‘Newcastle Calling’ by Jason SCALPED Aaron & Sean PUNK ROCK JESUS Murphy is the balls-out winner, bearing all the trappings of a perfect HELLBLAZER shudder-thon: British culture in the form of punk rock, a prime piece of Constantine history reprised (the clue’s in the title; see HELLBLAZER VOL 2), and a fractious gang of video journalists over-confident in their crusade to discover the truth behind Constantine’s past which, as we all know, is best left buried.

Instead they break into the dark and derelict Casanova Club where John’s Mucous Membranes angrily snarled out ‘The Venus Of The Hard Sell’. It was also where John made the most serious of his five thousand, six-hundred and fifty-eight terrible mistakes, landing him in the legendary mental asylum called Ravenscar. Now they have woken what they shouldn’t and what they wind up doing to themselves – and to dead dogs – will make your toes crawl and their bunions bleed. Sean Murphy shows you just enough to make you wonder what God was thinking when he invented eyes.

All of this before our John joins us on the first chapter’s final two pages having got wind on the ectoplasmic plains of what the fuck is up, pulling him back so very, very reluctantly to Newcastle.

“Just this once, how grand would it be if this whole dammed mess didn’t somehow turn out to be entirely my bleedin’ fault.
“Fat fuckin’ chance of that though, aye?”

The other chief attraction is the reprint of Warren Ellis & Phil Jimenez’s ‘Shoot’ which tackled child-on-child gun crime and which DC originally spiked. Written and drawn before whichever the bloody massacre was back then, it was deemed too topical to print, which is precisely why it should have been printed in the first place. Heaven forefend that DC ever grows balls and proves topical.

A woman is reviewing video tapes of school shootings in order to address a Senate Committee with her judgement as to why they are happening. But she just can’t see it and keeps going back to the audio tape on which Reverend Jim Jones persuades his congregation, all nine hundred and fourteen men, women and children, to commit mass suicide.

“It’s deciding what to blame, you know? Blame the parents for keeping a gun in the house? Not without blaming the constitution and pulling the NRA’s chain.”
“The movies, the video games, the comicbooks…”
“More killers fixate and draw inspiration from the Bible than any other piece of culture.”
“So if I did a Nintendo thing called “Flying Chainsaw Jesus” I’d be rich?”
“Ew. And you’ve got kids.”
“And that’s how I oughta know. You oughta see the little bastards playing their video games. Eyes bright, teeth bared, like wolves tearing up a sheep.”
“It’s not the games that do it, Brian.”

No, it’s not. Nor, I can assure you, does this have anything to do with our John or any hocus pocus whatsoever. That would have made this an awful Constantine story, and a complete cop-out on what it is a very real real-world problem.

The only uncanny thing about John’s involvement is that he’s there at the site of every recent child-child slaying, but he’s only there to see for himself why they are doing it as a favour to a friend whose own boy got blown away, and I believe both John and Warren are absolutely on the nail.

Jimenez owns this story as much as Ellis: without his pitch-perfect expressions, particularly the last one, it couldn’t have worked. Now please see Andrew Vachss’ HEART TRANSPLANT (at a mere £4-99) if you want to learn the truth about early self-esteem and bullying.


Buy Hellblazer: Shoot and read the Page 45 review here

Captain Marvel #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & David Lopez.

Nearly miscredited this to Jelly Sue DeConnick.

I have a wobbly keyboard and this typing malarkey is tough.

Isn’t that a lovely cover? It’s fairly indicative of what lies within: softer than usual superheroic art for a softer than usual superheroic saga but make no mistake: Carol Danvers is a very naughty lady. You can see it the mischievous smile and the I-know-what-I’m-doing smile.

Except that Carol’s never quite known what she’s doing: not in the wider scheme of things, anyway. Once she was lost to alcoholism and became ultra-defensive to boot. Now she’s having a tryst with Rhodey, pilot of War Machine (now Iron Patriot). They seem pretty well matched.

“Tony Stark just tried to play me with the suggestion that you’re a better pilot than me.”
“I am.”
“In your dreams.”
“Let’s talk more about my dreams. I’m seeing you in a little black lace number –“
“Careful. Your heart.”
“A cocktail dress. Colonel Danvers. Who’s the one with the dirty mind here?”
“I am. I thought we established that.”

Alas, the subject which Stark was trying to play her on was the opportunity to head into space as part of a formal, rotating Avengers presence and it’s seems the perfect opportunity during which to find herself.

Fast-forward to the first page and Colonel Danvers (who in costume appears to accept demotion) has evidently already accepted and gathered a personal posse of intriguing individuals one of whom nearly crash-landed on Earth in an escape pod six weeks earlier. At which point you know just about as much as I do.

The ever-competitive exchange between Stark and Danvers takes place while they nonchalantly deal with a couple of lowlifes, killing two narrative birds with one rolling stone and thereby keeping the whole thing popping along at a bright and breezy pace.


Buy Captain Marvel volume #1 and read the Page 45 review here

FF vol 2: Family Freakout s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction, Lee Allred & Joe Quinones, Michael Allred.

Upsettingly undersubscribed series of gleeful wit and innocent joy, as playful as you like.

This features a pool party for the kids. Expect cool swimming costumes, petulant splashing and dive-bombs!

And in spite of this cover (far from the series’ best), it’s all about the kids. I’m not sure their adult supervision is up to the task. In fact, I’m not sure that all their supervisors are necessarily well-adjusted adults. You just know that Queen Medusa hired a nanny.

The best bit was discovering that the singularly solitary Watcher – aloof and never allowed to interfere – actually has a missus. We’d just assumed he was celibate or a castrato. Also, he does occasionally need to go to the toilet. Who knew?

Below its effervescent surface, however, there also lie some serious scientific investigations into long-standing Marvel phenomena like the shrinking / biggening thingummyjiggies called Pym Particles used by both all three Ant Men (and far more characters than you may have suspected) to –

“Shut up, Stephen!”

Look, my review of FF VOL 1: FANTASTIC FAUX tells you all you need to know, and once you’ve read that you will understand why I loved this bit, in which our over-protective, idol-worshipping Young Moloids who’ve since ditched The Ben and latched onto The Jen (She-Hulk) are particularly alarmed that The Watcher has a sex drive.

In unison, they demand:

“Do not pitch the woo to our Jen!”

Do not!


Buy FF vol 2: Family Freakout s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Attack On Titan: Junior High vol 1 (£12-99, Kodansha) by Saki Nakagawa…

“They’re gym shorts, and they’re not what I meant to steal! That is…”
“What?! No way! I… refuse to bow my head to any titan…”
“EREN?! Seriously? You fainted? You’re worse at apologising than Shia Leboeuf.”

Ouch! Really wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this at all, but I found myself chuckling throughout. It is such a bizarre concept, take one of the most horrific titles out there and then applying every conceivable comedic high-school manga trope imaginable to it – and, believe me, there are a lot – plus a smattering of topical social satire to boot. Certainly nice to see Shia Lebouef is being pilloried by the comic community on even the far side of the globe. Hilarious hi-jinks fun, will make absolutely no sense whatsoever to anyone not reading ATTACK ON TITAN, but would certainly tickle those who are. For a volume or two at least anyway.


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

Attack On Titan: Before The Fall vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ryo Suzukaze & Satoshi Shiki…

“Tch! You’re soweak, you’re so weak, you’re not even worth beating.
“This is no fun. Fight back a little, why don’t you? Fight back. FIGHT BACK.”

“Fi…ght ba…ck.”

So, those of you reading ATTACK ON TITAN will know there is a fair amount of mystery to it: who or what are the Titans, where did they come from, why does the title make no grammatical sense etc. etc? Not sure exactly how much will be revealed in this straight prequel, set in the relatively early days following the rise of the Titans and humanities retreat behind their towering, walled defences. Defences which, as readers of ATTACK ON TITAN will know, have some very dubious foundations indeed. I strongly suspect after reading this first volume that BEFORE THE FALL will indeed be a vital companion title, will eventually have some important revelations, but undoubtedly not before much allusion and indeed possibly misdirection have taken place. Nice.

Indeed, even the set-up premise of a human baby found alive inside a titan after his pregnant mother was consumed provides much to puzzle over. The general consensus is he must be the son of a Titan. Unfortunately for the baby in question he himself is going to have plenty to time to ponder his lot, as he spends his entire childhood in chains in a dungeon being repeatedly beaten by the child of a wealthy merchant who is determined to toughen his son up before he enters a career in the higher echelons of the military. And I do mean repeatedly. Dark stuff in places actually, I must say, but it certainly creates an interesting starting point for this title.


Buy Attack On Titan: Before The Fall vol 1 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.


Stray Bullets: Uber Alles Edition s/c (£45-00, Image) by David Lapham

Saga vol 3 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Death s/c (£14-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman & Chris Bachalo, Dave McKean, Mark Buckingham, Mike Dringenberg, Colleen Doran, P. Craig Russell, Malcom Jones III, Mark Pennington, Jeffrey Jones

Wasteland vol 9: A Thousand Lies (£10-99, Oni) by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood

Hellboy: The First 20 Years h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola

Judge Dredd Casefiles 22 (£19-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar & Carlos Ezquerra, Ashley Wood, many more

Noah h/c (£22-50, Image) by Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel & Niko Henrichon

Sailor Twain (£10-99, First Second) by Mark Siegel

Silk Road To Ruin (£14-99, NBM) by Ted Rall

Sock Monkey Treasury h/c (£29-99, Fantagraphics) by Tony Millionaire

Green Arrow vol 4: The Kill Machine s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino

Green Lantern: Rise Of The Third Army s/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns, various & Doug Mahnke, various

Iron Man: Epic Collection – War Games s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by John Byrne & John Romita Jr., Paul Ryan, Mark D. Bright, Tony DeZuniga

Marvel Encyclopedia h/c (£30-00, Marvel) by various

Mighty Avengers vol 1: No Single Hero s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Greg Land

New Avengers vol 1: Everything Dies s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Steve Epting

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez, Sara Pichelli

Wolverine Max vol 3: Vegas s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jason Starr & Felix Ruiz, Roland Boschi

Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Jason Latour & Yves Bigerel, Paco Diaz

Young Avengers vol 3: Mic-Drop At The Edge Of Time And Space s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Emma Vieceli, Becky Cloonan, Jordie Bellaire, Ming Doyle, Maris Wicks, Joe Quninones, Christian Ward

Gangsta vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Kohske

UQ Holder vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu


ITEM! Bryan Lee O’Malley’s SECONDS to be published by SelfMadeHero in the UK in August. Gorgeous cover!

ITEM! New Paul Pope book and more besides in First Second’s Autumn schedule.

ITEM! Jamie Smart exclusively reveals the official poster for the next Spider-Man film! I do hope it is in black and white – preferably with French sub-titles.

ITEM! Gender-specific books: the Independent refuses to review them. Hurrah!

ITEM! I don’t have many “idols” and, since Will Eisner, I certainly can’t think of any in comics. Completely off-topic, then, but because I can: three pieces to read on Tony Benn, one of those very few idols, who’s left us all the poorer for his passing. Compassion is what does it for me.

– Stephen

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