Reviews August 2014 week three

“It’s raining out, Rick.”
“I walk between the raindrops.”

Aloof, insouciant, he’s exactly like you want your wannabe pop idols to be.

 – Jonathan on Metroland #1

The Heart Of The Beast – A Love Story h/c (£18-99, Dynamite) by Judith Dupré, Dean R. Motter & Sean Phillips.

“Don’t be so nervous, Michael. The masks are simply buffers. They protect us from our real selves.”

Spot the predator!

Four panels later Dr. Wright places a hand proprietorially on Michael’s shoulder, and Sean makes Michael look very unsure.

Welcome to opening night at Dr. Wright’s New York gallery where pretension is de rigeur – and I don’t just mean young huckster Jacob’s flimflam. It’s packed full of self-proclaimed and self-regarding cognoscenti. Investors rather than art lovers salivate over the commodified canvasses while they are liberally plied with any opening night’s main attraction: the free booze.

Tonight it’s being served by aspiring actress Sandy who takes a shine to the surgeon’s right-hand man, the well-built if taciturn Victor who seems curiously always on call. Still, he goes to see her perform; she takes him to the zoo; and Victor shows her the painting he loves most, Rembrandt’s Bathsheba.

Art seems to stir something inside him, while the polar bears elicit an altogether different reaction. As to his past friends and relatives, goodness they seem an unfortunate bunch…! A poet who drowned very young, and a nephew called William murdered by his Auntie Justine who was then hanged for her sins. Something’s just not adding up…

The draw for me is studying the increasingly confident watercolours by a relatively young Sean Phillips (CRIMINAL, FATALE, SLEEPER, THE ART OF SEAN PHILLIPS etc) for this was first published by Vertigo twenty years ago!

There’d been a spate of painted comics like Jon J. Muth’s MOONSHADOW, Kent Williams’ BLOOD, Bill Sienkiewicz’s STRAY TOASTERS followed by Duncan Fegredo’s KID ETERNITY and George Pratt’s ENEMY ACE, and this is closest in style to the first with photorealistic pencils softly enhanced by loose, lambast washes which left a lot of white to keep the pages bright and fresh. The odd bit of photography’s slipped in and jars not one jot after the initial three holiday snapshots, which is extraordinary given that these were the days when Photoshop was just a retail outlet where you got your film developed. Additionally there’s some rather clever work when a second Bathsheba’s discovered. His sneering Jacob is a hideous joy while Sandra herself is an angel.

No, she really is, for enduring Victor’s pontifications and oh-my-god issues! Victor has ALL the issues, tossed out ridiculously early into the dating game and I spent most of the graphic novel screaming at Sandra to run!

And this, I confess, is where the graphic novel falls short. The dialogue is very… stilted in places and its ties to its source material are too tight. (Clues: Victor, Shelley, poet drowning young, those scars on his arm and he’s really much older than he looks: Dr Wright had his surgical work cut out for him, certainly.) On the other hand, “Uh – make that more blue!” made me laugh after another of Jacob’s tirades.

Judith Dupré’s introduction provides a fascinating insight into the 1980s’ art scene (she was a “gallerina”!) while Sean Phillips exhumes some fascinating thumbnails, early design work plus the original Dave McKean-esque cover which was perfect for (and very much of) its day, and he happily chats about the lot.

SLH

Buy The Heart Of The Beast – A Love Story h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Dark Ages #1 of 4 (£2-99, Dark Horse) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard.

“Never have I asked the Lord our God for much, for I never wanted to owe him.”

Very wise, very wise.

“I feel his disapproving eyes on me, most days, and I fear his wrath.
“For it is sudden and it is awful.”

My headmaster had a temper on him too.

Still, there are worse things in the world and indeed off-world as Captain Hawkherst and his not-so-merry men are about to find out.

It is early winter, 1333, in Europe. The Captain’s cadre are tired and hungry. War profiteers, right now times are tough and food is thin on the ground. What they desperately need – and are tempted to pray for – is for hostilities to erupt. Be careful what you wish for.

Up in the sky they spy brand-new heavenly bodies: five oddly shaped stars dancing like diamonds in the night. They appear to be in formation. They are. And they are far from heavenly.

 

From the creators of NEW DEADWARDIANS which we loved so much we made it a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month comes another historical mash-up, this time medieval in nature: aliens versus chain-mailed, human predators.

Crucially the aliens are indeed suitably alien in aspect, their otherness truly terrifying to Hawkherst, Galvin, Aelfric and co. The hardened veterans actually turn tail and run. They run and seek sanctuary in a mountain-top monastery, but its resident monks prove equally unnerving. Their faces hidden under cowls with but silver beards shining through, they say nothing. They talk to no one. And up in the evening’s cold, obsidian sky something even darker approaches… Something much, much bigger.

Stupendous final and full-page flourish from Ian “I.N.J.” Culbard after an already-chilling opening chapter while Dan Abnett will put the fear of God into you. On so many levels as well.

Its dialogue is suitably sparse and direct, his superstitious soldiers pragmatic all the same. As to his monks, one at least has a tongue as well as an ear to floor, for he has been waiting.

“They’re here.”

SLH

Buy Dark Ages #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“I have wondrous memories of my country before the war.
“It was during the war everything changed.
“A tremendous number of people, soldiers, factory and shipyard workers, spent time on the Pacific Coast. A whole lot of people who knew nothing about California passed through it.
“After the war, which for us lasted four years, the population had doubled.
“That’s a lot, doubled.”

It is indeed. Fascinating biographic prequel from Emmanuel Guibert, the author of ALAN’S WAR: THE MEMORIES OF G.I. COPE, as he delves into the early years of his late friend Alan Cope’s childhood in California. Much as with his wartime memoirs, nothing particularly exciting or untoward happening to Alan during his formative years, spent in the relatively tranquil and idyllic settings of undeveloped 1920s and ‘30s California. The title says it all, really: this is a glimpse into a bygone era, one of neighbourly community and necessary thrift, which would seem like a different planet to the modern-day residents of a State which today compared to nations, ranks all by itself as the world’s eighth largest economy, with all the development for good and ill that entails.

 

 

The concept of a silicon valley, to those living amongst the vast lemon groves of yesteryear would, I am sure, seem a concept so fantastical as to be the subject of a Orson Welles-esque, science-fiction, radiophonic drama. That’s if you even had a radio or electricity. Alan’s family did have a radio, but it ran from a car battery that lasted an hour. They didn’t have a car, so it required charging up in the town nearby… Works like this one are important, as they do form part of our shared cultural history. Wars we will never forget, though even those will fade in intensity in the wider public consciousness with time, but sometimes the little things, such as how families and communities in a given locale, in a certain era, interacted and just got by are also extremely important.

JR

Buy How The World Was – A California Childhood and read the Page 45 review here

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

“It’s raining out, Rick.”
“I walk between the raindrops.”

Ha, some people just do pretentious spectacularly well. Rick, or Ricky Stardust to give him his full stage name, is one of those people. Obviously his louche life is something of a car crash, as he glams and jams along with his band Electric Dreams, seemingly without a care in the world. I chuckled throughout at his near-continuous snappy comebacks and one-liners. His riposte to an elderly couple sat opposite him stretched out on train is typical of the man…

“These young people have taken this country to the dogs.”
“Your generation took it to the dogs, we’re just living in the kennel.”

Aloof, insouciant, he’s exactly like you want your wannabe pop idols to be. He does have a soft spot for his fellow band member Jess, but you get the impression she’s grown tired of his emotional front and game-playing.

 

 

Not sure how much I should read into writer Ricky Miller giving the main character the same first name as his own…! Anyway, just when you think you know precisely what this comic is – a cheeky romcom with a musical backdrop – there’s an existential shift, two in fact, which seemingly bookend the main story. Both are illustrated by different artists in completely contrasting styles, portraying the apparent first meeting, as children, between Ricky and Jess at the seaside, and then an old man, sat alone with his memories in a bed. He’s recounting stories to someone who only he can see. Who the man and his illusory companion, a young girl, are, isn’t revealed to us, but we can perhaps speculate from the context of their conversation. Lovely example of how you can do something bubble-gum fun yet also thought provoking, and indeed stylish if you put your mind to it.

JR

Buy Metroland #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

“I never wanted to sit in the car for five hours just to stay in some freezing shed in Scotland! Why couldn’t we go to Tenerife like last year? That was amazing.”
“Megan, we’ve already been through this…”

There is a wonderfully telling moment early on in this story where Megan’s mother passes her a book, a present from her Gran that is a guide to Scottish wildlife. Obviously her Gran thought it would make perfect educational holiday reading. Utterly unimpressed, Megan notes, however, she can download a free wildlife app, to her ever-present smart phone. Her phone, ipod and handheld games console are her ritual escapes from the mundane world of her mother’s failing relationship with her boyfriend. It’s history repeating itself all over again as far as she is concerned, and she’s not afraid to let her mum know it. Her dig that her dad would probably take her to Tenerife is a bit below the belt, though. Yes, Megan fears she is going to have to endure a very boring and excruciating holiday, but in fact what unfolds is a charming story of connection, perhaps more accurately reconnection, with both her mum and nature itself.

 

It did also make me smile that said wildlife app proves of far better use and provides considerably more enjoyment to Megan than the book possibly could. It’s a neat little comment on today’s technology, that it needn’t only be used for sequestering ourselves away, but also engaging with, indeed embracing, and learning all about the wider world we live in. I enjoyed Gill’s art too, she manages to express vast landscapes incredibly beautifully with what is a relatively simple style, very different to Oliver East’s, but to the same effect as in his THE HOMESICK TRUANT’S CUMBRIAN YARN. The highlight artistically for me, being an extended daydream sequence where Megan finds herself at play with various animals on land, at sea and in the air. Heart-warming stuff that will have you wanting to grab your walking boots and head out into the countryside for a stroll. Or perhaps your phone and checking out your friends’ holidays on Facebook…

JR

Buy The Beginner’s Guide To Being Outside and read the Page 45 review here

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

“…Our street was roof and rhythms, washed out colours and scents of lavender, hot tarmac, watered gardens, big skies.
“But things change.
“By the time I became a teenager this place with its alleyways and hedges, houses and houses, cars and lawns, became a tapestry of banality, an oroborous of suburbia, endlessly eating its own tail.
“’In such streets you could outdream everybody,’ wrote Alan Sillitoe, though I don’t know where he wrote it.
“We tried, with truancies and petty thefts, smoking in woods, with parties at strangers’ houses, and strangers at parties.
“We became cartographers and architects of tiny revolutions.”

Sometimes you need a weight of material for it to make its real impact upon you. Especially auto-biographical work. Take Eddie Campbell’s ALEC, for example. Its individual component books are all wonderful, but taken together, the whole really becomes something more than the sum of the parts, a true chronicle of a life. I had read one or two of Simon’s SMOO comics before, and enjoyed them, but the material compiled here provides an intriguing snapshot into Simon’s formative years, which I suspect were not that atypical to many of us in our various urban boroughs and suburbs.

The closest comparison I could make would be John Porcelino and his KING-CAT comics, though. Both have an elegance and economy of form artistically which suggests the simple yet often emotionally sophisticated messages they wish to convey. I can well imagine Simon could write some pretty good haiku if he was so minded, actually, as I have no doubt could John. Here is a little excerpt that sums up Simon’s time shortly after starting at University…

“Life was strange…
“…and I was lonely.
“But it was an okay sort of lonely.”

If you like autobiographical minis with heart like KING-CAT or perhaps Carrie McNinch’s YOU DON’T GET THERE FROM HERE, I think you will enjoy.

JR

Buy Days and read the Page 45 review here

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

A slight confession at this point… I don’t particularly like cats. There is just something devious about them to my mind that makes them inherently untrustworthy and unlikeable. I am therefore delighted to say… I knew I was right! For Burma the talking cat, currently living the last of his nine lives, is intent on world domination. Again… He always has been for as long as he can remember, which is a very long time indeed, but despite his best attempts, total global domination has always just eluded his grasp. Possibly due to the lack of opposable thumbs making grasping difficult, but still.

So why, now, has Burma hired a journalist, Allison Breaking, to write his memoirs and reveal his existence to the world?! Because he thinks he’s finally going to succeed this time, that’s why! He doesn’t tell Amy his current megalomaniacal plans of course, professing himself to be a reformed feline felon, but we the readers are privy to all the details his dastardly insane plot.

 

You can tell Paul really enjoyed putting this story together, it is a fabulously funny read, as was a personal previous favourite of mine penned by him, GINGERBREAD GIRL. He really knows how to build a complex story whilst simultaneously keeping the comedy sideshow in full flow. As Burma recounts the sordid tales of his previous eight lives, all the while attempting to influence powerful figures like Queen Elizabeth I, Napoleon and various US presidents for his own illicit ends, our journalist and her sidekick chum listen ever more enraptured. There is a very good reason for that rapt attention, all to do with Burma’s latest fiendish scheme…

Exquisitely lovely, indeed felicitous, art from Benjamin Dewey, whom I must profess I am only aware of doing some bits and pieces in HUSBANDS prior to now. But based on this he needs to be doing a lot more because he is extremely talented. I hope Paul and Benjamin have a huge hit with this work, it would be enormously well deserved, and I think they may well might, for whilst I am not a cat lover, I know pretty much everyone else is. Indeed, you might well feel there are worse things than the ruler of the entire world being a talking cat. So, the only question that remains I suppose is will I be more satisfied by the ending or will you…?

JR

Buy I Was The Cat h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Street Angel h/c (£14-99, Adhouse Books) by Brian Maruca & Jim Rugg ~

“STREET ANGEL might not be the kind of comic (excuse me, “graphic novel”) that the New York Times is writing up these days. But it’s a hell of a lot more fun than those books are. I like fun comics that knock me on my ass. That’s why I like STREET ANGEL. Rugg and Maruca handle comic book and action genre tropes, pop culture kitsch, superhero parody and other beaten horses with aplomb. Yes, that’s right, I said aplomb. I’ve been saving that word for twenty years now just to use it here.”

– Evan Dorkin, from his introduction.

Jesse Sanchez is Street Angel. Homeless, skateboarding defender of the ghetto. Whooping the butts of Ninjas, Pirates, Robots, Rednecks, Were-Sharks and Evil Scientists everywhere, while managing to stay in school just long enough for morning registration. It’s like I’m 10 again and someone’s emptied out my toy box and started making all the assorted figures have a huge brawl. STREET ANGEL has all the traits of a boy’s favourite toy too. Consider the facts:

a) She got wheels. Everyone knows skateboards make toys 100% cooler.
b) She’s a she. Boy’s don’t tend to have lots of female action figures, the ones they have they cherish. Or maybe that was just me…

Enough of the dodgy analogy. Maruca’s art is kinetic when action is called for with compositions that the likes of Frank Miller should be doing. Titles spelt out in the glass from the window Jesse’s has just been thrown through – class! It pops out at you from the page. From the moment you see its striking pink cover to the dark Nickelodeon-esque adventures inside, this book demands your attention. I suggest you take notice.

TR

Buy Street Angel h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Doctor Grordbort Presents Onslaught h/c (£15-99, Titan) by Greg Broadmore.

I say, young man, do get a grip!

Fillies, avert your fluttering eyes for fear of faint-heartitude!

This is the roast beef of cartoonographs: old school, cocksure Colonialism gone steampunk in space. A balanced education is vastly overrated, but patriotic propaganda can never come too early into a child’s life! This edition collects all three of the previous books.

“Unnecessarily violent tales of science adventure for the simple and unfortunate,” it stars Lord Cockswain – “the man, the myth and the muttonchops” – in explosive, expletive-ridden episodes of comicbook triumphalism immolating google-eyed aliens, be they semi-sentient like Johnny Foreigner or fit for the trophy room. Join him as he blasts his way through alien civilisations until they’re no longer alien. Or civilised. Until, in fact, they are simply no longer.

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

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

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

Take a closer look at the Ray-Blunderbuss affectionately known as ‘The Unnatural Selector’ with an Interesting Scientific Fact: “The Unnatural Selector will render a yard-wide aperture in a giraffe at 60 feet, and give a blue whale a nasty rash through 200 yards of saltwater.”

Perhaps you are a maiden in want of munitions? Try the Silver Mantiss 99se Thin Cone Death Beam: “This cultured ray-pistol is the weapon of choice for young ladies around town these days. Its sublimely polished exterior and refined aesthetics mean you can turn a common brigand into common chemical constituents, and not for a moment seem uncouth or affected. Once fired, the now-heated barrel could be used to roller your hair and the mirror finish could be used in a pinch to check your blusher and rouge. It probably does other girly things too, like flower arrangement, but that’s just a guess.”

There’s a special feature on the Venusian savages, none of whom can be relied on to accomplish decent trigonometry, one strain of which, moreover, has “quite disgusting tentacles – like he started eating an octopus then got bored and gave up”.

I was so stiffened by this stirring tome that I myself have already registered with the Earth Elite Forces, and hope to rise through their ranks at a swift yet gentlemanly pace, thence to the far reaches of space in the name of Queen and Country.

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

SLH

Buy Doctor Grordbort Presents Onslaught h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Preacher Book vol 5 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon.

Attitude on a stick, reading this series is like listening to Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads. It’s brutal and bloody and fucking hilarious. It stars a wayward preacher whose parish has been nuked by a force from Heaven and Hell which gives him the power of God’s Word. When he uses The Word his eyes glow red, and you will do what he tells you to no matter how anatomically improbable. Now he’s off in search of God to make Him apologise for abandoning His creation, and along for the ride are his ex-alcoholic ex-hitwoman ex-girlfriend and a vampire with an uncanny resemblance to Shane MacGowan. I’m not saying Shane MacGowan necessarily drinks blood, but look at the bloody state of him!

Along the way they’ll bump into Jesse’s own family, the vituperative Herr Starr who loses at least one limb per volume, impressionable Kurt Cobain fan Arseface who tried to emulate his idol and is now left with a gaping hole in his mouth and a subsequent speech impediment, plus the last remaining bloodline of Christ who is a delinquent and drooling moron.

Deliriously funny, spectacularly violent and highly blasphemous to boot, this nonetheless boasts at its heart a strong moral core: it’s about friendship, loyalty and doing the right thing.

Exceptional character acting by artist Steve Dillon.

(Have some fun: print this out, bring it in without telling me and ask me to describe this series on the shop floor. I’ve used exactly same words ever since it first came out!)

These are new, chunkier editions without individual titles, this one contains #41-54

SLH

Buy Preacher Book vol 5 and read the Page 45 review here

Kings Watch vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Dynamite) by Jeff Parker & Marc Laming.

Oh, this is terrific!

And I’m specific about “terrific”, an adjective that conjures up Boys’ Own action, adventure and full-out fun!

Brace yourselves!

“It’s happening all over the world, you know. The people you used to protect, they’re all having nightmares of what’s coming. You wouldn’t know that, magician. You keep your dreams sealed, don’t you –“
“Silence, demon. You have no knowledge that I want.”
“Then why did you enter this room, where you keep me imprisoned? It’s okay, Mandrake. I’ll tell you what it is. It’s the end of the world.”

Uh-oh!

The action kicks off with the same Bam! Bam! Bam! as the penultimate episode of Doctor Who – Catherine Tate’s season. Each protagonist gazes up at a sky that should not be: Mandrake the magician turns away from his East Californian window and the demon who goads him; the Phantom in his East African jungle shields his eyes; Dale Arden’s sentence trails off in sheer disbelief. Something is coming…

I’ll be perfectly frank: I read this because I saw the artist of THE RINSE on the credits, and I will read anything drawn by Marc Laming. It’s not that his chisel-jawed men wink like nobody’s business – though they do – or that his women are some of the most curvaceous in comics – though they are, and with the best hair ever! It’s the sheer thrill of seeing immaculate, beautifully finished layouts whether quiet and measured as in Dale Arden’s office or filling the entire page when an African Elephant is startled and savaged by some red, reptilian, bipedal beast so massive it virtually smothers the bull. Cue tree-top choreography and yowsa! He doesn’t skimp on details, either, like a driveway’s locked gates.

I really have no idea who The Phantom or Mandrake are, though I am peripherally aware of their existence, nor do I have any lingering love for Flash Gordon let alone read of his exploits in comics. But this snaps together seamlessly, and – you know what? – we are allowed to have fun!

Great big tip of the hat to colour artist Jordan Boyd whose palette glows with red, purples and green while keeping the whole soft with careful lighting and by refraining from throwing everything at us at once.

So yes, there is a spatial anomaly slithering and crackling in the sky; visions abound of whip-wielding, spear-throwing nightmares on rough-horned steeds; the media is full-throttle in scare-mongering mode and, oh… look who’s just made the perfect landing in a spaceplane on his dad’s carefully manicure croquet lawn. It’s the permanently thirsty Professor Zarkov and his irrepressively chirpy blonde pilot. I imagine there’s a universe to become saviour of.

The plane is powered by a Quantum Crystal whose ion pulses shortcut space and gravity. Unfortunately it’s not the only one on the planet. Mandrake’s missus and The Cobra have the other and they too will be using it to shortcut space and open a channel to a world of warriors where a maniac called Ming has been waiting. Waiting for the people of Earth to become so reliant on technology that whipping it away will prove crippling.

Under Jeff Parker Flash Gordon has becoming a polo-playing dab hand at almost everything that seems unimportant but may just prove vital, while Professor Zarkov is an iconoclast who doesn’t take himself too seriously. And I like that.

“The ionic drive is reacting oddly – it’s not done that before!”
“I trust it. You’re the most brilliant physicist alive.”
“That’s just what I tell you, you loon!”

There’s lots and lots of back-matter including the first chapter’s script and that monkey Marc’s always-impressive design work including multiple covers that never quite made it whose compositions fill without overcrowding the page, each of which would have been terrific anyway. There’s that word again: terrific.

SLH

Buy Kings Watch vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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

“But the more complex my existence becomes, the more often I stumble upon questions without answers. What drives me on is the unravelling of these riddles.”

The latest release in Marvel’s ‘OGN’ (original graphic novel) range sees the mad Titan and his long-term nemesis and sometime ally, Adam Warlock, partnered up to investigate a cosmic disturbance. Something unsettling is occurring and it would seem our grandiose, granite-chinned philosopher, quite unbeknownst to him, is firmly intended to be at the very epicentre of events by the likes of Infinity, Eternity and the Living Tribunal.

I do understand the concept behind Marvel’s OGN series, that there should be interesting and enticing material which people who perhaps are not currently surfing the continuity conveyor belt of monthly titles ought to be able to just pick up and read. To lure them onto said conveyor belt, obviously. Much like classic one-offs such as X-MEN: GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS used to do. These current OGN’s don’t necessarily have the same appeal to the these-days saturated masses of Marvel fandom, possibly also conversely in part because they aren’t considered sufficiently canon, but still, it is a worthwhile premise if executed well.

Which this most assuredly is. To me, characters who don’t have monthly series are ideal for this type of work. And, if they have a certain cachet with readers, then obviously so much the better. This type of story is also perfect for Starlin, the writer, to work his magic on. Esoteric, existential, encompassing the more mysterious elements (the few there are left in the Marvel Universe), it in places did remind me of his early WARLOCK material. It isn’t quite so out there, but still, it’s nice to see a Marvel comic that actually makes the reader think and reflect a bit.

Note: Art-wise, he’s clearly still got it as well. Also, he has the most surreal bio picture I think I have ever seen. It’s certainly a statement… Fans of INFINITY GAUNTLET-related malarkey should lap this up as a nice little coda. Or, perhaps in fact it’s an interlude… I am sure we will find out.

JR

Buy Thanos: The Infinity Revelation h/c and read the Page 45 review here

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…

Here was my review of the original volume one. Note: I actually do think it can now be considered a classic run*. For my mind, Remender is up there with Jonathan Hickman for his ability to blend and blur the lines between sci-fi and superheroes, as with his UNCANNY AVENGERS run which is in effective a quasi-sequel to this material.

“The game is on… probably has been for some time. Which means we’re already out of time. God as my witness, Logan, one way or another, no matter what the cost… I’m going to kill Apocalypse.”

Perhaps like me, at the conclusion of the excellent X-over SECOND COMING, you inwardly groaned at the prospect of yet another X-Force reboot (it’s never been the strongest X-title, let’s be honest, firstly because of the writing and secondly because of the art!) containing not only those hardy perennial fanboy favourites Wolverine, Deadpool, Archangel and Psylocke but also the – no doubt next to take the title of the most overexposed and overused X-character – Fantomex.

Happily, though, UNCANNY X-FORCE has completely confounded all my doubts and appears, at this very early stage, to have the potential to be a classic run* in the making. The writing from Rick Remender is thankfully of the more speculative fiction approach successfully adopted by Ellis on his X-runs, with some delightfully choice splashes of dark Deadpool humour injected in suitably small doses here and there.

If future plot arcs compare to this first outing where the team decide that killing the recently reincarnated Apocalypse whilst he’s still an innocent, angelic schoolboy would be a rather sensible idea (albeit whilst he’s protected by his most extreme bunch of equine enforcers yet), then we could be in for a real treat. And gone too thankfully is the whirling dirge-ish art from the previous run. As I noted in X-NECROSHA, there were portions in the X-Force sequences where you really couldn’t tell who was who, it literally was so dark. Instead both Leonardo Manco and Jerome Opeña impress, and I should actually also compliment the two colourists whose choice of palette, in combination with the fine illustration, very much helps give this the feel of a different, more worthy X-title. Less superhero, more sci-fi. So far, so good.

Collects UNCANNY X-FORCE #1-19 and #5.1, and material from WOLVERINE: ROAD TO HELL #1.

JR

Buy Uncanny X-Force: Rick Remender Complete Collection vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Terra Formars vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Yu Sasuga & Ken-Ichi Tachibana…

I finished the first volume of this and I couldn’t actually decide if I had enjoyed it or not. Given it is on Viz’s Signature Ikki imprint that usually denotes a strong storyline, this just felt like far too much of a battle manga, as did MARCH STORY which we barely sold any of, as opposed to the rest of the Signature Ikki titles which have been brilliant. It might develop, I guess. I liked the initial premise that a group of astronauts were being sent to Mars to reconnoitre whether the terraforming had been successful. The three-century process had involved vast quantities of cockroaches, which actually does make perfect sense scientifically when it is explained, thus part of this mission was to subsequently eradicate them. Under the harsh Martian conditions and the extreme process, however, the cockroaches have evolved at a rapidly accelerated rate, becoming humanoid in size whilst retaining the proportional strength and speed à la Spider-Man.

So far, so plausible, just about, but where it started to get a bit ridiculous for me was when it is revealed that each of the astronauts, who we find out are not willing explorers at all, have had different insects’ DNA combined with their own to give them powers which are temporarily activated by the injection of a serum. There’s also a slightly pantomime side-plot between rival national elements within the global space agency responsible for the mission. Like I say, it might develop, I do love GANTZ after all, which is as absolutely preposterous as it gets plot-wise, and still unfathomably increasingly so as it careens to a conclusion whilst retaining its addictive rush. But this didn’t have the immediate grab for me that GANTZ, or indeed say the Signature Ikki title BIOMEGA did. I will probably give the second volume a go and see, I guess.

JR

Buy Terraformars vol 1 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?

 

Fish (£6-50, Nobrow) by Bianca Bagnarelli

The Killer Omnibus vol 2 s/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Matz & Luc Jacamon

Hip Hop Family Tree vol 2 (£20-99, Fantagraphics) by Ed Piskor

Jellaby vol 2: Monster In The City (£9-99, Capstone) by Kean Soo

Jim h/c (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Jim Woodring

Bravest Warriors vol 3 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by Joey Comeau & Mike Holmes

The Death Of Archie: A Life Celebrated (£10-99, Archie Comics) by Paul Kupperberg & Fernando Ruiz, Pat Kennedy, Tim Kennedy

Judge Dredd Casefiles 23 (£19-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner, Pat Mills, Garth Ennis, Robbie Morrison, Gordon Rennis & Carlos Ezquerra, John Higgins, John Burns, others

Lucifer Book 4 (£22-50, Vertigo) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross, Ryan Kelly, Marc Hempel, P. Craig Russell, Ronald Wimberly

Zaya h/c (£22-50, Magnetic) by Jean-David Morvan & Huang-Jia Wei

Batman Incorporated vol 2: Gotham’s Most Wanted s/c (£12-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham

Batman: Arkham Unhinged vol 3 s/c (£12-99, DC) by Derek Fridolfs & various

Batman: Arkham Unhinged vol 4 h/c (£18-99, DC) by Karen Traviss & various

Justice League Dark vol 4: The Rebirth Of Evil s/c (£12-99, DC) by J.M. DeMatteis, Jeff Lemire & Mikel Janin

Daredevil vol 6 s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Javier Rodriguez, Chris Samnee, Matteo Scalera

Journey Into Mystery: Kieron Gillen Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Matt Fraction, J.M. DeMatteis & Carmine Di Giandomenico, Richard Elson, Alan Davis, Stephanie Hans, Barry Kitson

Loki: Agent Of Asgard vol 1: Trust Me s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Lee Garbett

The Punisher vol 1: Black And White s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Nathan Edmondson & Mitch Gerads

Attack On Titan vol 13 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Attack On Titan: Before The Fall vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Dorohedoro vol 13 (£9-99, Viz) by Q. Hayashida

The Heroic Legend Of Arslan vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yoshiki Tanaka & Hiromu Arakawa

News

ITEM! Things That Make Angry one-page comic by Lizz Lunney! I cannot play lute.

ITEM! Magical stop-animation: Soft Spot by Philippa Rice and Luke Pearson

ITEM! Delightful comics by Tara Abbamondi. Hoping to stock her stuff soon!

ITEM! Autobiographical online cookery comic by Becky Cloonan – as you’ve never seen her before!

ITEM! Preview of Liz Prince’s TOMBOY!

ITEM! Eloquent and perceptive, in-depth article on the very nature of comics and our inadequate vocabulary when discussing their creation and absorption by Paul Duffield. Much food for thought!

ITEM! Bill Sienkiewicz and David Mack both deliver passionate, eloquent and inspirational interviews on what being an artist means to them, and being involved in Allan Amato’s The Temple Of Art project.

ITEM! Acclaimed games writer Leigh Alexander interviews Bryan Lee O’Malley about SECONDS!

Thanks to everyone who flocked to Bryan Lee O’Malley’s SECONDS signing this Monday and filled the shop with such fun. Even by my standards I was a disgrace (drunk, disorderly and utterly rapacious), but everyone left grinning their socks off.

SECONDS is out of print now until September but At The Time Of Typing we have 28 copies signed by Bryan to see us through! We do mail order worldwide or you can select “collect in store” and one will be waiting for you.

So grateful to Bryan Lee O’Malley and to Sam at SelfMadeHero for making this happen, and to Dominique and Jonathan for running the signing so smoothly.

Photos by Sam Humphrey at SelfMadeHero. Possibly one by me. I lost track. Of everything.

– Stephen

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