Archive for May, 2014

Reviews May 2014 week four

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

If you want some of the most impassioned and eloquent writing in comic check out the dialogue below on the US Death Penalty.

 – Stephen on Ex Machina Book 2 by SAGA’s Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris

The Boxer: The True Story Of Holocaust Survivor Harry Haft (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Reinhard Kleist…

“The man hadn’t volunteered. Now I knew what was meant by… ‘when one of you can’t fight any longer.’ I was sure they’d shoot me if I refused.”

I am pretty sure he was right, given that is precisely what ended up happening to the losers shortly after Harry Haft – or Hertzko to use his birth name – had knocked them out. The fights in question took place in concentration camps, purely for the purpose of entertaining the German guards and their guests.

I could write a whole essay, several actually, on the barbarism and inhumanity to man which took place during the Second World War, but given what else took place in the concentration camps themselves, it is not remotely surprising that Harry did what was necessary to survive in any given moment. There comes a point beyond which, if you want to survive, if you have a strong enough reason to endure such unimaginable horror and suffering, it inevitably becomes every man for himself. Win and survive, lose and die, Harry fought 76 fights, effectively to the death, in the Jaworzno concentration camp…

In Harry’s case, it was the thought of a woman called Leah he was about to marry. The thought of being reunited with her drove him to fight to stay alive. And those fighting instincts carried him through his internment, and subsequently ensured he took his chance to immigrate in somewhat quasi-legal circumstances to America. Even once there, in the relative comfort of Brooklyn, he never forgot Leah, in fact he was convinced she also had made it to the promised land of America, he decided to re-enter the boxing ring. Unable to track her down, assuming she had entered the country under a false name like he had, he figured if he could make a name for himself as a boxer, she would get to hear about him and know he was alive.

Whilst Harry did indeed achieve some measure of success, winning his first twelve straight pro fights, proudly sporting a Star of David, yellow in ironic appreciation of the Nazis’ badge of shame for the Jews during the war, eventually he came up against the unstoppable force that was Rocky Marciano, a fight which brought the curtain down on his career. There were subsequent claims of Mafia threats to throw the fight, never proven, but the loss was devastating enough to make Haft realise he had taken his personal journey into the realms of the sweet science as far as he possibly could. Opening a corner store, taking a wife and having three kids, he moved on whilst never quite forgetting his first love. Which brings us neatly to the road trip an older Harry and his son Alan took whilst they were on holiday as a family in Miami, 1963. The unscheduled excursion neatly bookends this traumatic tale of one man’s determination to achieve his heart’s desire, and proves that sometimes all you have to do is have the iron will to see it through.

Some of you may be familiar with the creator Reinhard Kleist from his excellent biography of CASTRO. There is something about Reinhard’s gritty black and white art style which lends itself perfectly to such pieces. I can see various influences and comparisons, not least the great Will Eisner. This is a brilliantly told work of one man’s story which, like so many others from that time, should, indeed must not be forgotten.

JR

Buy The Boxer: The True Story Of Holocaust Survivor Harry Haft and read the Page 45 review here

MPH #1 of 5 (£2-25, Image) by Mark Millar & Duncan Fegredo.

It’s a joy to see Duncan Fegredo back in the real world again – well, something more approximating it than HELLBOY: MIDNIGHT CIRCUS. That was an ethereal beauty and Fegredo was perfect for a series starring a big red guy with enormous hands. The hands!

However, it’s the cool and contemporary I love most about him – the arched expressions and Rodin-like wrists, often at angles in TALES FROM THE CLERKS, for example. There’s a gloriously subtle sequence kicked off when Chevy looks away from a bearded, bald biker dude just as that dude takes an interest in him. It’s a perfect panel, all the important elements including their stares composed along the lines radiating from its vanishing point, far right. Story page nine, panel two once you’ve bought this. I won’t tell you where it’s set: this review’s spoiler-free, I promise.

In 1986 the first and only sighting of a superhuman occurred late at night after he “ran out of juice” in Missouri. Rocketing uncontrollably at such an impossible speed across multiple speeds that he left a tornado-level trail of destruction in his wake, ploughing up compacted earth and asphalt, busting through buildings and shattering glass, Mr Springfield staggered to a halt and was promptly arrested, drugged and locked away in solitary confinement by the United States Army.

 

That was it for superhumans for nearly thirty years. Now it’s 2014 and young, ambitious, forward-thinking Roscoe, a courier in bankrupt Detroit, is in for a shattering experience of his own. That’s long before he experiences his own MPH.

Anything more than that would constitute spoilers and I made you a promise. Besides, I have many more questions than I have answers – especially after the final page – and that’s just as it should be for any opening salvo.

Coming back to Fegredo, however, and I told you he was a dab hand at contemporary, so I leave you with the cover to MPH #2.

Now that’s how you stand out on shelves.

SLH

Buy MPH #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Polina h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Bastien Vives…

“Hello Mrs. Litovsky, I would like to talk about Polina.”
“Tell me, Mr. Bojinsky.”
“I would like her to dance in a performance, and I’ve come to consult you about when I could borrow her for rehearsals. With your permission of course.”
“Absolutely not, Mr. Bojinsky. There’s the end of year assessment. And Polina needs to work hard to reach the right level; if she fails she won’t be able to move up to the next year.
“On top of that, for your information, I’m having a hard time correcting all the horrors you put into the heads of your former pupils!
“So I find you extremely impertinent coming here asking me something like this.
“As you well know, I don’t share your conception of dance one bit!”
“I must confess, I do try to train my pupils for work beyond musical comedies and folk entertainment.”
“You repellent man! I would rather leave than listen to this kind of nonsense. Goodbye, Mr. Bojinsky.”
“Goobye Mrs. Litovsky!”
“Polina… tell me, can I count on you? We’ll find a solution for the rehearsals.”
“I’d be delighted, Mr. Bojinsky.”

Wonderful absorbing character study from the man who brought us A TASTE OF CHLORINE. (By the way, if there is anyone out there who knows what the woman says to the boy underwater in the conclusion of that work, please, please tell me, because I would dearly love to know!) Polina wants to be a dancer, and she has natural talent and aptitude. But more than that, she has the attitude and single-minded determination to succeed. Whilst the other girls eventually succumb to the distractions and socialising down the pub and the temptations of boys, Polina’s focus remains firmly on being a dancer.

 

In that respect she is aided, indeed directed in her early years, by the somewhat stentorian Mr. Bojinksky. Not in the vocal sense, but he has the manner of someone who simply brooks no dissent. If you are not interested in doing it his very exacting way, well, you will be shown the door. He isn’t mean or cruel, but he rarely shows approbation either. Not that this is a stereotypical story of the early years of someone destined for stardom, moulded by a rigid disciplinary, though. The time soon comes when Polina begins to question where she is headed, both artistically and as a person, and decides to strike out on her own. But, undoubtedly, Mr. Bojinsky remains the primary influence upon her, even subconsciously. So, when she finds herself at a cross-roads in her career and personal life, it’s perhaps not surprising she turns back toward to the bedrock of stability whom she has always been able to rely on.

As with A TASTE OF CHLORINE, much here is about what is not said, both what doesn’t need to be, and what people are incapable of expressing. He understands the subtleties of human emotion, does Mr. Vives, and, better yet, is capable of illustrating it so delicately in this form. And as with that previous work, there are turning points upon which the story hinges, where your heart will either melt or break. One of the most powerful moments in this work for me comes when Mr. Bojinsky removes his glasses: there’s a transformation which takes place, on many different levels, that is as revealing as it is remarkable. It’s such a subtle nuance, but then the glasses are replaced and, whilst everything is seemingly exactly as it was, it has undoubtedly changed forever.

Art-wise, whilst there are some similarities of style, it is a different approach from A TASTE OF CHLORINE. Understated yet expressive. Graceful and poised, like a ballerina, it shows what a truly accomplished talent Bastien Vives is.

JR

Buy Polia h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Last Broadcast #1 of 7 (£2-99, Archaia) by André Sirangelo & Gabriel Iumazark.

Dominique spotted this one.

I think the art said BEDLAM to her and she loves her Bedlam, does Dee. There’s a bit of Ben Templesmith going on too, only more angular. Ashley Wood. Those sorts of comparisons.

There’s a cracking full-page shot of urban exploring 100 feet below San Francisco, looking up from ankle level at gas-masked Niko and Harumi, the two on the cover.

“Look at that crazy door. I think the map is legit after all.”
“If the map is accurate, crazy door is just the beginning.”

It is indeed. Cogs whirr and the metal hatch – the sort of thing you’d find on a submarine – opens – and there’s quite the room inside. The sequence puts me in mind of Riven or Myst. Not stylistically, but in its overall effect of haunting strangeness and thrilling discovery.

What’s uncovered is not unconnected to Ivan The Intrepid, a young escapologist with confidence issues. He’s about to bugger up an audition during which he relates the doomed career of Blachall The Incredible, “a master of shock and awe” who hit it big in 1925 at the Paris World’s Fair. Then he bit the bullet in London, 1934, after a staged game of Russian Roulette went wonky.

This too is about to go wonky but with less catastrophic consequences… so far. Ivan doesn’t lose his life; he loses Alex, his business partner whom Ivan treats as his assistant. It’s partly because of that and partly because Alex has stopped taking his meds. They were making him sluggish, which is bad news for an escapologist. I anticipate further bad news nonetheless: he’s been off them for 48 hours.

With his income teetering on the non-existent Ivan begs magazine publisher Dmitri for work, but Dmitri has lost his last sponsor. What he gains is something altogether unexpected.

In precisely which ways this all fits together remains a mystery, but in any case all this takes place 8 weeks before the explosion at a funfair in San Francisco.

SLH

Buy The Last Broadcast #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Graphic Novel Man DVD: The Comics of Bryan Talbot (£15-99) co-created by Russell Wall and James Guy with substantial contributions by Neil Gaiman, Warren Ellis, Joe Sacco, Ian Rankin, Michael Moorcock, David Lloyd, Dougie Braithwaite, Dr. Mary Talbot, Hunt Emerson, D’Israeli, Pat Mills, John Wagner, Al Davison, Andy Diggle, Paul Gravett, Dr. Mel Gibson, Charlie Adlard, Dez Skinn and more!

Fascinating, thrilling and completely accessible, this is a well deserved and worthy tribute to one of the world’s greatest comicbook creators, truly a “Renaissance Man.”

Seeing whole pages or even the tiniest details blown up in such crystal-clear definition is a joy.

Watching Bryan draw is magical.

Listening to him enthuse about his influences is infectious.

If you love comics but haven’t yet read a word Bryan has written or seen a page that he’s drawn you will still love this three-programme documentary, be fascinated by Bryan’s craft, then be galvanised into seeking out whichever of his diverse graphic novels appeals to your personal predilections: ALICE IN SUNDERLAND, THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT, DOTTER OF HER FATHER’S EYES, GRANDVILLE… Oh, pop him in our search engine!

You might want to take another look at his SANDMAN contributions too once both Gaiman and Talbot have explained the creative decisions each made for ‘August’: verticals, horizontals, diagonals and so much white! And yes, you might not notice it but the shadows do shift from west to east according to the time of day!

I didn’t know what some of these comicbook creators lining up to heap praise on Talbot actually looked like until. Who knew Andy Diggle was so young? Joe Sacco looks far more svelte and handsome than he draws himself, while Warren Ellis is a million miles away from the cranky cadaver he pretends to be, positively beaming with affection for Bryan’s craft. I haven’t seen Charlie Adlard for decades – wouldn’t recognise him.

The first programme covers the creator’s life and career with plenty of old film footage of him acting his socks off in horror films he made as a teenager. As you’d imagine, Dr. Mary Talbot is on hand to elaborate on the scenes from DOTTER OF HER FATHER’S EYES in which they met and married, and Bryan was introduced to Mary’s domineering father. Bryan recounts how he took a Foundation Course taught by three abstract artists who forbade figurative work completely! So that doesn’t go well. It’s all put into comicbook context so you’ll find potted histories of genres from underground comics to steampunk.

The second feature deals with Bryan’s approach to creating comics from extensive research, note-taking and photography (“obsessing”, basically, and often for years), then meticulously mapping out the structure of each book on enormous sheets of paper stuck together and arrows going every which way so that events can be foreshadowed and bits of dialogue dropped in… to finally cracking into the pages themselves. Once more his creative peers are on hand to extol the artist’s virtues and point out bits and pieces we may have all missed.

In the third episode you actually get to watch the man at work on GRANDVILLE. Whoa!

Each instalment is so seamlessly edited, deftly cutting to form one long, fluid narrative – an entertainment, in fact.

I have only one criticism in the vein of “Never judge a book by its cover”: don’t be put off by the cover’s woefully out-of-date design, its hideous type-face on the front and back, and the initial, endless repetition before each programme of Digital Story Engine’s logo and website address. Push past them! The films themselves are as slick as can be.

One small warning too: this DVD contains a great deal of me, popping my head up above the comics counter and mouthing off just when you least expect it. Sorry.

Also: THAT IS NOT MY LIVING ROOM; IT IS UNDECORATED PAGE 45 STORAGE UPSTAIRS!

SLH

Buy The Graphic Novel Man DVD: The Comics of Bryan Talbot and read the Page 45 review here

Moomin’s Desert Island (£6-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tove Jansson.

“Help!”
“Pirates!”
“Are they after us?”
“I hope so!”

Everyone loves to be chased.

Thirty-five pages of full-colour whimsy from one of the black and white MOOMIN hardcovers in which our flailing family of unceasing optimists finds themselves marooned on a dessert island. They don’t mind: in MOOMIN VOL 7 they actively set out to shipwreck themselves, and found it surprisingly difficult!

Moominmamma’s immediate priority is to go foraging for food, carrying her handbag – as you do – and hunting a wild boar with her compact. I’m not even kidding you. She blows make-up powder up its nose and into its eyes, seasons it with salt (it’s a well equipped handbag) and sets fire to the poor brute, shaggy coat and all.

However, Moominmamma isn’t the only Moominmummy on the island. Plus Moomintroll discovers a message from The Mymble bobbing in a bottle on the sea.

“Help! I am the beautiful prisoner of the pirates on board the black shark!”

Beautiful? Uh-oh. Well, it wouldn’t be MOOMIN if Snork Maiden didn’t sulk. It’s so like Tove Jansson to be that random: Moominpappa, Moominmamma, Moomintroll and … Snork Maiden. Maybe Moomin’s the name of the family, not the species – that’s only just dawned on me!

The laugh-out-loud sequences involve the Professor who boarded the helicopter against his better judgement having forecasted a storm. A death-obsessed doom merchant, his umbrella was up before the first drop of rain and remains firmly aloft on each and every page until the, err, accident. It’s an exquisite piece of timing when, after a dozen or so gloomy projections, the imminent disaster is left hanging in the air on the last panel of a page, just like the agent of destruction above the poor Professor’s head. I don’t think that umbrella will help much.

SLH

Buy Moomin’s Desert Island and read the Page 45 review here

Operation Paperclip (£7-99) by Patrick Goddard…

“Can you even be guilty? For something you haven’t done? For a potential?”

Good question. If you have the potential for not picking up your standing order, I would say so. But, for our put-upon protagonist, it’s a rather more all encompassing problem. Already unpopular at school, just because he isn’t one of the popular kids pretty much, it certainly has the potential to get much, much worse. He’s just received a letter from Julian Assange informing him that in one week’s time, Wikileaks will be leaking US government documents which categorically prove he is a clone of Hitler. For a teenager who was adopted by a Jewish family but who can’t be considered as Jewish due to no one knowing if his birth mother was Jewish, but still expected to act like one and thus unsurprisingly already struggling with identity issues, it’s a bombshell he could have done without.

The title of this work comes from the factual US appropriation of various Nazi scientists following WW2, including several whom could be said to have worked in the field of… medical science. For example, it’s well known that various rocket scientists like Wernher von Braun were assimilated into the US space program, but it’s far less well known that characters like Dr Hubertus Strughold, responsible for experimentation on humans at Dachau, were employed in high ranking medical positions in the US establishment. Their new paperwork and IDs, erasing their past mis-deeds, were all neatly and simply held together with a paperclip.

Our by now somewhat paranoid hero has always had an interest in Nazi conspiracy theories, a fact which only serves to convince him this stunning revelation must be true. By the time he’s finished espousing these theories for the benefit of his bemused friend, you might well be convinced too. But in reality, this is a work about consequences. Actions most assuredly have consequences, you can call it karma if you wish, and there is a rather amusing little ramble about that: the consequences of our actions do not always fall upon our own shoulders, but sometimes the actions of others do, with devastating effect. I think we can certainly say this is a black comedy. I chuckled throughout because, let’s be honest, we can all laugh at the misfortune of others, especially when it is so comedically portrayed. But maybe we’re just being set up for the punchline and the joke will turn out to be on us…

I loved this work! Self-published, self-bound even (I know because Patrick told me!), this story shows a creator with rich storytelling potential who understands how to unsettle and jangle the emotions of the reader whilst simultaneously extracting a laugh or two. The art style reminded me of Gareth Brookes (THE BLACK PROJECT) in places and actually Gary Spencer Millidge (STRANGEHAVEN) too, particularly in terms of the somewhat haunted faces.

JR

Buy Operation Paperclip and read the Page 45 review here

Saga #19 (£2-25, Image) by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples…

“I will never stop cringing.”
“You encouraged us… just a second… you encouraged us to respond to the audience more.”
“No, I told you to be aware of the fourth wall, not to punch a glory hole through it. You’re fired.”

Aha, possibly the most dysfunctional family in comics is back!!! So if you don’t want to wait another eight or so months for the next collected trade, it’s time to jump aboard the crazy comics ride that is SAGA in single-issue form. Now living undercover, trying to keep a low profile, whilst Alana quite literally broadcasts herself across the universe in the guise of a farcical soap opera-esque improvisational troupe member, our collective bunch of oddballs bicker near-continuously and attempt to out-profane one other, whilst they all go gradually ever more stir crazy.

Also, the first page of this issue finally manages to out-do the very first page of SAGA VOL 1 for utterly insane, weird grossness. Once again, childbirth is involved, but nearly a week later, I simply cannot unsee the image that has been seared into my brain. Vaughn, Staples, you are bad people…

JR

Buy Saga #19 and read the Page 45 review here

Ex Machina Book 2 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris, Chris Sprouse.

From the writer of SAGA.

If you want some of the most impassioned and eloquent writing in comics check out the dialogue below on the US Death Penalty.

Plus Tony Harris: the writing’s so good I rarely mention Tony, do I? Just the right level of anchoring photo-realism – the saggy jowls and all – for a political thriller.

EX MACHINA stars the mayor of New York who can communicate with machines (and do so imaginatively as the courtroom highjack will amply demonstrate) and who reads WONDER WOMAN but has to hire a detective to buy the back issues for him because, like, if it ever got out that the mayor of New York City read the funny papers they’d think he was ripe for the funny farm. The press’d be all over that one.

Terrorism returns to New York, bringing with it personal tragedy for Mayor Hundred and ugly reprisals on the street. Skinheads indiscriminately target Sikhs as well as innocent Muslims, police officers shoot the wrong person on the underground (hmmm…?), and no one’s looking in the right direction. Meanwhile, Hundred gets sick of being stitched up on air, and decides to do something about it:

“Dre, you asked me to come on your program so we could discuss extending Rent Regulations, not –”
“It’s a simple question, sir. Do you or do you not support Capital Punishment?”
“<sigh> The Death Penalty is arbitrary and capricious, an anachronistic throwback that’s looked upon with disgust by nearly every other democracy in the world. Practically, it’s way more expensive than life without parole, and morally, it’s applied in a manner that’s totally unfair to anyone who can’t afford my lawyers. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that those convicted of killing Whites are significantly more likely to be executed than those convicted of killing Blacks.”
“But you’d agree that it’s an effective deterrent against future crimes?”
“No, I wouldn’t. Murder rates often go up immediately following executions. We’re sending a message to Americans that killing is the correct way to solve problems. Look, I realise we live in a culture where a story isn’t satisfying unless the bad guy dies at the end, but unlike the movies, death really is permanent. How can we implement a decision that can’t be overturned when we know how fallible our justice system — how fallible we — can be?”
“And Osama Bin Laden? If he were captured tomorrow, you’d argue to the families of his victims that he should live?”
“… Motherfucker.”
“Dump out! Dump out! Don’t let that go over on the air! What in God’s name is wrong with you? You can’t say stuff like that on a public broadcast!”
“Yeah, well, now you know how it feels like to be sabotaged. Enjoy the rest of your show, Dre.”

|Outside|:

“What was that all about, boss?”
“Doesn’t matter, Bradbury. Come on, sneak me out of here before my Press Secretary shows up to scream at me.”
“But I didn’t hear your answer to whether or not you’d ice Osama.”
“And neither did anyone else. It’s a “Have you stopped beating your wife?” trap. If I say I’d kill him, I look like a hypocrite. If I say I wouldn’t, I sound weak on security. Sometimes it’s best to let your record speak for itself, you know?”

This new edition takes you right up to end of the fourth original volume, so you can carry straight on with EX MACHINA VOL 5

SLH

Buy Ex Machina Book 2 and read the Page 45 review here

The Cigar That Fell In Love With A Pipe (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by David Camus & Nick Abadzis.

The final flourish of fourteen pages – as an increasingly confident comet of living white light rises through the multiple strata of clouds cast in a golden light, and bursts across the stormier masses before making a mad dash towards the heart of a shimmering sun – are breathtakingly beautiful.

The multiple marines and citrus yellows are as exquisite as the execution is thrilling and, however achieved, the effect is of pastel or dry brush on coarsely textured watercolour paper thick with paint. The creamy lemon then white-hot sun radiating over the sea comes close to a religious experience.

I wish to God that the rest of the book had been rendered like that. Nick Abadzis, the creator of LAIKA, is an award-winning artist whom we adore and whenever Conchita Marquez – Cuba’s most celebrated cigar roller – appears on the page he brings her alive in all her big, hot, pungent beauty and the dream sequences are divine.

His Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, however, are as stiff, awkward and artificial as the writing which I found mundane, clunky, irritating and even embarrassing in places.

It was only during the injustices heaped on Conchita – so in love with tobacco and so dedicated to her craft – that my interest picked up. I wanted to learn all about this woman but the details were scant. Instead the focus began and then strayed back to Welles puffing on multiple cigars, Rita being cranky, and a cheesy supernatural conceit which left me completely cold.

Astonished.

SLH

Buy The Cigar That Fell In Love With A Pipe 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.

 

Umbral vol 1: Out Of The Shadows s/c (£7-50, Image) by Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama s/c (£11-99, Mariner) by Alison Bechdel

Black Science vol 1: How To Fall Forever s/c (£7-50, Image) by Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera, Dean White

Bunny vs. Monkey Book One: Year One January – June (£6-99, DFB) by Jamie Smart

Everywhere Antennas (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Julie Delporte

Glacial Period h/c (£16-99, NBM) by Nicolas De Crecy

Petty Theft (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Pascal Girard

Phantoms Of The Louvre h/c (£22-50, NBM) by Enki Bilal

Savage vol 2: The Guv’nor (£14-99, Rebellion ) by Pat Mills & Patrick Goddard

Sledgehammer 44 vol 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Jason Latour, Laurence Campbell, Mike Mignola

The Girl Who Played With Fire h/c (£22-50, Vertigo) by Denise Mina &Andrea Mutti, Antonio Fuso, Leonardo Manco

Catwoman vol 4: Gotham Underground s/c (£13-50, DC) by Ann Nocenti & Rafael Sandoval

Fairest vol 3: Return Of The Maharaja (£10-99, DC) by Sean Williams & Stephen Sadowski, Phil Jimenez, Adam Hughes, others

Red Lanterns vol 4: Blood Brothers s/c (£12-99, DC) by Charles Soule, Robert Veniditti & Alessandro Vitti, various

Shazam s/c (£12-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

All New X-Men vol 4: All Different (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Brandon Peterson

Avengers Assemble: Forgeries Of Jealousy s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Kelly Sue Deconnick, Warren Ellis & Matteo Buffagni

Cataclysm Ultimates Last Stand h/c (£37-99, Marvel) by Joshua Hale Fialkov, Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley,various

Guardians Of The Galaxy / All New X-Men: The Trial Of Jean Grey h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli

Iron Man vol 4: Iron Metropolitan (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Joe Bennett

Marvel Boy s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Grant Morrison & J. G. Jones

Marvel Masterworks: Iron Man vol 3 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee, Al Hartley, Roy Thomas & Don Heck, Gene Colan, Jack Kirby

Miracleman Book vol 1: A Dream Of Flying h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Alan Moore, Mich Anglo & Gary Leach, Alan Davis, Don Lawrence, Steve Dillon, Paul Neary

Ozma Of Oz s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Eric Shanower & Skottie Young

Revolutionary War s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Andy Lanning, Kieron Gillen, others & various

Battle Angel Alita Last Order Omnibus vol 3 (£14-99, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

Claymore vol 24 (£6-99, Viz) by Norihiro Yagi

Fairy Tail vol 8 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Soul Eater vol 20 (£9-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo

Vampire Knight vol 18 (£6-99, Viz) by Matsuri Hino

 

ITEM! One of Tom Gauld’s best-ever cartoons: “My Library”! Too, too funny! Here’s our review of Tom Gauld’s YOU’RE JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK with his absolute best-ever cartoon to click on!

ITEM! Preview of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

ITEM! I love Marc Laming’s hair – and the way he draws it! Marc Laming’s indescribably beautiful hair.

ITEM! Michael Eaton & Eddie Campbell reprise Charlie Peace in comic form in DAWN OF THE UNREAD #3 There’s a neat little surprise halfway through, and finishes with a redefinition of the term “page-turner”. Are you sitting at your computer as well right now? Hmmm.

ITEM! Culture has climaxed! Neill Cameron’s Lego Panda Battlesuit.

ITEM! Jade Sarson wins Myriad Books’ First Graphic Novel Competion 2014 with the gloriously titled FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MARIE! Jade Sarson’s website.

ITEM! Ulli Lust’s acceptance speech for her LA Times Best Graphic Novel award in comic form! Genius! She won it for TODAY IS THE  LAST DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

ITEM! I want hugs! These folks are some of the glorious 3-D mascots for The Lakes International Comics Art Festival designed by Jonathan Edwards and made by fabulous Felt Mistress! Felt Mistress’ CREATURE COUTURE is in stock at Page 45!

ITEM! Lastly, this may look utterly self-serving but, from the New York Times: the latest tactics from Amazon are horrifying. If you want discounted prose and DVDs there is an alternative to Amazon called HIVE which you can use via Page 45 and even collect in-store if you want, so saving you postage!

ITEM! No, wait! Big blog about all the comicbook creators in The Clock Tower at The Lakes International Comic Arts Festival 2014 in October! Includes bits on Page 45!

Cheers,

– Stephen

Reviews May 2014 week three

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

I’ve seen this sort of thing done very, very badly by those who think comics is anyone’s game. It’s not. It’s a medium which requires specific talents, discipline and very careful judgement.

– Stephen on Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast. She has all three in abundance.

Remember, you can click on our interior art to enlarge it!

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? h/c (£20-99, Bloomsbury) by Roz Chast.

“I wish that, at the end of life, when things were truly “done”, there was something to look forward to. Something more pleasure-orientated. Perhaps opium, or heroin.”

Yep, that’s been on my To-Do list for a very long time. It’s far from sustainable in the long term – especially if you have any actual plans – but if the time’s drawing near then I want some gear. Some serious gear. Call it a pleasure deferred.

Roz Chast has achieved the virtually impossible: she has written and drawn a graphic novel about the single most painful subject most of us have buried along with our heads in the sand… and, through the skill of her cartooning and selective wisdom, made it a page-turner rather than something I would desperately prefer to look away from. The short-burst presentation helps too.

The subject isn’t one’s own mortality nor even our parents’ mortality, but the possibility of prolonged and ever-increasing frailty before death.

As the book opens Roz Chast’s parents are living in a god-awful rented flat in Brooklyn which Roz escaped as soon as she could aged 16. You’ll see why. Her mother and father are, however, content with their habitat – however rough, ready, cold and grimy – and as independent as they are co-dependent. They are inseparable and self-supporting. It’s all perfectly viable for the moment, but they too have their heads in the sand, hence the title. It’s roughly 50% optimism, 50% denial, equalling 100% oblivion.

Her mother is assertive, confident, uncompromising, obstinate, bossy. She had quite a temper on her, manifesting itself in what she proudly described as a “Blast from Chast”! Her father is happy to be hen-pecked for he adores Elizabeth. He is meek and sensitive – what you might call a worrier. Unfortunately, with the onset of senility, it deteriorates into such outright paranoia that he cannot be left on his own and when her mother’s overconfidence drives her to use one step-ladder too many, it is the beginning of a very protracted end.

“I had had no idea that my father was so far gone. When he was living with my take-charge mother in familiar, never-changing surroundings, his symptoms of senility had seemed pretty low-key. Certainly not this level of confusion.
“One of the worst parts of senility must be that you have to get terrible news over and over again.
“On the other hand, maybe in between the times of knowing the bad news, you get to forget it and live as if everything is hunky-dory.”

Alison Bechdel’s a big fan, calling it a “grim, side-splitting memoir” and that’s a neat little trick, juggling the horror with the humour. The horror her father feels each time he’s told the news he keeps forgetting – that his wife and soul mate is in hospital – is in fact hilarious.

“Speaking of which, where’s Mom?”
“Mom is in the hospital.”
“OH MY GOD!!! WHAT HAPPENED?!?!?”

Each and every time. It’s a cumulatively funny joke based on repetition.

It doesn’t hurt that Chast is Edvard Munch’s comedic second-cousin. Rarely has eye-popping, wits’-end, freak-the-fuck-out been so explosively expressed by a pen on the page. Exasperation too. We’re talking Roberta Gregory (NAUGHTY BITS) amplified by Gary Northfield (TEENYTINSAURS).

 

She’s also a dab hand at wobbly-lined fragility, and I’m afraid you’ll be witness to an increasing amount of that as her parents’ conditions deteriorate, excruciatingly so.

As Chast herself surmises, what may have helped her examine the stark proceedings with both candour and sanity is a certain detachment to her mother’s condition born of that bad temper which Roz was so often subjected to when a child; along with the blunt bons môts, “I’m not your friend. I’m your mother”.

There’s a photo of Roz Chast aged 11 in which she looks 30. There are heartbreaking photos of her parents’ effects taken when the cartoonist clears out their flat. There are photos of approximately two hundred pencils found in different draws. There are photos of clutter – the debris of a life left behind. There’s also a very curious photo of the inside of their fridge.

“The tins are from Meals On Wheels. The turquoise bin with all the tape on it is one of my mother’s inventions and has been since the mid-1960s. It’s called the “cheese-tainer” and held – obviously – cheese. Don’t know about the empty Styrofoam egg cartons.”

Twenty-four hours after reading this I began my own clear-out back home. Try it! Start filling the first bin! It’s very therapeutic.

I’ve seen this sort of thing done very, very badly by those who think comics is anyone’s game. It’s not. It’s a medium which requires specific talents, discipline and very careful judgement. Roz Chast has a long career as a highly acclaimed professional cartoonist under her belt and it shows on every page.

I leave you with some figures to frighten the fuck out of you and your wallet: when Chast’s parents were relatively able-bodied (all things become relative), The Place which she finally persuaded them was inevitable accommodation cost $7,400 a month before extras. Extras soon rose to $1,200 a month. Eventually the total for her mother alone rose to $14,000 a month.

What kind of salary are you on?

SLH

Buy Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Courtney Crumrin vol 5: The Witch Next Door h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh.

“How did you know you could trust me with witchcraft?”
“I didn’t. And I was right, as I recall.”
“What if I used it against you?”
“Why would you do that?”
“I don’t know. But if I did…”
“Maybe I’m a fool, but I think every young witch should have the freedom to make mistakes. Good judgement comes from dealing with the consequences of bad judgement. Besides, there are ways to take magic away if need be…. Just be careful I never need to use them on you.”

Brrrr… That’s Uncle Aloysius to our young Courtney, and by the end of this penultimate volume of COURTNEY CRUMRIN things will have come to a head.

“Good judgement comes from dealing with the consequences of bad judgement.”

Courtney will have to exercise some seriously swift judgement here following some catastrophically bad judgement in teaching Holly Hart, the new girl in town, witchcraft. Oh, Courtney once made the same initial mistakes that Holly does with spells to make herself popular, but Courtney recognised those for the mistakes they were. The only thing Holly realises is that Courtney may rescind her privileges: Courtney has been a liability, a threat – one best dealt with swiftly.

Ingeniously Ted mirrors the whole of the first book in the second chapter here, right down to the Goblin market, and then in the third chapter you’re witness to Holly’s point of view. In the first chapter you’ll learn far more of the history of warlocks in Hillsborough than has previously been revealed, and in particular an early assault on Uncle Aloysius’ authority via his heart.

Naifeh really let’s rip with the actions and fireworks later on. I think we can safely say that Courtney has “levelled up”. There’s always been a steeliness in her eyes, but now she doesn’t even flinch. There’s also the reintroduction of many a familiar face most unexpectedly, so for maximum satisfaction I’d make sure you’ve read the previous instalments of COURTNEY CRUMRIN, reviewed quite extensively, first.

“How do you live with knowing what evil you’ve done? Knowing you’ll do more?”
“I feel like a jerk. But then I get on with my life, and try not to screw up so bad the next time. We’re not faeries, Templeton. We don’t have forever.”

No indeed. Now time is running out.

SLH

Buy Courtney Crumrin vol 5: The Witch Next Door h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Samurai Executioner Omnibus vol 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima.

More brutal, feudal Japan, from the world of LONE WOLF AND CUB (extensive review), this time focussing on its Decapitator Asaemon. His job entailed testing swords, looking stern, and chopping people’s heads off.

Most of the tales involve dilemmas for the executioner to sort out all Solomon-style based on codes of conduct slightly more obscure than which way one should pass the port, but in the end it’s usually resolved in a manner which makes “cut the baby in two” look positively restrained.

SLH

Buy Samurai Executioner Omnibus vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

United States Of Murder Inc #1 (£2-99, Icon) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming…

“In my day this ceremony went a little differently. It was done in a backroom. Away from the world. And you had to earn it with a lifetime of service. You had to be more than just blood.
“You had to prove your worth and loyalty.
“But your father, and his father before him… they were truly honourable men. In many ways they were the backbone of this organisation, this family…
“I would make an exception for you, Valentine, even if our ways had never changed. Take the knife.
“Who we are is who you are. Do you agree?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Show us.”
“You honour your father and your father’s father with this blood oath to the family.
“If you betray your family… your flesh will burn like this saint.
“And that’s that. Let’s eat!!”

Wise guys… surely up there on the all-time most contrary oxymorons list, in addition to the most wanted? There is a reason why the particular type of ceremony the padrino is referring to is no longer required to take place behind closed doors, and that is because in this world, the mob has managed to carve a legitimate territory out for itself being, I think, Baltimore, though it may well turn out to be elsewhere too.

 

The how and the why, those have yet not been revealed, but I am pretty sure it involved a combination of blackmail and briefcases stuffed full of money, aimed in the direction of suitably malleable politicos. Talking of blackmail and briefcases stuffed full of money, Valentine’s first mission as a made man is to take a present, and of course a message, to a politician in Washington. The message is received, the present is accepted, but [redacted].

So that’s going to give Valentine something to chew over.

Then, just when you think you’ve got a handle on what is going on, precisely where the knife has been stuck in, Bendis gives it an almighty twist. Oh yeah, I did not see that coming.

This title contains everything you would expect from Bendis, with the snappy patter and witty dialogue, and, as with POWERS / POWERS BUREAU, Oeming’s solid, angular, shadow heavy art compliments it perfectly. Great start to what has the potential to be a really top-notch crime comic, which lest we forget is the genre in which Bendis cut his teeth long before flossing with capes. I fully intend to keep to reading this one myself.

JR

Buy United States Of Murder Inc #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The True Lives Of Fabulous Killjoys s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Gerard Way, Shaun Simon & Becky Cloonan…

Hmm, the first non-UMBRELLA ACADEMY material from Gerard Curds n’ Way and I can’t decide if I think it is merely good, or great. In fairness, Gerard and I have previous form in this respect, because I felt exactly the same about the first volume of UMBRELLA ACADEMY, whereas when I read the second I loved it. And, upon re-reading the first volume, I did subsequently ‘get’ it and found it much more enjoyable. I guess therefore what I can say is THE TRUE LIVES OF THE FABULOUS KILLJOYS is to sci-fi what UMBRELLA ACADEMY is to superheroes. Rather bonkers, bordering on daft in places.

The KILLJOYS is also very pretty – huge kudos to Becky Cloonan on art duties – so what we end up with is a tasty piece of candy floss speculative fiction that has a few interesting-ish things it is trying to say. It succeeds, to an extent, simply because it is slickly done without dwelling on the deep and meaningful for too long before zapping onto the next scene. Overall it feels rather like an artfully directed expensive music video, actually, probably exactly what Way was going for consciously or otherwise. I did find some of the future-speak soundbite dialogue a touch grating, but on another day that might have just washed over me. Still, decent enough to guarantee a place on Top Of The Pops…

 

JR

Buy The True Lives Of Fabulous Killjoys s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hellboy In Hell vol 1: The Descent (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola…

“I promise you, you have nothing to fear in this place.”
“Because we’re invisible?”
“No.”
“Really? I thought for sure we’d be invisible.”
“No need… there’s no one here to see us.”
“You sure about that?”
“At the news of your coming, your death, and your descent into hell, they all went in a rush to hide themselves in their own far countries.”
“They?”
“All the Princes and ministers of Hell… all the Dukes, Marquis, Earls, and Knights… all fled, along with their legions of demons.”
“Not that I’m sorry to have missed them but why?”
“This way… the citadel of the fly, once the seat of… the beating heart of pandemonium… but no more. They are all gone now… save one.”
“You better not mean me, because I’ve been through all this crap before.”
“No. Not you. You’ve made your position very clear.”

Ah… easily the best HELLBOY arc I have read in the last few years. As ole Red’s saga eventually draws to a conclusion, it suddenly feels like it is right back on form. Even including the action-packed previous volume HELLBOY VOL 12: THE STORM AND THE FURY, whose cataclysmic events have resulted in Hellboy’s potentially one-way ticket home being issued, it felt like things were treading water slightly for the last three volumes or so. I have a sneaking suspicion regarding precisely why that may have been, all to do with the epic events ongoing over in BPRD: HELL ON EARTH, that perhaps Mignola was getting things… aligned… for the grand finale, as there is still rather a lot of story to be told in that particular title, but possibly not.

Anyway, this first part of the ‘Hellboy In Hell’ arc, storyline has many of the touches of truly classic HELLBOY material from over the years, with brooding mystery and arcane mythology expounded in elaborate detail, as Hellboy whips out the wisecracks all the while. Also, it’s nice to see Mignola on the art again. Whilst I have enjoyed everyone else’s work on this title over the years, especially Duncan Fegredo and excepting Richard Corben (purely a personal preference, I know many of you love his rubber faced antics), it is great to see Mignola returning to finish his labour of love off personally. Not so much a jumping on point then, as a long kiss goodbye…

JR

Buy Hellboy In Hell vol 1: The Descent and read the Page 45 review here

The Authority vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch.

“We are The Authority. Behave.”

THE AUTHORITY was one of the first superhero series I ever endorsed, back in 1999. It hit the tarmac running and punched you in the socio-political face.

With its clipped, military precision, it reset the standard once monopolised by WATCHMEN. It consciously or subconsciously inspired Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s four ULTIMATES books, and I’m here to tell you that it withstands the test of time. If you want testosterone, it will give you testosterone, but with a great deal more cranial activity to boot.

Guess who’s got the most of both? Jenny Sparks, pragmatic blonde Brit and the sharpest female lead in superhero comics. Naturally she doesn’t wear spandex, she wears an exquisitely tailored, loose cotton suit over a Union Jack t-shirt, but she has more attitude than her entire team together, even if she doesn’t once throw a physical punch.

That job goes to Jack Hawksmoor, at one with Earth’s cities, and boyfriends Apollo and The Midnighter who – contrary to the despicable gay cliché – are neither maladjusted nor lightweights. Neither in the closet nor in your face, no one gives a shit, thank fuck. “Get a room, you two,” is about as much signposting as you’re going to get under Ellis. Apollo smiles with a boyish optimism and he shines as bright as the sun. The Midnighter does not.

“I’ve already planned this fight in my head, a million times, from each and every angle. You think your Kaizen Gamorra’s pretty damn good, I know. But my talents were built in by Henry Bendix, the biggest bastard on Earth, and trained by five years living rough and fighting on the streets of America.
“I won this fight before you even turned up.”

So where does the cranial come in? For a start in the form of The Carrier. Fifty miles long, thirty-five miles high and powered by a caged baby universe, it tacks into The Bleed between alternate universes, “sailing the outer oceans of ideaspace during the spawning season, keeping pace with a school of Obsession Fish”.

Also the new recruits: The Engineer and the Doctor. I can’t tell you how they solve problems, it’ll spoil all the surprises, but the Doctor’s final solution for an alternate-Earth Italy was … imaginative.

Also it’s the quiet moments, most harmoniously explored in the third chapter of this complete Ellis and Hitch run, as when Angie The Engineer marvels at being in outer space with her view of the moon and laments man’s all too-brief encounter with our lunar sister or relishes her view of The Bleed.

All of which – the quiet wonder and sheer, visceral thrill of seeing spinal chords ripped from their fleshy housing – would be far less effective and affecting were it not for Bryan Hitch, the neo-classical artist behind ULTIMATES and the rejuvenated, resigned Doctor Who TV series a decade or so ago. Damn, that man can do scale!

Pity his poor final-inks artist Paul Neary each and every time Bryan Hitch sent him a city-scape or double-page spread of The Carrier so vast and detailed that any normal human being would have simply cried then gone back to bed. There is another double-page spread of a sadistic shoal of cloned, superhuman, black-clothed assassins speeding towards you out of a point of perspective which will fry your fevered brain. All lit, I might add, to sunrise perfection by colour artist Laura DePuy. There’s also plenty in the backgrounds to amuse if you look closely enough: the multiple pizza-deliveries discarded in Angie’s New York flat or the pantheon of prior shamen who called themselves The Doctor.

So. Under Jenny Sparks, The Authority intend to make the world a better place, whether we like it or not. They will not tolerate an extra-terrestrial invasion, a despotic Eastern assault or a trans-dimensional incursion by a Sliding Albion hell-bent on turning the entire planet into one giant rape-camp.

“Bad things happened when I run teams. And bad things happen when I don’t run teams. This is a hellish gamble for me, Apollo.
“But there had to be someone left to save the world.
“And someone left to change it.”

Jenny Sparks stopped aging at twenty but has protected this planet for nearly one hundred years, for she is the spirit of the 20th Century.

It is now 1999. I repeat, it is now 1999.

“Game on.”

SLH

Buy The Authority vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Twelve: The Complete Series s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by J. Michael Straczynski & Chris Weston.

Occasionally, just occasionally, you find a Marvel comic that transcends its trappings and truly surprises you. THE INHUMANS by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee was one of the first, as quiet and eloquent as Neil Gaiman with every panel an essay in chiaroscuro.

Twelve heroes lost to cryogenic suspension during World War II find themselves revived in the 21st Century and a world they find baffling.

It’s not just the technological marvels, it’s the way society has moved on in their wake. For most it is progress, but not for all. And sixty-odd years in suspended animation give you no free passes for past deeds. Not when we can now match DNA; not when some contracts are open-ended through their signatories’ immortality; not when you’ve alienated your now dying family with your shame about its true heritage. If the world has moved on then these individuals haven’t: they awaken with desires still aflame, words yet unspoken, and businesses far from finished.

Adapting to modern life proves hard for some and impossible for others, with consequences that are decidedly worrying. One superficial show-off makes an utter TV tosser of himself, one has his heart-broken by the realities of life for kids in some urban schools, whilst another sultry sexpot conjoins vamp and ire to redecorative effect on her late-night assignations outside of the lesbian goth circuit she is wont to frequent.

At the centre of it all is a modern mystery: a whodunnit, a whydunnit, as a gay bar in New York City is trashed, its pool-playing revellers torn apart, stamped on, stamped out. It’s not as obvious as you might think and its mechanics will keep you guessing until the moment the truth is exposed for all the world to see. Come back and read this review in hindsight, for I have chosen my words with care.

Straczynski has taken the old sort of superheroes created in innocence and transposed them, golden-age-tinted glasses and all, into the liberal/decadent/permissive (delete as appropriate to your world-view) 21st Century where they have as much to say about the there and then as the here and now.

“I was supposed to be… I was meant to be… the perfect man. The man of tomorrow. The man of the future. That’s what they always called me. The press. The public. Even my father. I was supposed to protect the world so it could become the perfect future, and once that happened, I would fit in. I would be home. But I don’t… I can’t understand this future. This world. It’s not what it was supposed to be. Clean. Pure. Perfect. There were supposed to be flying cars, and jet packs, and no more poverty, and buildings five miles high, and lunar colonies, and —

” — And instead it’s a place of even more despicable crime, more depraved behaviour, people crawling on the devoured rind of the earth. I stay in the air because I can’t stand the stink of it. I keep moving because that way I don’t have to think, is this the world we fought so hard to save? A world I don’t understand?”

That’s the so-called Dynamic Man for whom “depraved behaviour” includes mixed-race marriages. Everyone is beneath him, whether he’s flying or not.

Chris Weston’s depiction of this Aryan uber-man is harrowing: his snarling sneers and body-builder poses ripped from mid-1900s German magazines, as repellently grotesque as he is physically fit.

Indeed, Weston has done a stunning job of capturing both time periods. So many remarkable little details like Captain Wonder’s exposed, hairy legs making his antiquated costume even more dated. Best of all I relished Master Mind Excello’s sour, pursed-lipped profile. More than that, however, it’s comicbook storytelling at its finest on every single page: flawless choreography rich in detail and fierce in expression.

Weston’s one of those troopers like DAN DARE‘s Gary Erskine and indeed Bryan Talbot who marry British (and other) comics’ past and present to perfection. See Ellis & Weston’s MINISTRY OF SPACE once it’s back in print.

SLH

Buy The Twelve: The Complete Series s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Walking Dead #127: A New Beginning (£2-25, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard…

“I want you to know, I really do appreciate our little talks. It… really breaks up my days. Helps me… mark time. I think they’re good for you, too, having someone to talk to.”
“Sure. I’ll try and come back tomorrow.”
“Wait… before you go…”
“Yeah?”
“After all this time… all these talks… the things we’ve shared. Do you still want to kill me?”
“Yes… you know I do.”

I have deliberately left out whom is talking to whom there for the benefit of those who are not completely up to date, but what I will clarify is time. Two years have passed since the events of ALL OUT WAR, and much has changed. It would seem there has been little in the way of confrontation since then, indeed the communities Rick is now fully in charge of are prospering, despite the ever-present threat of zombies. Often the device of shifting forward in time is done when a writer is running low on ideas, but here it is used to great effect to instantly set up several interesting new potential plot threads, and allow the mass introduction of several new characters, plus radical new haircuts and facial topiary on existing ones…

I am sure there will be some retrospective references that will allow us to fill in the blanks about what happened in the aftermath of the war, but after wondering how on earth Kirkman was going to follow that epic arc, and wondering if it was all going to go a bit flat for a while, I’m now reassured it will be quite the contrary. Also, it does provide an excellent starting point for new readers in terms of the single issues. Alternatively, just start at the very beginning with WALKING DEAD VOL 1 or why not WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM VOL 1 if you’re feeling flush / want to have something really heavy to hand just in case the zombie apocalypse begins…

JR

Buy Walking Dead #127: A New Beginning and read the Page 45 review here

God Is Dead vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Jonathan Hickman, Mike Costa & Di Amorim.

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

– WB Yeats, The Second Coming

May 2015, and over the course of two or three days Greece, Norway, Egypt, the Yucatan and India are all visited by disasters so catastrophic they cannot possibly be natural. Two weeks later the Vatican in Rome, Italy, is visited by a man in sandals and a big white beard. He gazes scornfully up at the Sistine Chapel ceiling, at God bequeathing life unto Adam.

“I see. Ridiculous.”

It’s Zeus. The Gods have returned – and not just one pantheon: Odin, Thor, Loki; Horus, Anubis, Bast; Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochtli, Tezcatlipoca; Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma; Zeus, Ares, Aphrodite.

The world goes wild – mass hysteria on a global scale. Human sacrifices are reinstated, governments are toppled, voices of reason experience conversion and the President of the United States of America sits shaking and crying. Meanwhile, down in the sewers, an underground Collective of atheists has assembled, some of whom you may find familiar. As it is below, so it is above: a conclave of all five pantheons gathered in Valhalla with a map of the world spread out before them. I think we can consider this war.

Funnily, I thought I was reading another creator-owned Image comic. If you’ve picked up the regular cover (and why would you not, with its Jonathan Hickman trademark design?), you probably thought so too. When I discovered the Avatar adverts in the back it all made perfect sense.

The interior art is stiff on the figure and face front, but Zeus on the Vatican throne is reasonably impressive, as are the worldwide snapshots both early on and as Odin sends forth his obsidian messengers to various tombs and temples. The colours are best there too – subtle yet glossy.

Initially I thought, “There’s no padding here”. It’s immediate, direct and concise: a succession of gongs banging like Big Ben chimes, and I think you’ll find the American army’s reaction hilariously predictable.

“Cut the hardline, son – we’re going off the reservation. Time to show everyone why even God should fear the United States military. Now go over there and fish me out the launch codes.”

Eventuality I concluded it was simply a lack of consideration and depth.

SLH

Buy God Is Dead vol 1 s/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.

 

The Graphic Novel Man DVD: The Comics of Bryan Talbot (£15-99)

Ex Machina Book 2 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris, Chris Sprouse

The Boxer: The True Story Of Holocaust Survivor Harry Haft (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Reinhard Kleist

The Cigar That Fell In Love With A Pipe (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by David Camus & Nick Abadzis

Moomin And The Golden Tail (£6-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tove Jansson

Moomin’s Desert Island (£6-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tove Jansson

The Manhattan Projects vol 4 (£10-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra

Slaine vol 9: Lord Of The Beasts (£17-99, Rebellion) by Paul Mills, Debbie Gallagher & various

A.B.C. Warriors: The Mek Files vol 1 h/c (£25-00, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Dave Gibbons, Simon Bisley, Brendan McCarthy, Kevin O’Neill, others

Adventure Time: Seeing Red s/c (£7-99, Titan) by Kate Leth & Zachary Sterling

Batgirl vol 3: Death Of The Family s/c (£12-99, DC) by Gail Simone, Ray Fawkes & Daniel Sampere, Ed Benes

Batgirl vol 4: Wanted h/c (£18-99, DC) by Gail Simone & Daniel Sampere, Fernando Pasarin, Jonathan Glapion

Deadpool vol 4: Deadpool vs. Shield s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn & Scott Koblish, Mike Hawthorne

The Immortal Iron Fist: Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Duane Swierczynski, Jason Aaron, David Lapham, various & various

 

ITEM! We have announced the final details of the Page 45 20th Anniversary at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October including Scott McCloud and Glyn Dillon signings, 3 free themed Show & Tells, and The Art Of Selling Comics, my ticketed talk for the show which you will need to book in advance.

ITEM! We’vee kicked off our Page 45 2014 campaign for Young Adult graphic novels with a blog for our School Libraries Association Show & Tell in June. Every book listed is linked to its review! Literacy is important and kids’ comics are cool!

Looking at our stats, it’s already proved the most popular blog I’ve ever written. If you like it, I would be enormously grateful if you could spread the word to teachers, school librarians, families or the even the worldwide Twittersphere. I’m @pagefortyfive – thank you!

– Stephen

Page 45 Graphic Novels For Schools 2014 update

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Young adults, families, teachers and school librarians!

I am passionate about reading, obsessed with art and completely committed to comics.

Page 45 has been invited by the School Libraries Association in Staffordshire to bring 60 glorious graphic novels to its AGM in June to provide a new, up-to-date, interactive Show and Tell demonstrating the quality and diversity of contemporary comics for all ages.

Right now I am kicking off a campaign to get THIS ONE SUMMER by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki taught in schools as an officially set text. As I wrote in my review:

So many mistakes in childhood are made through lack of information, lack of empathy and in the realm of a deafening silence. Communication is all, and I can think of a dozen subjects raised by key moments here which would make for ideal classroom discussions.

Why are there still no graphic novels on the national curriculum? It’s bonkers!

The Books

Each title below has been linked to our site so you can read its review which is always honest. Over 25% of our sales come from personal recommendations built on trust, so I take our responsibilities very seriously. If a series of books appears, please click on any individual cover to read the review.

If you want specific recommendations for a specific Young Adult please ask for a shop-floor Show And Tell. If you’re not local, then you can use our Want A Recommendation facility online.

Action / Fantasy

Amulet
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Battling Boy
Beanworld
Bone
Coraline
Courtney Crumrin
Grandville
Hawkeye
Hilda
Mouse Guard
Porcelain
Robot Dreams
The Arrival
The Happy Prince
The Lost Boy
The Lost Thing
The Recruit
The Sleepwalkers
The Unsinkable Walker Bean
Zita The Spacegirl

Contemporary

Anya’s Ghost
Chiggers
Friends With Boys
Jane, The Fox & Me
This One Summer

Comedy

Bad Machinery
Fish Head Steve
Gum Girl
Life Sucks
Scott Pilgrim
St. Colin And The Dragon
The Suitcase
The Terrible Tales Of The Teenytinysaurs!

Educational

99 Ways To Tell A Story
Boxers & Saints boxed set
Ethel & Ernest
Evolution: The Story Of Life On Earth
Judenhass
Making Comics
Persepolis
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
Sally Heathcote, Suffragette
Science Tales
The Rabbits
Understanding Comics

Manga

A Distant Neighbourhood
Bleach
Dragonball
Legend Of Zelda
Naruto
Nausicaa Of The Valley Of Wind
One Piece
Pluto
Sunny
Vampire Knight
Yotsuba

Younger Readers

Glister
I Want My Hat Back
Magic Trixie
The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish
The Shark King h/c
This Is Not My Hat
Vern and Lettuce
Wolves In The Wall

The Strategy

The key to a successful manga and graphic novel section in any school library is three-fold: quality, diversity, contemporary. Unlike larger distributors, we know exactly which titles young adults are choosing to spend their own money on and there’s no more telling sign than that.

Young male literacy especially is down, but the good news is this: we’ve had a headmaster phoning us up mere days after a delivery and delightedly reporting his male pupils were fighting – fighting over the graphic novels! I’d call that a win. Well, he did.

The recognition factor should not be overlooked: if they already know about a title from animation, television, cinema, prose or – in the case of ZELDA – games, then that’s a lure which often proves irresistible.

It is just a launch pad, though, and the books I’ll bring with me will take both you and your pupils further.

Useful Information

Page 45’s dedicated Library page including discount levels, free delivery, invoicing, and how we can help you with our hands-on experience.
About Page 45.
Contacting Page 45.
Browsing Page 45’s website

But basically this: we’re here to help. Email, phone or pop in yourselves. Don’t feel you need to make appointments – our regular customers don’t, so why should you?

Proof Of The Pudding Post-Script

Confession: I was a reluctant reader. My Mum couldn’t get me to read at all until she bought comics. But they worked, I lapped them up voraciously and – many more moons ago than I care to confess – I grabbed myself a B.A. Hons in English Literature and the History Of Art.

They’ll work for your schools too.

Don’t misunderstand me: graphic novels have never been a poor man’s substitute for prose. This medium is magnificent, firing up adult imaginations all round the globe which is why I’m still here and loving it!

– Stephen

 

BOXERS & SAINTS

THIS ONE SUMMER

BATTLING BOY

SALLY HEATHCOTE, SUFFRAGETTE

Reviews May 2014 week two

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

I’d like to see this taught in schools. So many mistakes in childhood are made through lack of information, lack of empathy and in the realm of a deafening silence. Communication is all, and I can think of a dozen subjects raised by key moments here which would make for ideal classroom discussions.

 – Stephen on This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki

By Chance Or By Providence h/c (£14-99, Lounak Books) by Becky Cloonan.

Was there ever an artist so in love with an era? I think not.

The three stories are mesmerising in and of themselves but this strictly limited hardcover, printed to pre-order and not distributed through regular channels, also boasts the best selection of back-matter sketches and associated finished art I can recall: page after page of lush, sensual, sexually charged portraits of men and women at one with their natural environment.

There are trees, there are leaves, and aquatic fronds reflected in the reptilian skin of those hiding behind them. There are tresses! Now, “tresses” is a word that evokes not necessarily a singular style of hair but a particular period in which it was worn, bound for courtly consumption. As to the guys, you can almost smell the male musk and taste the built-up grease by the way the thick strands fall heavy and thick over their eyes which glare up through their parted curtains in anger or seduction.

 

No expense has been spare on the production values. Don’t you just love a dust jacket whose tentative removal reveals secret treasures?

There will be no restocks. There cannot be: Becky Cloonan has printed this to pre-order. It’s now or never. Reprints the three self-published A5 comics WOLVES and THE MIRE reviewed by myself and DEMETER reviewed by our Dominique, all available separately from Page 45 at this time of typing.

WOLVES

A haunting tale of blood and lust that gives up its secrets slowly.

There is a naked man gone feral in the forest. A skilled hunter, he can down birds with a single stone then feast on them raw. But he is cursed – cursed by his king, cursed by what he has done, and cursed by its memory which won’t go away.

It’s all in the eyes.

THE MIRE

“Please remember, this letter means the difference between life and death.”

On the eve of battle, Sir Owain dispatches his young squire on an urgent errand. He is to deliver to Castle Ironwood a letter which is sealed with wax and stamped with the knight’s Signet Ring. The squire protests, for he swore an oath to fight at his master’s side, but when Sir Owain insists that this is a most noble and vital task, the squire promises to be back before the fighting is done.

However, the swiftest route is via the Withering Swamp, a stagnant mire rumoured to be haunted. What will our squire encounter during this treacherous endeavour?

“We all have ghosts that haunt us.”

This is Cloonan at her finest, crafting a tale so clever that you will want to re-read the second you are done, for hindsight is a funny old thing. It’s also beautifully written: I love how Cloonan maintains the metaphor between these two sentences:

“The trees stood guard like a row of immovable sentinels. Any light that managed to break their lines felt old and mouldy.”

She’s also employed a neat little trick which David Mazzucchelli utilised in CITY OF GLASS whereby speech bubbles drifting directly out of the mouth imply that the words aren’t spoken – no lips are moving – so emanate from somewhere much deeper and darker and colder within.

“So I kept moving. You should keep moving too.”

DEMETER

We have three self-published beauties by Becky Cloonan in at the moment: WOLVES, THE MIRE and her newest one, DEMETER. I say beauties because they really are – rich, striking covers on the outside and inside Cloonan’s sharp, dynamic art, toned with grey and very easy on the eye. Like the previous two comics DEMETER is a short story which seems at first to be simple but which you know from the outset will have a twist. It’s not so much the surprise of the twist which grabs you, it’s the inevitability. As with a fable you know the lesson is coming and dues must be paid; the hook lies in watching the protagonist as the moment approaches. Will they go peacefully or will they refuse to accept what has come calling for them? Are they the victim or did they bring this on themselves? And if so, can their weakness be forgiven; is their eventual sacrifice enough to settle the bill?

In proper Gothic Fiction tradition Cloonan’s setting here is Olde Worlde; a beautiful, pregnant young woman tends house by the sea while she waits for her husband’s boat to return. What should be simple and charming is overlaid from the outset with a tinge of dread; even in her husband’s arms our lady seems tense, watchful, on the edge of panic. She is asking him to recall the time they first met but he can’t seem to remember. He’s lost some of his memories, it’s like there’s a boundary in his mind beyond which he can’t move, some trauma that has disconnected him from his past. Is something about to come home to roost?

I love these comics from Becky Cloonan, I hope she always finds time amongst all her other work to turn them out because they are just so gorgeous and satisfying! Her art is clean and line-perfect, her stories punchy and paced just right. Really handsome slices of comicbook goodness.

SLH & DK

Buy By Chance Or By Providence h/c and read the Page 45 review here

This One Summer (£12-99, First Second) by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki.

Bathed in bilberry blues so beautiful that you could swim in them all summer, this is exquisitely drawn!

Rose is lithe and light, standing up straight, at the crossroads between girl and young adult. Her friend-since-five Windy is still enjoying a little puppy fat but has even more energy, dancing out beats across her living room floor – you could say she likes to parade. Windy subconsciously makes as much body contact as possible, although she is never clingy. Rose’s mum shares her shape but you can tell that she’s a little worn down: she’s wan, removing her glasses and rubbing her eyes. Windy’s mum looks nothing like her – it’s no secret that Windy’s adopted.

From the creators of SKIM, this is another of those heartfelt graphic novels perfect for Young Adults which will be relished and revered by those of us for whom family holidays are but a distant memory or seen from the other side of that vital generation gap. I’m reminded very much of LOST GIRL by Nabiel Kanan who illustrated our website, though this is much gentler for Rose is a little younger. It is not, however, without its tensions.

Awago is a remote coastal village so tiny it has only one store. Its beach isn’t what you’d call crowded. Rose’s outgoing dad drives them to Awago every year, waving embarrassingly to its youth as they arrive, while Windy’s stooped grandmother hires a similar cottage for the three of them just down the road. It’s perfect to have a playmate for summer.

 

The store is manned by a local lad around eighteen-years old. He’s lanky, quite kindly (he called our Rose “blondie” and she liked it!) but distracted by his friends who have a tendency to hang out there too. Sarah’s his girlfriend, it seems. One’s a bit boisterous and crude. He called his girlfriend a slut as a joke.

“Oh my god those girls are sooo loud. I bet you they were drunk. They’re, like, drunks. They’re all like, WHOOAA!”

… says Windy, acting out a big doolally wobble in front of Rose.

“And like, EEEEEEE! Noo!”
“They love screaming.”
“They’re sluts!”
“ROSE!”

It’s at this point that their mums arrive back at the cottage and Rose is instantly mortified and ashamed to have been overheard regurgitating that word. But that’s what you do when you’re young and impressionable, and an age group you don’t yet understand acts up like that. It’s a perfect piece of writing.

“Who’s a slut?”
“No one!”
“Bit strange calling someone you don’t even know a slut,” says Windy’s mum, eyebrows raised.
“Oh, well, these guys who knew these girls were calling them sluts,” says Windy, tentatively, before reaching out to hug her mum for reconciliation.
“Well, how is that okay?”

Brilliant.

It’s a process Rose mimics on their way back home, clinging on to her Mum’s elbow but she’s rebuffed.

“Rose! Don’t hang!”

Yes, there’s definitely something raw bothering Rose’s mum. Her dad can’t seem to shift it.

That sequence is indicative not only of the quality of creativity shared by the Tamaki sisters who function fully as one, but also of the areas being explored: comprehension, communication, bodies and behaviour. More than once it feels a little dangerous. Also, our friends aren’t immune to falling out. Windy has a habit of teasing her friend then attempting to negate it: “Just kidding!”

It doesn’t negate it; it simply abandons responsibility for it. Conversely Rose, a little older, manages to embarrass Windy for “krunking” without inhibitions by laughing. Their friendship is resilient, though. They’re quick to move on.

There are some glorious woodland and subaquatic landscapes as the girls explore a slightly seedy abandoned camp site – by which I mean a nocturnal fire and local drinking spot – and revel in their play. This is a book you can certainly judge by its cover.

What it won’t prepare you for is the central tension between Rose’s parents which threatens what was evidently a hitherto idyllic annual experience. It’s quite specific and will be reflected in what happens around them this year.

I’d like to see this taught in schools. So many mistakes in childhood are made through lack of information, lack of empathy and in the realm of a deafening silence. Communication is all, and I can think of a dozen subjects raised by key moments here which would make for ideal classroom discussions.

Let me be clear: I would like to see this graphic novel used as an officially set text. How even is it that no graphic novel has been used in a national curriculum to this date? All education should be entertainment and this graphic novel will have young adults absorbed, meaning that they will engage more thoroughly with the subjects at hand but also with the key literary and visual skills used to furnish us with a graphic novel that should win every award under the sun.

SLH

Buy This One Summer and read the Page 45 review here

Breaks Prologue (Signed & Sketched) (£3-99, self-published) by Malin Ryden & Emma Vieceli.

“My name is Ian Tanner. And in a year and a half’s time I will kill a man.”

Ooh, another A5 beauty, signed and sketched by Emma Vieceli in silver ink on the back of its cardstock cover. The paper throughout is light olive with darker tones while the front cover’s characters are enhanced with spot-varnish and subtle stripes of red.

There’s another warning flash of red inside but I don’t think it’s going to stop anyone, least of all hot-headed Cortland who has evidently thrown himself into trouble at least once before and supposed to be keeping his head down. Have a précis:

“Everyone wears a mask. And, in Cortland Hunt’s case, what he’s hiding may be more than Ian Tanner is prepared for. BREAKS is the story of two young adults coming to terms with who they were, who they are, and who they’ll become. It’s a love story… but a little broken.”

Yes, killing a man is going to do that. But, as Ian says, “We’re getting ahead of ourselves”.

The prologue takes place two months before the prediction/pronouncement at one of those not-at-all-awkward affairs, a school dance or ‘disco’. Everyone’s in their overpriced finest except Cortland: he’s in his older brother’s overpriced finest and hates it, even though he’s the dapperest dude of the lot. (New word: dapperest.)

I cannot believe I am eight admittedly short paragraphs in to an Emma Vieceli review without mentioning the hair, but Courtland definitely has the best hair there. It is tousled! Tousled to perfection, with sweeping strands hanging just-so over the fiery eyes set to explode any second.

Vieceli is all about the eyes and the hair as the cover to DRAGON HEIR makes clear (see also: YOUNG AVENGERS VOL 3, AVALON CHRONICLES VOL 1 and VOL 2 and VAMPIRE ACADEMY – three books so far) but here she excels herself with the finest of lines further softened by artfully placed tones, not one of which overpowers any given page.

Everything is in harmony; unlike the cast I’d call combatants. Oh, that’s what a school dance is like: one big territorial stand-off usually fought with verbal sabres, a whole armoury of which is supplied by co-author Malin Ryden better known for her Swedish same-sex and horror prose. This is one great big bitch-fest whose simmering tensions may erupt into all-out war.

The protagonists have history but if you want to discover their future you will need to do that online. This is a one-off collectors’ edition you will never see again.

SLH

Buy Breaks Prologue and read the Page 45 review here

Return Of Zita The Spacegirl (£8-99, First Second) by Ben Hatke.

“Eye-spy with my little socket something… brownish-grey.”
“Is it the walls?”
“I hate you.”

Oh no! Zita The Spacegirl has been put on trial for crimes she never committed! Err… yeah, she did. But she saved the planet Lumponia in the process!

Artfully rechristened Zita The Crime Girl by the judge who’s the jury and prosecutor, our impetuous young lady has been sentenced to six gazillion games of I Spy in a featureless dungeon shared with a sentient piece of mouldy old blanket called Ragpile and his cynical cell-mate, Femur. Femur is a walking talking skeleton, only without the walking bit. He’s propped up in the corner unable to move.

Fortunately while Femur’s clackety skull does all the talking his fingers can do the walking if Zita snaps one off. Now that’s what I call a skeleton key! Femur and Ragpile are a joy and there is a moment of sheer brilliance I never saw coming which is all Jack Spratt and his platter.

ZITA THE SPACEGIRL and LEGENDS OF ZITA THE SPACEGIRL have been the most enormous all-ages hits here, and this blistering finale sees the return of all of your favourites: Pizzicato, One, Piper, Madrigal, Strong Strong and oh my days are you in for a shocker!

Anything and everything can be alive – just look for the eyes! – and if you’ve never seen a cape chomping down on gloop in a pet food bowl, now is your chance! With so many visual gags, the cartooning is a fight-for-your-life joy. Think Mark Crilley with dashes of M’Oak.

Moreover, the stakes are raised now because the planet in peril this time is —

“So… why we gotta guard dis rat again?”
“Because you are hired thugs. It is your lot.”
“See, you say “hired” but I don’t remember gettin’ paid.”
“Your people have been promised one of Earth’s continents.”
“Sigh… I just want a sammich.”

SLH

Buy Return Of Zita The Spacegirl and read the Page 45 review here

Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 6 s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Alan Moore with Stephen Bissette, Rick Veitch & Rick Veitch, Stephen Bissette, John Totleben.

“Shurlo the flesh-artist glides through an adoring forest of her admirers, halfheartedly answering questions, acknowledging compliments. A stout conifer wearing an expensive feather face asks her to explain an arrangement of dyed meats.

“Shurlo tells her that it represents social interaction and the conifer seems satisfied. Merciful O, how they bore her. She wonders if this is the price exacted for critical acclaim: to be always surrounded by this fatuous, well-meaning thicket, crowded until she feels rootbound?”

In which Alan Moore shifts his emphasis from horror to science fiction, and it proves the perfect platform for him to explore fresh perspectives and themes like forced separation and reproduction. The lateral thinking employed combined with Moore’s passionate love of language is little short of staggering.

Ripped from Earth in SWAMP THING VOL 5, the Swamp Thing is presumed dead and Abby is mourning. In truth a shift in his bio-electrical pattern has left the Plant Elemental incompatible with our planet, so his essence is shot into space where it seeks alternative corporeal forms using whatever plant material he can find.

Following a nuclear disaster, the planet and people of Rann are suffering from increasing world-wide sterility. It is becoming a dessert. There the Swamp Thing assumes the form of a bi-pedal brown cactus and discovers a rucksack made in Seattle. It is a cruel, false note of hope because it belongs to one Adam Strange, another human separated from his home planet but willingly so, racing desperately towards each new site of a Zeta Beam incursion on Earth which will carry him back to Rann and his beloved wife Alanna. He knows each event is temporary: that the effect will wear off and he will simply melt away, potentially in his lover’s arms.

I particularly loved what looks like a fantastical domestic fountain whose jets dance into what would be physically impossible shapes if it were indeed a fountain. It transpires that it’s actually a highly empathic, metamorphic liquid animal and a most effective guard dog.

The Swamp Thing too is a metamorph and you can expect some manifestations to be altogether more alien, especially when John Totleben returns for one issue as artist having – I can only assume – enjoyed a great deal of recreational self-medication. It is a phenomenal, multimedia sequence which Moore matches with a linguistic tour de force when the Swamp Thing’s bio-electrical field encounters a complex, conscious cybernetic structure which has endured an eternity of loneliness while lying in wait for a mate: something to fuse and reproduce with. If the words “lying in wait” don’t worry you, they should. “Forced reproduction” is rape.

The most satisfying of all chapters is the one I opened with, ‘All Flesh Is Grass’. When the Swamp Thing learns of a planet whose dominant species are all sentient flora – very much like himself – he is understandably drawn to it as a haven and its people as possible aids to his incompatibility. Unfortunately he hasn’t thought it through; Alan Moore has, and the results are horrific.

There’s one page there in which Veitch combines Will Eisner’s playful page construction with Neal Adams’ trademark story-within-a-headshot. Indeed there are no slackers in the art department. Totleben returns to cover duties for Moore’s farewell issue with a silhouette-at-sunset whose colours are far from obvious except in retrospect.

Moreover, Tom Yeates returns for the framing interior sequence while the great Stephen Bissette whose name is synonymous with SWAMP THING provides its heart in every sense you can conceive of. The word “organic” may not have been invented for Bissette but it was left lying in wait for when the artist agreed we would all be bloody lucky if he decided to draw roots, fruits, vines and alligators and, here, another exquisite union of flesh and mind.

Bissette also contributes one of the chapter’s scripts and if you thought horror had been abandoned altogether, Bissette brings it back to the fore. Not just in the Hell scenes featuring Anton Arcane, but the very real horror of those nursing homes in which our elderly are vulnerable to their carers’ unchallenged abuse.

Oh, and if you think the injustices of SWAMP THING VOL 5 have yet to be addressed, some gits in Gotham are in for a very rude awakening. You reap what you sow? You are what you eat.

Intrigued? Start at the beginning with Jonathan’s all-encompassing overview of the series when he reviewed SWAMP THING VOL 1.

SLH

Buy Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 6 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Eltingville Club #1 of 2 (£2-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin.

“Holy shit. I made it. I have died on gone to Heaven.”

Welcome to Comic Shop Hell.

With the rise to internet prominence of the over-obsessed with their over-entitlement, the whining, in-fighting pack of brats called The Eltingville Comicbook Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Horror And Role-Playing Club last seen in HOUSE OF FUN is horrifically more relevant than ever.

Worse still, one of them gets a job at a comic shop. That specific sort of comic shop. You’ve heard about it, you’ve maybe endured it, and all its malpractices are spurted out by its owner to his new employee as retailer wisdom and foresight.

*shudders*

It is absolutely horrific, delivered with no punch-pulling by the creator of MILK & CHEESE.

Kicking the doors straight in with a virtuoso parody of Jack Kirby’s classic rainy-night splash-page, “THIS MAN… THIS MONSTER” (see MARVEL MASTERWORKS: FANTASTIC FOUR VOL 6), Dorkin delivers “THIS FAN… THIS MONSTER” and it will make your skin crawl. Every exchange between the monomaniacal misanthropist and his acolyte comes with a cringe-inducing superhero reference: they cannot communicate without these nerd-boasts.

And when the rest of the club descends… well, with great power comes *shoots himself*

This was originally conceived of as a one-shot, but there will be an ELTINGVILLE CLUB #2 sequel. You poor, poor bastards.

SLH

Buy The Eltingville Club #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Alice In Comicland h/c (£22-50, IDW) by Walt Kelly, Charles Schultz, Alex Toth, Harvey Kurtzman, many more.

“One afternoon, just after the king had finished his breakfast of fresh speeches and cream, he heard a long 48-inch knock, loudly banging on the castle door, in a very soft voice.”

Of all the examples here, that unpublished page from one of the several iterations of George Carlson’s ALEC IN FUMBLELAND comes the closest to Lewis Carroll in spirit and wit without borrowing once from his cast. The version which does borrow from its cast, printed in 1946 is much its inferior, and so it generally goes.

However, Jack Davis proved he could do a mean Sir John Tenniel in 1954, fusing Tenniel’s original drawings with his own over Harvey Kurtzman’s digressions to form grin-inducing parodies of both Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass in which Newton’s cause and effect reasserts its reins on Carroll’s warped physics to hilarious effect (MAD #18).

There’s also a cracking example of Charles Schultz’s genius from 1977 in which all that’s left of Snoopy is a faltering grin. Here’s Lucy!

“What’s going on here?”
“We’re having a little “re-entry” problem! Snoopy was showing off his “Cheshire Beagle” trick, and now he can’t back…”

Lucy’s solution is the same as mine: if things aren’t working properly, give them a smack. Works on employees too!*

You may be startled to learn that of the many examples of comics co-opting Carroll here, Jerry Siegel and Sam Citron’s take in SUPERMAN #41 back in 1946 was far from obvious. In it a poor country gal called Alice inherits a million dollars and arrives in Metropolis to declare it “a wonderland”. Naturally Lois and Clarke are there to greet her, grab the quote and splash it all over the Daily Planet’s front page, treating Alice like a Lottery Ticket winner.

“I’ll show you all the sights and keep away any wolves after your million dollars! In return, you allow me to write the exclusive story of your stay here!”

Lois Lane, arch-negotiator! Sure enough the headline reads, “Beginning Tomorrow: The Adventures Of a Modern Alice In Wonderland.” Yes, the stage is set – but for what? It’s both far, far clever and infinitely more stupid than you can imagine.

Unless I missed it, Bryan Talbot’s magnificent and extensive ALICE IN SUNDERLAND isn’t mentioned once, although you will find a 3-page biography attributed to Charles M Quinn from 1946 perpetuating the propaganda which Talbot exposed there.

Some of this stuff is twee beyond my ability to communicate, but Dan DeCarlo’s ARCHIE riff isn’t one of those nor are the two examples by Walt Kelly: an unpublished piece straightforwardly adapting a Humpty Dumpty sequence with panache (again, previously unpublished) and a “sterling performints” of Jabberwocky from POGO POSSUM #10 in 1952.

Of all comicbook creators it is Walt Kelly whom the President of The Lewis Carroll Society of North America considers most in synch with Lewis Carroll, describing POGO thus:

“Behold a work of art, written and illustrated by the same person, a product of acknowledged genius aimed somewhere between the child and the child within, an Aesopian fairy tale set in a magical realm where a youth wanders amidst animals that can talk. Here the illustrations and the text are intentionally and inextricably intertwined; simple enough for a child to read, yet capable of great profundities and subversive paradigms; innocent and fragile-looking, but canny, deep, and enormously popular. Mixing images and dialogue with flights of fancy, verse and commentary on the foibles of the human condition, rejoicing in the multilayered meanings of words, and delighting the eye with sumptuous illustrations that replace or greatly enhance the narrative and descriptions of the text, the medium itself is often looked down upon by the soi-distant intelligensia, yet is guaranteed to outlast their effete ramblings by many millennia.”

The comparison is compelling.

Die-cut cover.

* IT REALLY DOESN’T!

SLH

Buy Alice In Comicland h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Original Sin #1 of 8 (£3-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Mike Deodato.

From the writer of SCALPED.

For eons The Watcher has overseen Earth’s most seismic schisms.

His presence is a prescience born of pure instinct.

Whenever a crossroads has manifested itself requiring soul-searching and due diligence rather than desperate, knee-jerk reactions, Uatu has appeared. He is there not to counsel but to observe, for Uatu is forbidden to interfere. But his very materialisation has proved a welcome warning for all to think very carefully before the wrong road is taken in haste.

Can you imagine what The Watcher has seen, what his eyes have beheld? Such knowledge would be a most coveted prize.

But how do you ambush a being who sees what will be? Well. Ambushing a being like Uatu would be seismic schism in itself. He would surely, ineluctably, be drawn there.

Not sure that’s what happened but that would be my merry Marvel No-Prize entry in case it needs be explained!

Instead what is concentrated on is the firepower needed to take the bald boy down for that is what’s happened: The Watcher is dead, shot point-blank in the head. Few know Uatu exists; fewer still have the wherewithal and weaponry to execute him. Most of them are on the side of the angels so if stones are upturned will it be a superhero seen scrambling from underneath?

Nick Fury is recalled from self-sequestration.

Some unlikely allegiances are formed amongst the superhero community (exemplary clue: Dr Strange and the Punisher?!).

And Mike Deodato is rendering it all in his exceptional, neo-classical demi-darkness.

SLH

Buy Original Sin #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Iron Man: Fatal Frontier h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Al Ewing & Lan Medina, Neil Edwards, others.

Dude, don’t date your biographer!

“Shooting star! Want to make a wish?”
“Magical thinking. I don’t believe in it.”
“Aw, c’mon, Tony. I swear this isn’t going in the book.”
“Okay, okay. I wish…”
<TONY?>
“… That my A.I. wouldn’t choose the most inappropriate moments to bother me.”
“And this would be the A.I. you based on your ex-girlfriend?”
“My “It’s complicated”, yes –“
“Yeah. That is going in the book.”

An original graphic novel in that it was never serialised as a printed periodical, this material was originally commissioned for another of Marvel’s fancy-dancy online experiments restructured here for the printed page. I don’t know what it originally looked like but it proves problematic. It’s an inch or two taller than the average Marvel book but even so the layouts seem cluttered – arduous to endure. In truth it’s all a bit of a slog, sorry.

The sequence which did make me grin was the heist. Indeed what makes me grin most about Gillen’s current run on IRON MAN is its battle of wits. Oh, Stark has technology coming out of his wazzoo, but it’s all been about how and when he’s employed or even ditched it. His Dad proved no slacker, either, with a great big heist and a bluff.

The heist here is peeled back then played back layer by intersected layer: layers you weren’t expecting to exist even though Stark gives you ample warning, the suave and smug little toe rag:

“Heist movies are twisty, turny things. That’s why I love them. They’re brain food. At least the good ones are. Little mysteries. Howdunnits.
“See, you’re watching the heist play out… and all the time there are things happening in the background you don’t know about. Little things that come together at the end. That mean everything played out differently from how you thought it did.
“And, sure. Maybe you get a clue or two to start you off. But all the time, the only thin you know for sure… is that you’re being lied to.”

The wittiest example of what Gillen describes there is THIEF OF THIEVES but this will have you shaking your head at the subterfuge too.

In the early 1970s a Russian scientist siphoned off military funds to construct Uradnik, a robot with early emotional programming and two faces for two modes or personalities: soldier (hammer) and sickle (worker). He sent it to the moon to prove to Brezhnev that the space race would never be over, and Uradnik waited there for the Americans’ return.

“That day was December 14th, 1972. The Americans never returned. Nobody ever returned.”

So Uradnik has worked out a way guaranteed to lure everyone back. In the guise of an attack to gain the globe’s attention it has in fact let it know that on and beneath the lunar surface lies a new moon-mercury capable of solving Earth’s energy problems. The ruse works: a new gold rush ensues. Stark is made sheriff of this new frontier with Uradnik his deputy. But the problem with any sort of mercury is that it’s poisonous. This one causes monumental egomania.

Only Tony knows that. So what is he going to do about it?

“Tony knows best.”

Tip of the hat to Marcos Marz, for this also includes IRON MAN ANNUAL #1 (the most recent one, anyway) with related short stories and Pepper Potts’ romance with and subsequent engagement to Marc. The inset framing devices below the top tiers are beautiful and by the time they reach Scotland at night you are looking at something nothing short of early Charles Vess.

Includes a digital coupon so that you can read this material in its original form.

SLH

Buy Iron Man: Fatal Frontier 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.

 

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? h/c (£20-99, Bloomsbury) by Roz Chast

Courtney Crumrin vol 5: The Witch Next Door h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

God Is Dead vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Jonathan Hickman, Mike Costa & Di Amorim

Hellboy In Hell vol 1: The Descent (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola

Operation Paperclip (£7-99, ) by Patrick Goddard

Samurai Executioner Omnibus vol 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima

Polina h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Bastien Vives

Aquaman vol 3: The Throne Of Atlantis s/c (£12-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, various

The Authority vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch

Iron Man vol 4: Iron Metropolitan h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Joe Bennett

The Twelve: The Complete Series s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by J. Michael Straczynski & Chris Weston

Blade Of The Immortal vol 29: Beyond Good & Evil (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroaki Samura

Crimson Spell vol 3 (£8-99, Sublime) by Ayano Yamane

Deadman Wonderland vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

Fairy Tail vol 38 (£7-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

Monster Soul vol 1 (£7-99, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima

The Seven Deadly Sins vol 2 (£7-99, Kodansha) by Nakaba Suzuki

 

ITEM! Ingenious and spot-on! Gerard Way’s short comic on Twitter abuse.

ITEM! The Jonathan Cape comic prize 2014 is up and running! Go on, enter! Creativity is cool! Previous winners include Isabel Greenberg with a version of the first few pages of my favourite graphic novel on 2013, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH.

ITEM! IDP: 2043 is the new comic project for Mary Talbot & Kate Charlesworth, two of the creators of SALLY HEATHCOTE, SUFFRAGETTE, and it could not be more different!

ITEM! New Luke Pearson interview. Watch the man kiggle on camera! Kiggle: to fidget, leg-wise. I am awful at it. Now read Luke’s HILDA graphic novels to understand why we adore him!

ITEM! How To Tell If You’re Reading A Gothic Novel infograph. It did make me laugh!

Someone should do the same for superhero comics:
“Joyful summer picnics in the park: few.”
“Joyful summer picnics in the park that don’t end in the death of the protagonist’s family: none.”

– Stephen

Reviews May 2014 week one

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

“Someday I’m going to rent a big truck and ram it into every driver on the phone.”

 – Jet in Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising #25

I don’t eat children. I just think it’s wrong.

 – Stephen in the Nottingham Post Food & Drink interview at the bottom

Pretty Deadly vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Emma Rios.

“Her father was violence and her mother was grief and she was meant to live and know love…”

Oh, the cadence of this comic is perfect!

I can hear every sentence spoken, and ‘The Song Of Deathface Ginny, And How She Come To Be’ has all the quick, slick beats of one of those baritone western drawls, and is so well worded it could almost be a Nick Cave gallop like The Ballad Of Betty Coltrane.

‘The Song Of Deathface Ginny, And How She Came To Be’ is told by an odd-eyed girl in the vulture cloak whom her companion blind Fox calls Sissy. Professional, travelling storytellers, they stand before the townsfolk on a gallows’ platform, Fox hoisting an illustrative cloth banner above the crowd on a cross.

 

“It all began when the Mason man took beauty for his bride
He quick turned a fool and made her a jewel
In the crown of his glittering pride

“He’d loved that gal since they were kids, a beauty for more than her skin
But he crushed that joy, when he made her a toy
To tease before covetous men.

“Overcome with the fear that he’d lose her, he built her a prison of stone.
She said, “I’ll die for despair if you put me in there!”
… If only he’d listened, if only he’d known.”

It reveals how the bride begged for Death to come and take her only for Death to be smitten as well. Deathface Ginny was their child, raised to be a Reaper of Vengeance, a hunter of men who have sinned.

“If you done been wronged, say her name, sing this song,
Ginny rides for you on the wind, my child…
Death rides on the wind.”

There is many a truth behind legend and lore, and you can expect that song to be sung. What rides in on that wind will blow holes in closely kept secrets, for there is far more to Fox and to Sissy than one of them knows.

Bargains have been made and bargains have been broken; the truth has yet to be extracted and vengeance to be exacted. And if you think I’m being elusive (allusive?) you ain’t read nothing yet.

As you may have guessed this is far from a straight-forward Western. It’s full of the same careful wordplay you’ll find in 100 BULLETS with protagonists sizing each other up, taking each other’s measure before potentially taking a life. But in other ways it’s closer to SANDMAN, though in which ways (and which volume precisely), I will not say.

PRETTY DEADLY is infused with all the fog-shrouded, haunting power of ghost-ship legends. Pirate Jenny springs to mind.

Moreover Emma Rios – along with colour artist Jordie Bellaire – has knocked this out of the park. Both scream Paul Pope as loud as the battered crows caw and, oh, those black feathers! Some of the page structures are complex and clever, with inlaid panels revealing some secrets only with a careful scrutiny while the surrounding narrative thunders on. Other scenes seem to dissolve into each other, but such is the nature of dreams.

There will be swarms of butterflies, rivers of squirming maggots and strange allegiances struck. I can promise you clashes of swords, hails of bullets and quick-fire choreography. I can also promise you answers. They won’t come immediately, you will have to be patient, but everything’s here for a reason.

I can also promise you truths.

“Poke at a bison often enough, you gonna get gored.”

SLH

Buy Pretty Deadly vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Love Bunglers h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Jaime Hernandez.

Poor, poor, wonderful Maggie…

“You should know by now that if you’ve spent one fleeting moment with her, it can last with you forever.”

I think Maggie may be the most thoroughly realised character in comics. So much has happened to her over the years, yet Jaime appears to have no trouble in unearthing more history still while moving her gracefully endured, arduous journey forward.

Moreover she remains a very beautiful woman in what I imagine to be her mid-to-late forties. It’s a soft, vulnerable and everyday beauty. Her hair is more conservative now, and there is a slight bulge under the chin, but she carries it off far more effortlessly than she imagines she does. I love her comfortable party shirt which Hernandez cheques without any account as to its folds, just like Mark used to.

She has no shortage of suitors – here Reno and Ray – but it never quite works out for her. Indeed she is oblivious to Reno’s repeated references to his very first kiss which came from Maggie and which has stayed blazed into his brain forever.

The opening dream sequence is a perfect piece of psychology. In it Maggie finds herself lying face up and naked on a waxy leaf as broad as her outstretched boy, exposed to the sun thousands of feet above an endless ocean. Initially her expression is blissful until she becomes conscious of her precarious situation and vertigo kicks in. She tries to hug the leaf with her back, too fearful at first to risk a fall by finding the better purchase which being on her front would afford her. Gradually she gains enough courage to ease herself onto her stomach and that’s all she can manage for a while.

“Then I figure I must have had the courage to get myself up there, so I should be able to get down. Slowly, I move my way backwards to the stem. At least on the stem I feel like I have something to hold onto.”

She wraps her legs as well as her arms round the stem.

“The stem feels spongy, yet sturdy so I start to feel more confident as I inch my way down. Even if it takes a lifetime to reach bottom, at least I won’t fall to my death.”

Of course, the further she slides down, the broader the stem, until its radius is wider than her outstretched arms…

So, The Love Bunglers itself takes place in the present with Maggie making a play to get back into the mechanics business and Ray wondering if he wants to get back into the Maggie business while Reno watches protectively over her. Unsettlingly there is also a stranger whose interest in Maggie borders on stalking.

Within the main body, however, lie two gut-punching flashbacks to a period in Maggie’s childhood when her difficult mother moved the family from Hoppers to Cadezza be nearer to Maggie’s father whom they were only seeing one weekend a fortnight. Cadezza is where her Dad works. Maggie imparts her gloom at his upheaval by letter to Letty, the friend she left back in Hoppers.

We don’t actually see Letty, though we will in the second flashback seen from Letty’s point of view entitled ‘Return For Me’ when Maggie has indeed returned to Hoppers, becomes a mechanics prodigy, and Letty is trying to rekindle their friendship – an effort frustrated by Maggie’s mother. It ends with an unfinished sentence and one of the most arresting final panels in comics which rendered me speechless for hours.

This is as nothing however, to what happened in Cadezza; specifically events which Maggie remains ignorant of even to this day. When reviewing that sequence which originally appeared in LOVE AND ROCKETS: NEW STORIES #3 our Tom very wisely eschewed giving you any details at all.

“Suffice to say, “ he wrote, “that once you have got to the end, you’ll go back looking for – and finding – the subtle connections Jaime weaves into the panels. It’s in the body language of the characters, and in their facial expressions… You just need to look at how he has his characters interacting, how he subtly directs the reader’s eye using the direction the characters are looking in.”

Also, I would suggest, what one is wearing and how he is wearing it.

“Any aspiring comic creator would do well just to study his panel composition [and] how he foreshadows events without hitting the reader over the head with it. There’s a great example with Maggie’s little brother Calvin watching a marching band with the baton-twirling leader, then a full seven pages later playing on his own at being the baton-twirler before a fairly significant event happens; and the baton still has a leading role to play.”

Wow. I spot a scrying pool of prescience and at least two major understatements there.

I leave you with the assurance that this is as good an introduction to LOVE AND ROCKETS as anything else because you must be hearing of Los Bros Hernandez every five seconds or you’re not keeping the right comicbook company. Considering a body of work this vast daunting is entirely understandable. Entirely! But this is as accessible and completely self-contained as, say, Gilbert Hernandez’s MARBLE SEASON which – I would remind extant LOVE AND ROCKETS fans – was an original graphic novel rather than a reprint.

SLH

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

Rachel Rising #25 (£2-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

“Someday I’m going to rent a big truck and ram it into every driver on the phone.”

Generally I choose my pull quotes for their key significance to each comic’s core. Not so this time: it’s just something I plan on doing myself. I once new a dad so concerned for his children’s safety that he switched on his headlights in broad daylight. Didn’t stop him answering his cell phone while negotiating a roundabout.

Anyhoo… RACHEL RISING #1-24 represent the first major story arc of this mischief-ridden, heartfelt horror from the creator of STRANGERS IN PARADISE and ECHO and they can be found in the first four collected editions out now. What I am imparting to you is that you need not wait another nine months or so for volume five, you can kick straight in here regardless of whether you’ve even read those four books. Everything will be explained without an ounce of onerous exposition, just a great deal of comedy and some pretty grim crematorial proceedings.

For those who have been following the series, here’s a little thing between you and me: weren’t the first four books brilliant?! And wasn’t the shocking climax and cliffhanger to RACHEL RISING VOL 3 absolutely jaw-dropping? But at the same time a little bit “But – but – but – !” …?

Oh, me and ye of little faith! Rachel has a revelation for what’s left of our clan and if you go back and look again it is all so blindingly obvious. Terry must have been grinning his head off for months.

My favourite issue of the series so far. Includes exploding rodents.

SLH

Buy Rachel Rising #25 and read the Page 45 review here

Secret vol 1: Never Get Caught s/c (£12-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Ryan Bodenheim.

Brutal, industrial, back-door espionage that begins with a break-in and thence an extraction.

This leads to extortion resulting in an altogether different extraction to facilitate further intrusion.

Extortion, extraction, it’s just a distraction: that’s one way to drum up trade.

This is a thriller with teeth.

Unfortunately some of those teeth have cavities: aching gaps in the plot and the way it’s played out. Given how ridiculously slick and clever the first chapter is because of how sly the protagonists all are, it’s bewildering how stupid a couple of decisions are later on.

I read it through twice just to make sure and because it is a gripping read coloured with expressionistic flair by Michael Garland. The reds tinged with rusted iron tend to indicate blood-letting, actual or imminent, for example, and throughout the complementary pairing of burned gold with browns or bright gold with blues is beautiful to behold. In addition Ryan Bodenheim delivers one hell of a Geoff Darrow moment which will have you ducking for cover.

 

SLH

Buy Secret vol 1: Never Get Caught s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Doctor Grordbort Present Triumph (£14-99, Random House / Vertical) by Greg Broadmore.

I say, young man, do get a grip!

And fillies, please look away!

This is the roast beef of comics: old school, cocksure Colonialism gone steampunk in space!

“Unnecessarily violent tales of science adventure for the simple and unfortunate,” it stars Lord Cockswain – “the man, the myth and the muttonchops” – in two explosive, expletive-ridden episodes of comicbook triumphalism immolating google-eyed aliens, be they semi-sentient like Johnny Foreigner or fit for the trophy room.

Not only do these cartoonographs aid the barely literate with their pretty pictures, but they are printed in laminated paper so thick that you could consider them card. The wizard wheeze of this is that it makes the whole thing look a lot longer, but we are aware of your cretinously fleeting attention span.

Lord Cockswain will not be tricked into getting “in touch” with his feelings either by lackey or the rudest aliens ever encountered throughout the whole of Christendom. Do you think that their goading jibes are the result of nature or nurture? The answer is sure to astound!

Betwixt these incendiary outings designed to offend vegetarians, people of peace and other defects of nature there will be found film and beverage posters sure to strengthen your bow, put the kiss in your curl or just make their corporate originators a piss-load of lolly.

Additionally we present honest advertisements for ray guns of a ‘retro’ persuasion like The Deal Breaker and The Saboteur during which the copywriter “paid a pittance to write this tosh” may stray into sassing the prospective purchaser with an elaborate string of Yo Mama jokes. Unorthodox!

Lastly, Dr. Grordbort’s Industries offers you a one-time deal to avail yourselves of the rocketship Endangerer III as crashed by Lord Cockswain on multiple occasions and on civilisations to boot! Beware their “facilities”, however, and be sure to “go” before you set out.

“A fully functional lavatory flushes directly into the void, which bears a warning note – more than one space traveller has felt the cold tug of the vacuum on their down-belows and it is neither pleasant nor conduce to ‘being alive’.”

I may not know my pile-plagued arse from my lawn-tennis elbow, but I can assure you of this: Baron von Broadmore can paint! What he paints is not pretty but it is lovely to look at. Does that make any sense to you? Nor does this. Utter balderdash!

I’ll take two, please, young lady!

Do you have a brown paper bag?

SLH

Buy Doctor Grordbort Present Triumph and read the Page 45 review here

All New X-Men vol 4: All Different h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Brandon Peterson.

Everything’s changed!

In the wake of a big rift in X-MEN BATTLE OF THE ATOM, Professor Kitty Pryde has swept up the original teenage X-Men who’ve travelled through time and brought them to Cyclops’ splinter-cell school which he’s housed in Canada’s abandoned Weapon X facility. “Facility” being a clinical euphemism for the mutant torture chamber which gave Wolverine the most comprehensive dental filling in world history.

Here’s young Eva Bell introducing Bobbie Drake AKA Iceman to his room.

“This is yours.”
“It looks like a renovated prison cell.”
“That’s just because it is a renovated prison cell. But, some flowers, some posters…”
“It’ll look like I’m a prisoner with connections.”
“Exactly.”

This is what Bendis does best: dead-pan exchanges as witty as you could want. It’s always been his quiet conversations that have done it for me, and Bobbie Drake is his speak-before-you-think foil – like Brian’s Peter Parker but with minimal self-awareness. Drawn by Stuart Immonen, he is a cute as cute can be.

No offence to anyone else, but I miss Stuart when he’s gone. He’s an artist of many styles, and for this title he’s chosen clean yet supple, smooth and warm. The five look like teenagers – okay, twenty-one-year-olds who work out – and his variation-on-a-theme new costume designs are colourful, contemporary and chic but also functionally padded for combat like Bryan Hitch’s for the original four ULTIMATES books. His women have great hair stylists and again look their age but first and foremost they are women like Terry Moore’s (STRANGERS IN PARADISE, ECHO, RACHEL RISING): attractive individuals rather than colourfully clad sex objects.

The cover is attributed to Brandon Peterson but quite clearly it’s Stuart and it’s a mighty composition: a right-angle triangle with its feet firmly on the ground bottom-left. I also wonder about four later pages which hark back to GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS: surely those too are by Brent Anderson? No credit.

Anyway, as I say, the original X-Men have been whisked away from Wolverine and his Jean Grey School For Dictatorial Growling And Grudges and are now settling in with those who were once on the other side of the mutant fence. Well, “settling in” might be putting it a little strongly. Hugs will prove problematic. Here’s young, science-prodigy Hank McCoy and…

“Magneto!”
“I put together the communication system, Henry. If you have any questions…”
“It’s – it’s nice.”
“It’s a clean signal. It can’t be traced here.”
“Circular coded? Nice. So… Do you mind if I –?”
“Be my guest.”
“I mean, it’s not like you didn’t do a good job.”
“Please.”
“It’s – it’s cute.”
“Cute?”
“Nice. Nice and cute.”
“…”
“…”
“The thing is, Magneto, it was not so long ago you were trying to kill me/us in a murderous rage…”
“Yes.”
“So it’s very strange to be standing here talking to you like this.”
“I understood the unspoken subtext of the conversation.”

What you could really do with now is a screaming emergency.

Cue emergency: saved by the yell.

SLH

Buy All New X-Men vol 4: All Different 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.

 

By Chance Or By Providence h/c (£14-99, Lounak Books) by Becky Cloonan

Breaks Prologue (£3-99, UK Comics Collective) by Malin Ryden & Emma Vieceli

Adventure Time vol 4 s/c (£8-99, Titan) by Ryan North & Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb

Return Of Zita The Spacegirl (£8-99, First Second) by Ben Hatke

Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 6 s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Alan Moore & Rick Veitch, Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, John Totleben

The True Lives Of Fabulous Killjoys s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Gerard Way, Shaun Simon & Becky Cloonan

This One Summer (£13-50, First Second) by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki

Batman vol 3: Death Of The Family s/c (£12-99, DC) by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion

Batman vol 4: Zero Year – Secret City h/c (£18-99, DC) by Scott Snyder,  James Tynion IV & Greg Capullo, Rafael Albuquerque, Greg Capullo, Danny Miki

Age Of Ultron s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson, Alex Maleev

Iron Man: Fatal Frontier h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Al Ewing & Lan Medina, Neil Edwards, others

Superior Spider-Man vol 5: Superior Venom (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos N. Gage & Humberto Ramos

Uncanny X-Men vol 3: The Good, The Bad And The Inhuman h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Chris Bachalo, Kris Anka

Bleach vol 60 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Bunny Drop vol 10 (£9-99, Yen) by Yumi Unita

Dragon Ball Full Colour Saiyan Arc vol 2 (£14-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

Naruto vol 65 (£6-99, Viz) by Masashi Kishimoto

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic vol 4 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Heather Nuhfer & Brenda Hickey, Amy Mebberson

 

ITEM! ‘The Enchanted Blade’ – Tom Gauld’s cartoon on maps versus apps. Too funny!

ITEM! Eddie Campbell will be appearing at The Lakes International Comics Arts Festival in October That’s the man responsible for the single greatest body of work in comics, Eddie Campbell’s ALEC OMNIBUS. The greatest story teller in the medium both on paper and in person, the bumbling reprobate’s appearances there will be hilarious, guaranteed!

ITEM! Several pages of CEREBUS never reprinted in the collected editions: CEREBUS: The Applicant by Dave Sim, Gerhard and Colleen Doran. FYI Dave Sim used to pencil and ink all the figures, Gerhard the backgrounds. Here Colleen drew the woman. Another of the greatest bodies of work in comics, Page 45 reviewed every CEREBUS book here.

ITEM! Cute-as-cute-can-be vimeo of Luke Pearson drawing and talking about HILDA on camera! One of the classiest, eye-widening wonders of Young Adult comics, HILDA sells more copies to adults for adults than children here, which says everything about its appeal and quality. Click on those covers for reviews!

ITEM! Nottingham launches bid to become a City of Literature. Yes, please! We’re kinda keen on the stuff what makes you more literate, like.

ITEM! The comics exhibition at the British Museum is open right now! Although the creators listed are rather obvious, I can assure you it is all-encompassing and thoroughly contemporary. Coverage has been largely literate, but lest we forget How Not To Write Comics Criticism – a blog which will have you groaning in recognition!

ITEM! SALLY HEATHCOTE, SUFFRAGETTE by Mary Talbot & Bryan Talbot, Kate Charlesworth is the Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month for May 2014. Here’s an interview on Creating SALLY HEATHCOTE, SUFFRAGETTE

ITEM! Free Comic Day is over for another year. For the first time ever I have explained in public why Page 45 sincerely believes At Cost Comicbook Month is a more productive approach. A huge success yet again, I see no reason to change our stance so long as we are allowed to continue, and I am enormously grateful to Women Writing About Comics (@WomenOnComics on Twitter) for inviting me to be an honorary women for a day and then backing me up to the hilt.

And now, because you demanded, because I still can’t believe I was asked and because I couldn’t find it online….

Behold, the surreal!

Nottingham Post Food And Drink Interview with Page 45 by Lynette Pinchess

Can you introduce yourself, please?

My name is Stephen L. Holland and 20 years ago this October I co-created the Page 45 comic shop which won the Nottingham Independents Best Business Award in 2012 and 2013, the Diamond Award for Best UK retailer in 2004, was shortlisted for The Bookseller’s Award for Best Independent Bookshop 2014 – the first-ever comic shop to be selected – and has just been nominated for the international Eisner Award 2014 which is comics’ equivalent of the Oscars. Pretty stoked!

What I lack in consumption of food I make up for in drink. You no longer hear of the European Wine Lake, do you? Well, I took care of that single-handedly. You’re welcome.

Favourite restaurant in Notts and why?

Piccolino in the Lace Market. It serves hearty and sexy Italian food, the complete opposite of those lank ‘80s pasta chains where everything tasted like it had been marinaded in three-day-old dishwater. Plus this Tuesday night they squeezed me in well past serving time because they are very, very lovely. I did tip, yes.

Best for a romantic meal (in Notts)?

The Alley Cafe off Long Row. It’s so intimate. I mean really intimate: I don’t think they can squeeze more than 40 people in. If your official date goes wrong then there’s a good chance you’ll have made arrangements for another. Possibly by osmosis.

The food is vegetarian with optional vegan but packs such a punch that you’d think you were eating young puppies. Sorry, am I selling this to you?

Also: they promote local artists by giving them space on their walls, and Page 45 is all about promoting new voices, local voices and creativity.

A good restaurant to have a laugh with friends (in Notts)?

I’ve not been thrown out of either of the above for laughing. That was something else entirely.

I’d hit Annie’s Burger Shack, recently relocated to the Lace Market. 30 ingenious ways of presenting a burger, be it beef, vegetarian or vegan.

Best for children (in Notts)?

I don’t eat children. I just think it’s wrong.

Best pub grub in Notts?

The Malt Cross. Scrumptious! Our own Jodie Paterson used to work there and exhibits there frequently too in its upstairs gallery. You should so check her art out! http://jodiepaterson.co.uk/

Favourite takeaway food?

That I can summon a pizza via an incantation on my mobile phone is nothing short of magic. Magic should be practised sparingly lest it corrupt its practitioner, but I’ve discovered that there is a yawning chasm between self-knowledge and self-guidance.

The only quandary is calculating the value of value deals: do I go for 3 x 10” pizzas or 2 x 12” pizzas? Someone once drew me a pie chart but I ate it.

Live to eat or eat to live?

Oh, I live to drink. Nothing is more special to me than a conversation with much cherished friends over a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. By “glass” I mean “bottle”. And by “bottle” I mean “bucket”.

If I had to recommend a restaurant to a really fussy eater I would suggest….

Maltesers.

Perversely they now come in re-sealable packs. Hahahahahaha! You’re kidding, right?

Most memorable meal (anywhere) and why?

Almost every meal that involved a murder mystery. I’ve played them in private and performed them in public and always there are howls of laughter.

I’ve been the corpse, the killer and the policeman, but not on the same evening. When playing D.C. John Miller the diners did question my eyebrow ring , but I told them I went undercover at raves. I’ve also played an abusive, gay boyfriend so vicious that my mother (a guest) didn’t speak to me for a month. Oh yes, and I’ve staggered into a dining room of 100 guests through a pair of French windows in nothing but a pair of Pants To Poverty boxer shorts, before collapsing and dying.

Hungry and needing food quickly, I’m most likely to….

Dash round to FABchocolats on Trinity Walk. New independent business with the most-melt-in-your-mouth chocolates ever. Myriam is Belgian. Actually, Myriam is an artist. Look! http://fabchocolats.co.uk/index.html

Fondest childhood memory of food?

Space Dust. It snapped, crackled and popped in your mouth. There’s an urban legend that it was banned for making kids explode. It was certainly the candy equivalent of crack cocaine.

And the worst?

My first-ever words were “Baked beans an’ horrible”. I couldn’t wait to get the hang of verbs: I felt a certain degree or urgency in getting the message across. *shudders*

What do you enjoy cooking at home?

Seared Tuna with butter-smothered new potatoes, minimally cooked carrots and sweet red pepper strips, drizzled in a balsamic vinegar and honey sauce. That sauce which I made up for myself is the key.

1) Take a red pepper, cut in two and remove all the gubbins (technical term for seeds etc)

2) Take a blow torch to the red pepper’s skin until black. If you have no blow torch then place skin-down on gas ring until charred. Place in plastic bag in fridge for half-hour then open and slide off the skin with a knife. Cut into strips.

3) Boil new potatoes. Also carrots (but not too much – they should give only a little).

4) Sear Tuna stakes in a frying pan. Approx 3 minutes on each side – judge by the centre of their sides.

5) Plate up the lot then pop those red pepper strips back in the pan with a whoosh of balsamic vinegar and an equally big dollop of honey or golden syrup. Let it bubble away until peppers are hot.

6) Pour red pepper strips  in tangy sauce over carrots.

7) Devour!

Cookery book…or make it up as you go along?

Apart from the above, I’m shoddy at both.

Favourite celebrity chef and why?

No chef but a programme: the current John Torode and Gregg Wallace incarnation of Masterchef. Their eyes twinkle and their enthusiasm is infectious.

The food I would never touch is….

Meat, but I’m a complete hyprocrite: I wear leather and do eat fish because they seem pretty stupid.

The best comfort food

Moules marinières with a fresh baguette or fries.

To me the most important thing about food is (provenance, taste, food miles, ethics, organic, cost, British?)

Remembering that I am fortunate enough to have some.

Which 4 famous people, dead or alive, would be your ideal dinner guests?

Australian singer, songwriter, musician and author Nick Cave; Rosa Parks who refused to budge off that bus; comicbook and prose author Neil Gaiman whom I have had lunch with and was full of stories; Tony Benn R.I.P. whom I was due to see at the Nottingham Playhouse last year but he fell ill and now I never will. He was that rarest of species: a politician with integrity and humanity. Kindness is what works for me.

My last meal would be….

Dim sum and egg fried rice from The Oriental Pearl in West Bridgford. Emphasis on their egg fried rice which is the best I’ve had anywhere in the world.

Obviously white wine would also be involved. I mean, obviously.

– Stephen