ALERT! ALERT! Bryan Lee O’Malley’s SECONDS is to be rush-released early in the UK, and should be with us today or tomorrow!
Tuki #1 (£2-99, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith.
From the creator of BONE, another kids’ classic in-the-making which adults will adore: sweeping savannah landscapes, sunshine colouring and visual gags worthy of Kyle Baker himself.
This is the Stone-Age story of the first human to leave Africa. But his immediate – his only – priorities are to forage for food and to survive whatever else is doing the same. Communing with so-called spirits isn’t anywhere on his agenda. Of course, that doesn’t mean they won’t be communing with Tuki…
Tom Gaadt, one of the colourists on Jeff Smith’s RASL, keeps it all open and clean. From the early morning, blue-misted mountains with dawn peering promisingly over the horizon through sunrise itself – a hint of pink giving way to a yellow which complement’s Tuki’s green-leaved, mobile hide – to the full bright blue of a midday African sky over a golden grassland stretching as far as the eye can see. A certain sabre-toothed predator prowls there for prey, cutting a tell-tale furrow. It’s time for Tuki to make with that better side of valour and beat a retreat to the canopies above.
It’s there that Tuki encounters another hominid, a member of Homo Habilis who, whilst upright, is squatter and so hairy you could consider it fur. It is he who warns Tuki of the Little Ones – the Ancient Ones – following him, and he foresees a frightened little boy. At all costs Tuki must not seek the Ends of the Earth beyond the three waterfalls. Clearly the man is insane.
Thrilling! Magical! Educational, with a time-line map in the back.
Jeff Smith’s command of expression, body language and interaction was part of what made BONE so special right from the very first chapter. Here Tuki twitches left, right and centre, forever alert for the first signs of danger. Even so it can sometimes startle him, particularly in the long grass and Smith manages that difficult match of comedy and catastrophe at the very same time. Moreover, you can see the intelligence behind Tuki’s eyes and almost read his mind.
As to whether the hirsute Habilis should be heeded, everything comes together on the final-page spread.
It’s going to be quite the journey!
Murder Me Dead s/c (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham.
There’s a cracking opening shot from within the ceiling, staring down at the police, forensic photographer and a decidedly impassive Steven Russell as he gazes up at his wife, hung by her neck from the fan.
One of Eve’s high-healed shoes has fallen off. She’s quite dead.
Apart from Barbara (Steven’s sister-in-law with whom he is having an affair), most believe Eve was driven to suicide by Steven’s serial philandering and late-night drinking in the restaurant he has now inherited which Eve ran front-of-house and where Steven just played piano.
Eve’s wealthy, resentful and pursed-mouthed mother believes Steven actually killed her, and is determined to bring him down by hook or by crook.
Did he? The extensive, hand-written suicide note is explicitly damning of his neglect, but maybe that’s a bluff. He’s certainly far from cut up about it. Now there’s a very nasty private investigator on his tail and the press on his back, exposing his multiple affairs. It’s probably not the best time to initiate another, but that’s exactly what Steven does.
The press blitz has brought an irritating loudmouth called Tony out of the woodwork after a fifteen-year absence. With Steven unwelcome at his own bar, they hit the town to recall High-School times when they were happier, when Steven had the most almighty crush on Tara Torres. Too timid back then, what he didn’t know until now is that it was reciprocated. Unable to get Tara out of his head he begins stalking her until she appears at his car window with a shotgun.
It’s an odd way to start a love affair, I grant you, but once Tara realises who Steven is the flames are rekindled immediately. Odder still, when Tony finds out that they’re sleeping together he warns Steven off Tara: after her husband died of cancer she became addicted to the morphine sulphate he was treated with and is now heavily in debt to a bad man called Johnny The Pill. But when Steven pays off Johnny a neurotically on-edge Tara, attacked in her home, warns Steven off Tony.
What is it with Tony? What is it with Tara? What was she doing with that shotgun? What’s with the second suicide note in Steven’s typewriter?!
This is a very different beast to STRAY BULLETS. For a start there are no children; the fuck-ups here are all adults with plenty of baggage bogging them down. The four-tier storytelling is denser until the final flashback when it blooms beautifully into two-panel pages and all is finally revealed. Until then it’s also a linear timeline following these damaged goods, doomed by their nature, to their inevitable, terrible conclusions. With ten full chapters the travelling is twisted and they take plenty of time getting there.
Lapham strikes me as a fearless artist. There is nothing he cannot draw with equal dexterity, whether it’s sun-kissed pool sides, late-night car crashes, densely populated piano bars or the most vicious, protracted, hand-to-hand, hair-pulling scraps. There’s the same physicality which Jeff Smith would employ later in RASL including some similar body-forms. He’s particularly fine at all-out terror, madness and wide-eyed, tearful, screaming rage.
There’s plenty of that here.
“It’s you an’ me, baby,
“Always an’ forever…
“Till death do us part!”
Trust no one.
Couch Tag h/c (£19-99, Fantagraphics) by Jesse Reklaw…
Great pull quote that, heh heh. I do admire people who write memoirs showing childhoods that were less than ideal so dispassionately. Whilst on the one hand, it obviously gives them a veritable wealth of material to utilise, it can’t be easy going over somewhat emotionally uneven ground once again. In the case of Jesse Reklaw, it would be fair to say his father probably was at the centre of much of the upheaval in his family’s lives.
Being a piss-head and also a pot-head are probably not the best aids to your parenting skills, but it would seem Jesse’s dad was determined to live his life exactly how he wanted to. It’s surprising his wife put up with it as long as she did, but then you get the impression there was an element of fear always bubbling under the surface in the Reklaw household, as everyone was anticipating his father’s next mood swing. Actually – and the thought just occurs – given Jesse makes no secret of the fact that he suffers from bipolar mood disorder (though there is relatively little mention of it in this memoir), I do wonder whether his father may well also have been an undiagnosed sufferer, perhaps.
Anyway, the book is effectively split into five parts, the themes of which all serve as the backdrop for an exploration of the current state of the Reklaw’s chaotic household, Jesse’s emotional development and the various goings-on at the time. The first two chapters, ‘thirteen cats of my childhood’, and ‘toys I loved’, help us to understand the somewhat volatile nature of Jesse’s upbringing. Seeing his dad asking which was his current favourite toy, then destroying it in front of a distraught Jesse simultaneously made me want to laugh and cry. I can’t honestly get my head around how someone could do that to their child, depriving them of their most precious belonging on an apparent whim.
Then follows my favourite chapter ‘the fred robinson story’ in which a poor, unfortunate, random individual becomes the unwitting, sustained focus of Jesse and his friends’ teenage creative outpourings, from Fred Robinson comics, mix-tapes of Fred Robinson-based songs, friendly letters written to Fred Robinson from Norway (always mailing a copy of everything they produced to the Fred Robinson), to even Fred Robinson-ising road signs in the vicinity of his house, all over a period of years and without ever meeting or indeed seeing the man in question. I would love to know what the real Fred Robinson made of it all, but we never find out. Perturbed to start with, then mildly flattered perhaps? I can well imagine him feeling slightly sad when the flow of material simply ceased one day without explanation.
The fourth chapter, ‘the stacked deck’, focuses on a favourite pastime of the extended Reklaw clan, that of playing cards together, and so we get a look at the other wider family members who were part of Jesse’s formative years. Some, frankly, made his dad look positively normal and well balanced…
The art style for the first four chapters is black and white with grey tones, a relaxed pencilling style, which combined with the slightly yellow paper, do have a gently nostalgic feel. It’s nicely thought out.
The final chapter, ‘lessoned’, in which Jesse sums up his childhood in an A to Z of topics, one per page, deploys an entirely different art style with an extremely vivid use of colour, deliberately slightly erratically penned. I was instantly reminded of some of Peter Kuper’s more full-on art. It’s a somewhat jarring contrast, but as an epilogue, in comparison to the almost mellifluous style which has come before it, it does work well. You can really feel the emotion present in it. It would be way too much to illustrate whole stories in it I think, but used in a burst like this, it’s very expressive.
Fans of autobiographical material will most definitely enjoy.
Diary Comics Number Four (£7-50, Koyama Press) by Dustin Harbin…
Ha, what Dustin also is, is an excellent comics diarist. His preoccupation with his nationality is entirely due to attending the Doug Wright Awards, which are part of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. His explanation of the cultural value and worthiness of the Wright Awards, whilst simultaneously faux-bristling at the fact that as a non-Canadian he’ll never be entitled to win one, is a wonderfully amusing opening chapter to this surprisingly dense mini-comic. It might be £7-50, but it is certainly great value for money at 80 plus pages, as Dustin name-drops his way through his wealth of comics acquaintances (Seth, Chester Brown, Marc Bell, Pascal Girard etc. etc.), whilst deprecating himself further at every possible turn.
It’s piercingly insightful stuff at times actually, and although you could certainly draw comparisons with works like Gabriel Bell’s SAN DIEGO DIARY, it’s actually more knockabout farce than melancholic musings. His art style is wonderfully detailed too, and minded me of both Guy Delisle and Kevin Huizenga, and I love the fact he has stuck religiously to a four panel per page format throughout. From a diaristic perspective, it really aids the sense of continuity in the work as Dustin moves seamlessly from event to event, often whilst simultaneously hopping back and forth across various topics narrating to us, the readers, through the fourth wall. Clever stuff, and a perfect example to anyone thinking of trying to do a self-published diary comic of just how sophisticated and polished they can be.
Legends Of The Tour (£14-99, Head Of Zeus) by Jan Cleijne…
“Are you Desgrange? You owe me money!”
“What for, my good man?”
“I gave four cyclists a lift. You should go take a look. It’s a real mess back there!”
It was perhaps the toughest tour stage ever. Riders were finishing in the dark, frozen and numb. Many, washed off the road or taking refuge in wayside inns, didn’t even reach the finish line. While Buysse, who went on to win the Tour that year, was tucked up in bed after a hot bath, Desgrange was out in the night rescuing stranded cyclists, one by one.’
Sportsmen… Some may feel they are a cosseted, pampered overpaid lot these days, who don’t have to do a great deal for their vast piles of money that it would probably take the rest of us a lifetime to earn, and that may be true, in part. But if I had to pick one sport where the level of training and dedication required, plus the pure pain you have to endure every single time you compete, is frankly well into the realms of masochism, it would be road cycling. In my opinion they deserve every penny they get for the punishment they willingly put themselves through. And, right at the peak of that sport, there stands the ultimate test of body and mind that is the Tour De France, or simply Le Tour.
This work provides a brief look at those who have achieved the status of true legends (plus a few villains) for their performances in what is arguably the world’s single toughest sporting challenge. As a cycling fan, I was absolutely fascinated by the chapters on the very early days of the Tour, before it became the well oiled, ultra-organised, corporate sponsored juggernaut it is now. Whilst today’s riders are undoubtedly fitter and would have destroyed the competitors of yesteryear hands-down, I would love to see them try and ride for three weeks using the original bikes, and indeed some of the original routes. I think the fabled “broom wagon” transit van which today sweeps up those unable to keep up with the peloton would probably need to be considerably up-sized to a bus at least.
Very difficult to see this appealing to anyone other than cycling fans, but certainly an excellent gift for people who don’t normally read graphic novels, but do like cycling. My dad loved it.
Supreme: Blue Rose #1 (£2-25, Image) by Warren Ellis & Tula Lotay.
“You seem to know a lot of people, who want others to know they know you, but who don’t want anyone to know about you. So I was curious enough to take the meeting.”
“That is as it should be. I imagine it was quite frustrating for you, though, important investigative reporter and all.”
“I don’t know if I’d agree with “important”.”
“I was being polite. I meant “unemployed”.”
Diana Dane is indeed unemployed. She won an award and was laid off the week after.
“That’s the universe telling you something.”
Now Darius Dax is telling her something: that it wasn’t a plane that came down on Littlehaven a few months ago. It was something altogether more unusual and included the vast arch of gold now suspended above Dax’s desk declaring wherever it came from “Supreme”.
This is of interest to Dax for Dax too is an acquirer of knowledge, which few will ever have access to. He specialises in Blue Rose cases – “Blue roses do not occur in nature” – “rare truths” he sells on to very wealthy entities, and he will pay Diana Dane $300,000 to start gathering information on whoever might have connections to the artefact and $700,000 if she succeeds in bringing him something concrete.
Elsewhere and elsewhen someone else was telling her many things – about reality and revision – which she doesn’t remember yet. But above all they told her this:
“Don’t trust Darius Dax.”
Warren Ellis is back on top linguistic form and has found an artist to match the daydream, other-dimensional aspect of the book. There is a quiet and soft vulnerability to Tula Lotay’s forms and colours over which pale blue lines swirl like a chilly wind, giving them a sense of the ethereal; as if who and what you’re looking at might not even be there. Or you might not even be there.
As if you’re looking at it all remotely, through a window, a viewscreen or a tank of liquid, especially in Darius Dax’s National Praxinoscope Company where there are additional, geometrical overlays.
The art is something new for something both borrowed and blue, but you won’t have to have read any of Alan Moore’s own revisionist treatment and indeed can’t right now.
“Have an adventure, Di. Let these idiots pay for it. Come back, take two years off, write the Great American Novel and get drunk every night.
“I’m 27. I’ve had at least eight great adventures, while you trained and wrote. And here you are.
“It’s time for yours, now.”
Bonus design section in the back.
Walking Dead vol 21: All Out War Part 2 (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard…
“We’re going to do this with all our weapons. We’re going to gunk them. We’re going to have space-aged zombie bacteria weapons at our disposal.
“And we’re going to kill every fucking last fucking one of these ungrateful fucks.
“Load ’em up and let’s hit the fucking road.”
Ah Negan, he does know how to marshal his troops! So, this is it then, the culmination of the epic conflict between our good guys led as ever by former sheriff Rick Grimes, and the army of self-titled Survivors led by the man we all love to hate, Negan. Both sides think they are going to win, neither side can contemplate what it would mean to lose. Negan, with his latest sneaky biological warfare trick, thinks he’s got all the angles covered, but Rick, well, Rick certainly has a plan, but is it going to be enough? Who will triumph? Or indeed, could it even be a score draw…? One thing is for sure, a whole lot of people are going to die… then rise again as zombies obviously. Rare to see a title still going so strong after nearly ten years. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.
George Romero’s Empire Of Dead Act One s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by George A. Romero & Alex Maleev.
As in, he really did write this and did so for comics. I’ve no idea if it contains original ideas: outside of the successfully satirical NEW DEADWARDIANS, I’ve never read a zombie comic before, not even WALKING DEAD – which is shocking behaviour, I know! But since Dominique and Jonathan lap the series up, as did Mark and Tom before them, I don’t have to. I can’t read everything, let alone review it all, otherwise I’d have no time for prose!
I rather liked this, though, not least because of SCARLET’s Alex Maleev. It’s perpetually twilight or at least a deep-red sunset here, even mid-afternoon. His shadow-strewn cityscapes and downright dirty textures are perfect for a New York infested with blood-caked shamblers, where even rat meat is a black-marketeer’s pay packet. Picnics in Central Park are a thing of the past, although the rich do enjoy their private booths at the Circus Maximus Arena where they glory in zombies biting several shades of shit out of each other. Look, there’s the Mayor now along with his son who’s more intent on seducing a society belle. Zombies aren’t the only predators: we’ve always been pretty good at that ourselves.
Interestingly the lumbering ones with appalling dental hygiene aren’t forever on the prowl for fresh flesh. Some are municipally minded:
“This stinker is smarter than average.”
“Because he’s sweeping the sidewalk? Remembered behaviour. Now if he was playing chess…”
“Zombies can’t play chess.”
“There might be one out there who can. That’s the one I’m looking for.”
That’s Dr. Penny Jones from Columbia University being escorted round the city by Paul Barnum, himself under the protection of an off-duty SWAT team assigned to him by the Mayor. The Mayor, as I say, likes his own private performances at the Arena, and Barnum supplies the combatants. A couple of weeks ago Barnum lost an officer – a woman called Frances Xavier – bitten by a stinker and presumed dead. She’s not. She’s not playing chess, either, but nor is she entirely brain-dead…
The tension is terrific, not least because Jones and Barnum spend the first quarter of the comic observing the stinkers’ surprisingly passive behaviour mostly from afar, Romero wisely leaving the sudden surges until later, while Maleev shows the SWAT team continually looking over their shoulders left, right and even upwards in case they’re assaulted from above.
Unwisely, I suspect, Dr. Jones finds later herself on the Mayor’s radar after spying on his private box at the Arena through binoculars. She singles his son out for his curious dress sense but all will become a great deal clearer down in the subway. And Maleev’s subway is absolutely terrific, although his knock-out number is the double-page spread of what’s become of Central Park.
Meanwhile back at Battery Park, Dr. Jones gets a taste of what she’s searching for.
“You said they couldn’t do that.”
“I said they couldn’t play chess. That’s only checkers.”
Wolverine: Origin II h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Adam Kubert.
It really is. You won’t meet a single human being during the first chapter other than Logan himself, now entirely feral following the events in WOLVERINE: ORIGIN.
Instead, in a breath of fresh mountain air, the initial cast consists of a wolf pack which has adopted Wolverine, its new litter holed up in a den on the snow-swept Canadian Rockies, a prowling lone wolf, and a gigantic polar bear which has strayed far from its natural habitat, so finding itself at a predatorial disadvantage.
“It seemed to believe that covering its nose would disguise it from prey. It didn’t grasp fishing in the rivers, waiting for prey to emerge and being disappointed when it didn’t…”
Fish, unlike seals, don’t need to come up for air. Yes, it’s a long way from home. A very long way. Don’t you find that curious?
Image-driven, that first chapter was magnificent: sweeping landscapes, ferocious battles and some monumental, full-page flourishes all coloured to delicious perfection by… hold on – that isn’t Isanove?! I can assure you that colour artist Frank Martin is every bit as good.
What follows marks Logan’s first contact with the world he and we will come to know well: one in which man uses and abuses man, cages him and tortures him in the name of personal pleasure, medical research and military power – even if here it’s a private army. That polar bear itself was an experiment, the sinister Dr. Essex releasing a new alpha predator into the Canadian Rockies and in doing so snagging an even bigger one – Logan – who in turn attracts yet another: a lupine wildlife hunter called Creed who jealously guards his beautiful but disfigured companion Clara.
Memory plays an important part, Kubert’s silent snap-shots flashing through Logan’s mind like blood-stained daggers; but the more he experiences, the more he will want to forget and, as we all know, ultimately he does so.
One of the most pleasurable elements of the original ORIGIN was Paul Jenkins’ slight of hand, leading you up the (secret) garden path when it came to Logan’s true identity. Wickedly, Gillen has reflected this in his own game of powerplay and presumption, leaving it right until the epilogue to pull the rug from under you, but it all makes perfect sense, I promise.
Chu‘s First Day At School h/c (£10-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Adam Rex…
The pollen-plagued panda returns for another outing as it’s time for him to start school!
As before, the running joke revolves entirely around the fact that when he finally sneezes, it’s going to be like a tornado has hit town, but first there is the anticipation of the build up. This time, it’s a show and tell of precisely what each of his new classmates can do. You know Chu wants to go last, and when he finally gets his turn, it’s just as well… A visual feast from artist Adam Rex; as with CHU’S DAY half the fun is spotting all the animal-based shenanigans that are going on in the background. Another much requested bedtime story winner at our house.
Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!
Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?
Adventure Time Sugary Shorts vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Titan) by various including Paul Pope, Shannon Wheeler, Lucy Knisley, Jim Rugg and many more
Charley’s War Omnibus vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Random House / Vertical) by Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun
Doctor Grordbort Presents Onslaught h/c (£15-99, Titan) by Greg Broadmore
Gast s/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Carol Swain
Goodnight Darth Vader (£9-99, Chronicle) by Jeffrey Brown
Lazarus vol 2: Lift s/c (£10-99, Image) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark
League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century (Complete Edition) h/c (£19-99, Top Shelf) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill
Metal Gear Solid Deluxe Edition h/c (£55-99, IDW) by Kris Oprisko, Matt Fraction, Alex Garner & Ashley Wood, Rufus Dayglo
Murder Mysteries h/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
Reel Love Act One (£3-99, Do Gooder Comics) by Owen Johnson
Street Angel h/c (£14-99, Adhouse Books) by Brian Maruca & Jim Rugg
Third Testament vol 1: The Lion Awakes h/c (£8-99, Titan) by Xavier Dorison & Alex Alice
Batman: The Dark Knight vol 4 – Clay h/c (£18-99, DC) by Gregg Hurwitz & Alex Maleev
All New Invaders vol 1: Gods And Soldiers s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by James Robinson & Steve Pugh
Avengers vol 5: Adapt Or Die (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Salvador Larroca
Avengers World vol 1: A.I.M.PIRE (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer & Stefano Caselli, John Cassaday
Marvel Masterworks: Spider-Man vol 8 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & John Romita, John Buscema
Mighty Avengers vol 2: Family Bonding s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Valerio Schiti, Greg Land
Runaways: Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Brian K. Vaughan & Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyagawa
The Superior Foes Of Spider-Man vol 2: The Crime Of The Century s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Steve Lieber
X-Men: Magneto – Testament s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Carmine Di Giandomenico
Vinland Saga Book 4 h/c (£14-99, Kodansha) by Makoto Yukimura
ITEM! The Eisner Awards Winners 2014! Some well deserved winners this year, the judges were evidently being less in thrall to the big corporations. Stick ‘em in our search engine or ask at the counter if curious.
ITEM! Heather L Sheppard’s Patreon in support of SUNRISE etc. What’s a Patreon…? Old-school patronage with personal perks for YOU!
ITEM! By the time you read this HAWKEYE #19 will have finally gone on sale! Yay! HAWKEYE 19 preview by David Aja
ITEM! Totally off-topic! Every wonder where a big chunk of my wayward vocabulary comes from? Swoonaway, foxstress etc were all neologisms created by Smash Hits music magazine for the pop-oriented post-punk teenager which won the wars being witty. Behold, the Smash Hits Archive!
ITEM! Back on topic, here’s Damien Walter on writing and the way your brain may be wired. Especially relevant given that comics is a visual medium.
ITEM! Liz Prince galvanises readers to pre-order TOMBOY! And, do you know what? It worked: I tweeted that and we got pre-orders. Pre-orders help us gauge demand and help guarantee you getting what you already know you want. Here’s our preview product page for TOMBOY and our review of Liz Prince’s ALONE FOREVER. Funny!
ITEM! Speaking of pre-orders, our own version of Diamond’s PREVIEWS catalogue goes up every month, online for free, at the beginning of each month, detailing all the comic and graphic novel releases for two months later. You then have until the middle of the month to add those titles to your standing order here or simply order online and you are guaranteed to receive whatever you order no matter how obscure. Look: http://www.page45.com/store/page-45-previews.html
PLEASE NOTE: When pre-ordering here you only ever pay on arrival! That’s right, not when you pre-order, but upon arrival.