Reviews August 2014 week one

I was particularly tickled to see Parker, Lady Penelope’s chauffeur from Thunderbirds, as a petrol pump attendant.

 - Stephen on The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century h/c

Gast s/c (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Carol Swain.

Such a melancholy book, full of silence.

And it’s a silence which implies decades of silence preceding these pages.

Remember when you were young and granted new environments to explore?

The thrill of the unusual and unknown, where any twist in a high-hedgerow road could present a magnificent house, a strange-looking shack, an enticing gate, or an object you’ve never seen before. What was that object, who used it, and what was it for?

In urban terms, perhaps you encountered odd shops, alluring alleys which led who knows where, a park with paths which bifurcated tantalisingly over a ridge, round a corner so demanding a decision…

Maybe you moved house, visited relatives or went on holiday? Who hasn’t when young collected seashells at the seaside, stones and minerals which struck you as magical and wondered at whatever else was washed up onshore?

This is Helen, aged 11, who has moved from the city to a rural Wales rolling with hills and dipping down dales, populated by livestock and soared over by swallows. So much space, so much sky! Left to her own devices and armed with a pair of binoculars, Helen carefully jots down new observations in her Nature Notes book and sketches the bird life above.

 

Naturally inquisitive, Helen is by chance given hints of a new mystery by old Bill the eggman whose hens are upset – so failing to lay – by the death of what Bill calls “a rare bird”. A rare bird called Emrys up at Cuddig Farm.

“How do you know it upset your chickens, Bill?”
“They told me.”

So it is that Helen sets off for Cuddig farm and stumbles on a stack of discarded timber, barbed wire and empty cans of sheep dye – the sorts of things you’d find on a farm – and a make-up bag containing foundation, compact, lipstick, and a single, spent shotgun shell.

Helen lets the two sheepdogs out of their shed. They’d been there for days; there’s no one left to feed them. She talks to the tup, a ram with horns coiled like a Spirula seashell who tells Helen of the sheep dye they shared.

“He used more on himself than he put on me.”

Gradually, as Helen attends Emrys’ funeral and follows in his footsteps she uncovers echoes of a life lived alone and apart.

The book is full of faint, empty echoes. So much has evidently gone unsaid until now as Helen’s questions are answered directly and with a quiet remorse. The trip to Oswestry with its livestock markets and its auctions is haunting, cows’ fetlocks fettered with manacles. Those animals don’t speak but moo or bleat bleakly.

The cover looks like it’s been created with oil pastels, yet there’s a tremendous sense of light. And sadness. And space. That it is in the early stages of sunset is far from a coincidence.

The interior art is executed in charcoal. It’s stark yet gentle, and, built on a consistent, nine-panel grid like Bryan Talbot’s THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT, it has a perfectly controlled sense of equally measured time – a monotone which amplifies the silence.

“You humans are the saddest of animals.”

SLH

Buy Gast s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Low #1 (£2-99, by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini.

“Without optimism for the future how can we hope to shape a better one?”

Swoon!

The crisp yet soft and lithe-as-you-like strokes here smack of the sort of 1960s’ fashion and romance line art which Posy Simmonds was referencing in her MRS WEBER’S OMNIBUS where the secretary loses herself in daydreams. Feed it through a futuristic filter then add a little John Bryne at his loose-pencil best in the figures, smiles and eyes and you have a very attractive package.

There are six pages of classy, unsensationalist and quite natural nudity, modestly portrayed with deftly deployed holograms and colours, all drawn in life-class poses then artfully arranged so they communicate with one another, and there’s one panel in which Johl Caine playfully pokes his son Marik in the ribs and young Marik positively dances in response, one arm raised, his leg leaping up and away.

 

It’s very, very beautiful, with subaquatic, man-made leviathans which might put you in mind of Sean Murphy’s THE WAKE.

So it has come to this:

In the future our sun will expand then go supernova, at which point the Earth itself as well as its inhabitants will more than Factor 500. We will be engulfed. Obliterated. And that will be the end of our story. This isn’t speculative, it is a scientific certainty.

Long before then the radiation levels on the Earth’s surface will have exceeded intolerable, so if he haven’t already escaped his solar system we’ll have needed to move undergroud or in LOW underwater.

In LOW we haven’t yet found an alternative, habitable planet but Johl’s wife Stel remains optimistic and focussed. Johl is focussed but more on the immediate: feeding the subaquatic city of Salus by way of hunting using vast, submerged vessels and personal, watertight exoskeletons keyed to family DNA. His son Marik has followed in his mother’s footsteps so Johl is keener than ever for his two daughters, Della and Tajo, to follow his and become pilots. Tajo is dubious but Della’s all for it and keen to take her first helm, so mum Stel reluctantly – yet with good humour – agrees: today will be the first family outing!

 

The problem is, the problem is, the future is not what it was. The problem is, the problem is, if you’ve shot their cat, they’ll shoot your dog. And there is someone out there in the freezing, oceanic depths with a long-held grudge.

Unexpectedly brutal after so much familial, high-spirited devotion, what I loved was Stel’s unwavering optimism and maternal determination in the wake of so much adversity: that Remender kept her true to her nature. It was poignantly expressed, while everything which preceded it was eloquently expressed.

Don’t be alarmed by what may seem at first to be an overwhelming amount of world-building. Hell, you could accuse The West Wing of that, so fast and furious came the first episode’s exchanges; but it turned out to be one of the five finest television series of all time partially through not underestimating its audience and knowing it would swiftly catch up. As with The West Wing all of the scene-setting in LOW is done through quick-fire dialogue without resorting to overt exposition.

“Time to come to terms with it, Stel. One of your children must take the helm. They all carry the potent blood of the Caine.”
“Not so potent this morning.”
“Oh, that’s low.”

SLH

Buy Low #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Murder Mysteries h/c new edition (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell.

Russell has breathed such life and colour into Gaiman’s story-within-a-story that it’s hard to remember how clever it was in the first place.

Ten years after the event, the English narrator recalls how as a young man he was once stranded in Los Angeles. He hooked up with a girl he’d met briefly in London but like most of us his memory is only sure about certain sequences. Quite how he came to be sitting on a bench with an older man, he’s not sure. But in exchange for a cigarette, the stranger tells him his story, set in the celestial Silver City, as God instructs his angels on the creation of the universe.

“The sky above the city was a wonderful thing. It was always light, although lit by no sun — lit, perhaps by the city itself — but the quality of the light was forever changing. Now pewter-coloured light, then brass, then a gentle gold, or a soft and quiet amethyst…”

Lucifer visits him and instructs him on his Function:

“You are Raguel. The Vengeance of The Lord. There has been a… a Wrong Thing.”

An angel, Carasel, has been killed, and Raguel must find out how and why; then he must perform his Function.

Gaiman’s vision of heaven is wittily conceived, as the angels go about working on their projects, creating ‘regret’, ‘sleep’, ‘agitation’ under the guidance of Phanuel. It soon transpires that the dead angel, Carasel, was last working on the concept of ‘Death’ with his partner Saraquael. Did he become overly involved in his own work? Did he want to experience that which he was working on? Or did it have more to do with their last project, for which Phanuel took all the credit? In any case, why would God allow this to happen, and how much does it have to do with Lucifer, walking alone in The Dark?

This is a murder mystery so, although it breaks my heart, I cannot reveal any more.

But I can implore you to take a look yourself because you know how I feel about THE FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE’s  P. Craig Russell, and if you enjoyed his collaboration with Gaiman on THE GRAVEYARD BOOK GRAPHIC NOVEL, CORALINE or SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS you will not be disappointed. His illumination of the Silver City – pure, translucent, with its own lambent glow – is every bit as exquisite as you’d expect.

As for the angels, if you like your men young, winged, naked – and without genitalia – then this one’s for you.

SLH

Buy Murder Mysteries h/c and read the Page 45 review here

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century (Complete Edition) h/c (£22-50, Top Shelf) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill.

Collects LOEG: CENTURY 1910, LOEG: CENTURY 1969 and LOEG: CENTURY 2009, all reviewed individually if you fancy a gander. It’s a good job what’s left of our League are immortal. Or at least… they don’t age.

LOEG: CENTURY 1910

Another highly inventive collage culled from works of other authors, this time with the added entertainment of songwriters Brecht and Kurt Weill.

Quartermain, Hyde and the Invisible Man are all dead now, whilst Captain Nemo is not much longer for this world. Yet Mina Murray – she of the scarf or very high collar – remains as vigorous as ever. Infuriated too, mostly by the ineptitude of her new team of sleuths: Allan Quartermain Junior (hmmmm…), burglar Raffles and the immortal if not immutable Orlando who preens himself hilariously throughout, name-dropping like a Timelord:

“Lando, that has to be the most stupid thing you’ve ever said.”
“Oh, I don’t know. There was, “Oh look! What a wonderful horse!” That was at Troy.”

 

Lastly there’s Tom Carnacki whose disturbing premonitions of impending disaster are what drive this new series. For the seer has twin visions: one of a sect preparing to create a Moonchild or Anti-Christ; the other of Captain Nemo’s daughter rejecting her father’s inheritance and abandoning him and his Nautilus for foreign climes – which to her means here. Unfortunately as the team concentrate on the former along with what appears to be the return of Jack The Ripper in the form of Mac The Knife, Mina is warned too late by Norton, a man trapped physically in London but free to roam through time, that it’s their very investigation that will, in an impetuous raid, precipitate and perhaps exacerbate exactly what they’re seeking to avert, setting the scene for 1969.

Meanwhile, they’ve taken their collective eye fatally off the crystal ball which warned of human heads piled up on the docks outside a London hotel which is exactly where Captain Nemo’s daughter Janni has sought employment and attracting a worrying amount of salacious attention from its drooling, drunken patrons. This is where Moore has so cleverly adapted Brecht and Weill’s Pirate Jenny, recasting the song’s victims as culpable rapists thoroughly deserving the wrath and carnage as each verse inevitably builds towards from its initial ominous warning:

“And the ship… the black raider… with a skull on its masthead… moves in from the sea!”

Kevin O’Neill is on magnificent form as ever, particularly during the harrowing Pirate Jenny refrains although you’ll also get the big bang for your buck by the end. My favourite this time of the many side-references Moore packs in, is the gossip about the Chatterleys!

I can’t help you with the rest of the Threepenny Opera, but if you’ve never heard Pirate Jenny we’ll be playing Marc Almond’s ivory-hammering 1987 Melancholy Rose b-side version in the shop. Just ask us to slap it on next time you’re in!

LOEG: CENTURY 1969

Ravaged by time, the once-mighty League is now down to three members: Mina Murray, preserved by her vampiric hickie, Allan Quartermain who is also a lot older than his aspect would suggest, and the immortal but far from immutable Orlando who is back on the turn and once more growing breasts.

Now they’ve returned to London in 1969 and immediately set about investigating even though Oliver Haddo supposedly died in Hastings back in 1947. Well, someone did, and it’s a scene which Moore and O’Neill play to perfection. Who then is the mysterious Charles Felton courting vain and gullible pop star Terner of The Purple Orchestra whose front man, Basil Thomas, was drowned in his swimming pool by robed monks in front of his pilled-up boyf, Wolfe Lovejoy?

It’s a special Same-Sex, Drugs & Rock’n'Roll edition of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, as the once-prudish Mina strives to stay hip to the times but finds she’s not as au fait as she thinks. Indeed this second part climaxes in a stunningly bad trip by the Edward Hyde memorial statue surrounded by the art and artefacts of the day from Spacehoppers and Daleks to Tony the Tiger, after which Mina’s fate will genuinely shock you.

The title has always been a collage of borrowed fiction so although London does exist, none of its shops, clubs or inhabitants here have save in books, films, television programmes and songs. Half the fun is spotting what Moore has appropriated and where from, especially now that as the years progress the variety of media Moore can choose from expands. Michael Caine’s Jack Carter plays a pivotal role in tracking down Basil’s murderers, and although Get Carter didn’t actually appear at the cinema until 1970, cleverly here he has yet to head north on that family business in Newcastle. I’ll leave the rest of you to puzzle over yourselves, but I was particularly tickled to see Parker, Lady Penelope’s chauffeur from Thunderbirds, as a petrol pump attendant.

LOEG: CENTURY 2009

In which the identity of the Moonchild is finally revealed.

SLH

Buy League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century (Complete Edition) h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bodies #1 of 8 (£2-99, Vertigo) by Si Spencer & Megan Hetrick, Dean Ormston, Tula Lotay, Phil Winslade.

Longharvest Lane, London 2014, 1890, 2050 and 1940.

Four artists for four time periods in which a naked male corpse is discovered in the same position, with the same mutilations and the same mark slashed on its wrists.

2014 sees East End Muslim, D.S. Shahara Hasan, in police riot gear leading the charge against an aggressive, racist demonstration. She is philosophical about the thugs and amused by her subordinate’s sense of humour:

“Tell me again why I’m the one in the armour and you’re swanning about in Hugo Boss?”

“Because your people are on a ruthless Jihad to set up an Islamofascist annex of Mecca on the Mile End Road?”

“And don’t you forget it. Your head’ll be first to roll as soon as my schimitar arrives from Taliban Central.”

She’s about to have that smile wiped off her face.

In 1890 Inspector Edmond Hillinghead strays on a top-hatted toff receiving relief down a dark alley before tripping in flight over a hacked and slashed corpse.

“Someone really didn’t like him.”
“Or really liked doing this to him.”

Dutiful and diligent, Hillinghead will do his best for the victim in spite of his colleagues’ less than enlightened attitudes towards society’s lowly and outcast.

Armed with a bow and arrow, Maplewood discovers hers in the scantily populated capitol in 2050, along with a brightly coloured ball and a girl called Bounce. Maplewood struggles with labels and barely remembers her own name.

During an air raid in 1940’s East End, we find one Inspector Weissman with unorthodox methods of policing his turf.

“The blackouts and the raids mask a multitude of crimes. Most of them mine.”

But not all of them, apparently.

All four artists bring distinct atmospheres to their eras: forensic, grotesque, ethereal and Butch Guice brand of photorealism, respectively.

Spencer and his colleague set up the prejudices – and presumption – in one particular period cleverly and you can colour me intrigued, but I do hope I haven’t already got it.

“And so it begins, Frater Ladbroke.”
“To the Long Harvest.”

SLH

Buy Bodies #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Reel Love Act One (£3-99, Do Gooder Comics) by Owen Johnson…

“This is your first memory of dreams in the dark…
“This is your first memory of me.”

I am sure we can all remember our earliest trips to the cinema and the impression they made upon us. Probably like a lot of kids of my generation, the first time I went to the cinema and was utterly blown away was to see Star Wars. I have some vague recollections of seeing a Disney animation, possibly The Rescuers just before that, but it certainly didn’t make the same hammer-like impression upon my brain.

I absolutely loved this story of a young boy’s initiation into the world of celluloid, as part narrated by the disembodied voice of cinema itself. In our modern society of on-demand, any-time viewing of pretty much anything you could possibly want, I doubt a first trip to the cinema today could have the same impact as it did for our generation. Back in our day, aside from the odd gem on television (if you actually caught it when it was on, that is), there wasn’t a great deal for kids to watch. Thus a trip to the cinema really did seem like an other-worldly experience, a genuinely special event.

 

And, after an initial false start being taking to see a Robin Hood film at possibly just too tender an age by his dad, our main character here also receives his ‘baptism cosmic’ at the hands of Luke and Han. What then follows is a rapidly burgeoning obsession with films and indeed film-making set against the backdrop of a coming-of-age friendship yarn. I can see why Jeff Lemire was sufficiently impressed to provide a cover pull quote, and actually, you can see comparisons with Jeff’s work both in terms or storytelling and artistically, in this black and white work. It’s not ESSEX COUNTY by any means, but exactly as with Jeff’s early work from 2005, LOST DOGS, you can see Owen’s talent. I think this is probably more polished than LOST DOGS, actually. Plus it’s certainly a very different piece from Owen’s other work we are currently stocking, the sonically themed and psychedelically powered RAYGUN ROADS, so he’s clearly a versatile creator to watch out for.

JR

Buy Reel Love Act One and read the Page 45 review here

X-Men: Magneto – Testament s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak & Carmine Di Giandomenico, Neal Adams.

“It can’t get any worse than this.”

Exceptional.

I’ll be recommending it to every school as a set text on The Holocaust or at the very least an essential part of their library. It’s not as powerful as JUDENHASS but it’s far more accessible for younger readers, being a gripping narrative which whilst fiction is still informed in minute but by no means intrusive detail by historical fact. It was the extensive annotations by Greg Pak in the back that I actually read first, and I’m glad that I did so. For although there are the occasional snatches of perfectly judged narrative anchoring the events in history, the annotations themselves – brief, precise, and well argued with references – show that Greg did everything in his power to ensure that Max Eisenhardt’s story fits within historical records in every conceivable way. Moreover I’ve argued before that most superhero stories involving real-world horrors have a tendency to trivialise those suffering by suggesting solutions unavailable to those concerned, whereas here Pak has done the exact opposite:

“In our story’s climax, we wanted our hero to take action. But we felt it was important not to depict him as the actual leader of the Sonderkommando revolt. Real human beings led this revolt — we didn’t want to detract from their almost unthinkable heroism by suggesting that the revolt was only possible because a super hero took charge.”

The revolt happened, by the way. Similarly, when discussing the tattooing process and numbering schemes, Greg writes:

“We made the decision not to show Max’s actual number in this tattooing scene. The more I read the testimonies of actual survivors, the more uncomfortable I became with the notion of giving our fictional hero a number that a real human being once bore.”

Absolutely right, Greg, and if you’d made one up that was never used, that would have broken your record of historical accuracy.

But surely, you’re thinking, historical accuracy goes up in smoke the second the future X-Men leader/villain (pick your era) starts using his powers…? Err, what powers? Aside from a school javelin throw and a certain knack for spotting metal where others might not have noticed it, that’s it, guys. Even at a key climax halfway through the book, when his family fleeing through the woods is caught by German soldiers and lined up in front of a firing squad, and you just know that Max is finally going to unleash his magnetic power against the bullets flying towards them… And you know that because Greg has encouraged you to expect it by reprising his father’s considered exhortation (“Sometimes you get a moment… when everything lines up. When anything is possible. When suddenly… you can make things happen.”)… Pak flips that deliberate misdirection around in a manner which is perfectly devastating.

Germany 1935, then, just prior to the Nazi’s announcing the Nuremberg Laws, and young Max is already suffering Anti-Semitism at school, but nothing will prepare him, his family, or the young Romany girl called Magda for what lies ahead: Kristallnacht, Poland, the Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz. If there’s one thing Pak’s characters focus on above all others it’s weighing the balance about when to fight when the repercussions for every act of defiance were for dozens, hundreds or thousands to pay the price. It’s very well argued indeed. Also, for every moment of hope, there is a crushing blow.

Combined with Max Hollingsworth’s moody palette which produces more than a little Tim Sale in the final effect, Giandomenico has done an exemplary job of illustrating some very difficult scenes, from the Jewish arrivals stripped of their clothes at Auschwitz to the knock-out, double-page spread of the book in the fourth chapter when Max stumbles upon the room piled almost to the roof with glass spectacles: stunning.

The covers by Marko Djurdjevic are pretty haunting too, but just when you thought you’d got as much as you could from this volume, there’s a biographical piece in the back on Dina Gottliebova, a woman interned in Auschwitz and forced by Mengele to paint portraits of those undergoing his horrific, nonsensical experiments… brilliantly illustrated by Neal Adams with Joe Kubert. And it’s the best Adams art I’ve seen in decades. Kubert, of course, produced the similarly themed YOSSEL which I praised to the heavens, but can you imagine what Adams could have contributed to this medium if superheroes hadn’t been the only form of real bread and butter back then…?

SLH

Buy X-Men: Magneto – Testament s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Guardians Of The Galaxy: Abnett & Lanning Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Paul Pelletier, Brad Walker, Wes Craig…

Spinning out of the ANNIHILATION and shortly thereafter ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST cosmic event epics that firmly re-established fan-interest in off-Earth tights and capery, this was a radically updated version of the classic space-faring team. I can remember being sceptical at the time that the all-new roster of members comprising of Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Quasar, Adam Warlock, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer and Groot could get close to recapturing the magic of the original material. And whilst it certainly wasn’t as surreal or at times frankly weird as that initial run, now available again in two volumes: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: TOMORROW’S AVENGERS VOL 1 S/C and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: TOMORROW’S AVENGERS VOL 2 S/C, it was exceptionally good fun. Certainly on a par with the ‘90s reboot material featuring the original team that ran for sixty-odd issues before running eventually running out of warp power.

This run also coincided with an excellent run on NOVA by Abnett and Lanning that was almost entirely space-based too, which is currently out of print but hopefully will also be recollected. It probably will given the Richard Ryder character is about to reappear in the current GUARDIANS saga. I was somewhat surprised when both titles were cancelled after only about 25 issues each, as I actually thought they were amongst the better titles Marvel were putting out at the time. This material had strong storytelling and certainly remains worth reading.

I think, therefore, Bendis clearly took a look at everything that was right with this run such as the character line-up, just tinkered with it a little bit, then sprinkled some of his magic dialogue-dust on, and hey presto, suddenly it is a massive title again.

JR

Buy Guardians Of The Galaxy: Abnett & Lanning Collection vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Masterworks: Spider-Man vol 8 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & John Romita, John Buscema.

“Boy! This secret identity jazz can sure be a strain!”

In which Peter is a hipster and I get my old-man hat on.

Oh, how these covers are gorgeous!

I don’t mean this one – though Romita’s composition is exceptional – I mean the original covers, each and every one, coloured to striking perfection using red, blue with yellow and a verdant green.

John Romita Sr. knew how to fill but not overcrowd a cover. Essentially you are given Spider-Man big and bold, swinging over campus crowds, walking away from a victory distraught or being pinned, punched and wrestled to the ground by the Kingpin, Man-Mountain Marko or The Lizard. Anything else would be superfluous. Multiple Quicksilvers smack him all at once like some Final Fantasy assault you’ve pre-programmed using concurrent attacks. The Shocker blasts away at a midnight wall spot lit by the iconic Spidey Signal.

Yeah, the Spidey Signal projected from the wall-crawler’s belt. That was a thing, once.

I don’t believe superhero comic covers have ever attained these heights since, other than a clutch of Frank Miller’s DAREDEVIL efforts often marred by bicycle adverts. Seriously, by bicycle adverts. How sad was that? Maybe a few of his Romita Jr.’s IRON MAN pieces and – in a completely different way – David Aja’s chic and contemporary HAWKEYE designs. The sequential storytelling inside is good but it’s on the cover than Romita ruled.

Unusually you are by chance here presented with a complete, extended story arc involving an engraved tablet akin to the Rosetta Stone which no one so far has been able to decipher. It’s displayed on Peter Parker’s campus, the residential ramifications of which spark student riots headed by the disenfranchised African-American contingent demanding an egalitarian outcome. Peter reacts badly to their peer pressure so alienating his girlfriend, Gwen, who wonders if he’s a coward. Her father, police Captain Stacy, wonders if he’s Spider-Man.

It’s stolen by the Kingpin (people forget he was created as a recurrent Spider-Man villain long before Frank Miller saw his costumeless, mobster merit and potential as a crime-lord DAREDEVIL adversary) and from then on it’s a pass-the-parcel, snatch and re-snatch officially branding Spider-Man a wanted thief until it falls into the hands of a desperate, aging Maggia chief called Silvermane. At which point, be careful what you wish for!

Even on a re-read, forty years later, this seems seamlessly constructed, especially the outcome until “Jazzy” John Romita dispels your illusions in its introduction by revealing that it was all constructed on the hoof, an issue at a time, without a clue as to where it was all heading. Neil Gaiman maintains the same thing about SANDMAN, though I have never believed him but, to my mind, that makes both all the more impressive.

SLH

Buy Marvel Masterworks: Spider-Man vol 8 and read the Page 45 review here

Rat Queens vol 1: Sass & Sorcery (£7-50, Image) by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch…

Sometimes, things are just so preposterously outlandish they work. The Rat Queens are an eclectic bunch of hard-drinking, drug-taking, monster-bashing ladies of pretty much every fantastical ethnicity. Starved of excitement, barely tolerated by the local constabulary on the basis that they do occasionally help keep the locale safe (when they’re not busy smashing it up during yet another booze-addled barroom brawl, that is), they are in desperate need some shenanigans in their lives. Cue an assassination attempt on them and several of their dungeoneering rivals – for some mysterious reason possibly not entirely unrelated to their continued collateral damage of their city – and finally it’s time to have some fun!

Like some insane Dadaist revision of a staid and boring Dungeon and Dragons module, liberally coated with mead and then set aflame, this is utter nonsense. It should by all rights be rubbish, but instead it’s hilarious. As parodies of fighting fantasy go it’s amongst the best I’ve read. It’s certainly as ridiculous as (the currently re-printing) DUNGEON QUEST, a personal favourite of mine which mercilessly satirises the genre thus neatly appealing to both fans and haters of the archetype. I was also strongly minded of the recent DISENCHANTED, though this is definitely played far more for laughs. Anyone who reads / watches ADVENTURE TIME is almost certain to love it too, I would think.

 

 

Kurtis Wiebe may have struck a potentially rich seam of comedy gold here. With gold, though, inevitably comes trouble…

JR

Buy Rat Queens vol 1: Sass & Sorcery and read the Page 45 review here

Metal Gear Solid Deluxe Edition h/c (£55-99, IDW) by Kris Oprisko, Matt Fraction, Alex Garner & Ashley Wood, Rufus Dayglo.

At least, we think this is in stock. Like everything we order it arrived in a cardboard box, and this one was last seen scuttling towards the locker room…

This massive doorstop collects both the original METAL GEAR SOLIDS books and both SONS OF LIBERTY books, plus the five-page #0 written by Matt Fraction. All ten sentences of it! In fact, it contains everything.

So many licensed properties get lumbered with half-assed amateurs on visuals, but this is pure, painterly quality, full of atmosphere, in gun-metal grey and a steely green-blue.

It is, on the other hand, exactly the same story as the games.

SLH

Buy Metal Gear Solid Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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?

 

The Beginner’s Guide To Being Outside (£5-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Gill Hatcher

Blood Blokes #4 (£2-99, Great Beast) by Adam Cadwell

The Collected Works Of Filler Bunny (£7-50, SLG Publishing) by Jhonen Vasquez

Corpse Talk Season 1 (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by Adam Murphy

Days (£11-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Simon Moreton

Dexter Down Under h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lindsay & Dakbor Talajic

Gary’s Garden Book 1 (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by Gary Northfield

God Is Dead vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Mike Costa & Juan Frigeri, German Erramouspe, Jacen Burrows

Henry And Glenn: Forever And Ever (£13-50, Microcosm Publishing) by Tom Neely

How The World Was – A California Childhood (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Emmanual Guibert

How To Make Awesome Comics (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by Neill Cameron

I Was The Cat h/c (£18-99, Oni Press) by Paul Tobin & Ben Dewey

Long Gone Don (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by the Etherington Brothers

Metroland #1 (£4-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Ricky Miller & Julia Scheele, Rebecca Strickson, Jazz Greenhill

The People Inside h/c (£18-99, Oni Press) by Ray Fawkes

Reads vol 2 #1 (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tim Bird, Luke Halsall, Ricky Miller, Edie O.P., Owen D. Pomery

The Ring Of The Nibelung h/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by P. Craig Russell

Scott Pilgrim vol 5 h/c Colour Edition (£18-99, Oni Press) by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Star Wars: Jedi Academy vol 2: Return Of The Padawan h/c (£8-99, Scholastic Publishing) by Jeffrey Brown

Constantine vol 2: Blight s/c (£10-99, DC) by Ray Fawkes & Aco, Szymon Kudranski, Ben Lobel

Trillium s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire

Thanos: The Infinity Revelation h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin

Uncanny X-Force: Rick Remender Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Jerome Opena, Leonardo Manco, Rafael Albuquerque, Esad Ribic, Billy Tan, Mark Brooks, Robbi Rodriguez

Black Butler vol 17 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Yana Toboso

Dragonar Academy vol 3 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Shiki Mizuchi & Ran

Les Miserables: Manga Classics (£14-99, Udon) by Crystal Silvermoon, Stacy King & SunNeko Lee

Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 6: To War (£22-50, Random House / Vertical) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

Monster Perfect Edition vol 1 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa

News!

ITEM! Brubaker & Phillips’ FATALE is over (fifth and final collect imminent). The final two pages were perfect! But wait –! Arriving 20th August: THE FADE OUT #1 by Brubaker & Phillips! Preview!

ITEM! Preview pages of Carol Swain’s GAST (reviewed above).

ITEM! Preview pages of P. Craig Russell’s THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG (in this week so listed above, review next Wednesday).

ITEM! Sarah McIntyre posts the best comic blogs ever! They’re packed full of wit, drama, spectacle and spectacles.

ITEM! Professor Lizz Lunney begins her ONE A DAY COMICS FOR AUGUST

ITEM! Dan Berry’s THE CAKE MAN comic: a conversation in Algeria.

ITEM! Evan Dorkin’s HOW TO DRAW MARVEL COMICS THE EVAN DORKIN WAY. The pitch is priceless, the project doomed.

ITEM! Ah, Comics Bubble, there you are again. Remind me, what did you do last time…? Oh, that’s right, you burst.

If you think it won’t happen again when we are repeating exactly the same mistakes, I call you Ostrich.

Mile High’s full San Diego exclusive-variant-cover-fiasco newsletters are here and here.

Thankfully none of this is remotely relevant to Page 45 because our revenue from graphic novels (so far free from shenanigans) exceeds our sales of periodicals by a factor of four the last time I looked, and I would never even consider exhibiting at a convention like San Diego!

ITEM! Here’s where we are going instead: The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October 2014 with Page 45 signings by Scott McCloud and Glyn Dillon and far, far more.

Yippee!

- Stephen

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