Reviews May 2014 week two

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

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