“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.
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.”
The Love Bunglers h/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Jaime Hernandez.
“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.
Rachel Rising #25 (£2-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.
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.
Secret vol 1: Never Get Caught s/c (£12-99, Image) by Jonathan Hickman & Ryan Bodenheim.
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.
Doctor Grordbort Present Triumph (£14-99, Random House / Vertical) by Greg Broadmore.
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?
All New X-Men vol 4: All Different h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Brandon Peterson.
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.”
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…
“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.”
“It’s – it’s 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…”
“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.
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! 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….
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?
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.
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.