Reviews September 2014 week three

I.N.J. Culbard has kindly agreed to sketch in all pre-orders for H.P. Lovecraft’s DREAM QUEST OF THE UNKNOWN KADATH placed with Page 45. (Due mid-November).

 – Stephen digressing from Abnett & Culbard’s Wild’s End #1

An Age Of License: A Travelogue (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Lucy Knisley…

“2011 was a year of travel! Through coincidence, work, and luck, I was offered opportunities to take trips. I took as many as possible. Recovering from heartbreak, I was determined to spend my travels having adventures and being a free agent.
“Some trips are more than distance travelled in miles. Sometimes travel can show us how our life is… or give us a glimpse of how it can be…”

I do love a good travelogue! Here Lucy Knisley stretches her wings and heads to Europe in search of adventure, and perhaps a little romance. Well actually there’s definitely going to be romance as she knows she’s meeting up with a boy called Henrik in Sweden, whom she recently made the acquaintance of at a fancy dress party in her home town of New York and was instantly smitten. Combined with a comics convention in Norway that she’s been invited to as a guest of honour, stops in glamorous cities like Berlin and Paris, plus a road trip to meet up with her mother and some of her friends who are housesitting in rural France, it sounds like the perfect cure for a broken heart.

She’s nervous about her trip, though, both in the practical and emotional sense, leaving her apartment, and cat, in the care of her recently exed boyfriend. They’re still good friends, but it seemingly leaves her unsure of whether she’s moving on or perhaps holding on. Sounds like she needs a holiday!

 

Cue much sight-seeing and smooching as she takes in some European culture, and allows herself to fall in love at least a little, as readers will with her. She’s honest and heartfelt about her emotions without being remotely angst-laden or schmaltzy. Fans of Lucy’s previous work FRENCH MILK will undoubtedly see the leaps and bounds she has made in terms of her storytelling and art, whilst refreshing our mental palettes for the obvious passion she has for her cuisine and gourmet ingredients, also amply displayed in her most recent previous work RELISH.

JR

Buy An Age Of License: A Travelogue and read the Page 45 review here

The Wrenchies (£14-99, First Second) by Farel Dalrymple.

“In this doom only children come and go listening to illegal radios.”

Crikey.

This is akin to a nightmare Never Never Land, a dystopian future in which only the children remain.

Those few who survive long enough to come of age are picked off, one by one, then absorbed by the suit-and-tied Shadowsmen. It’s how they reproduce.

The wastelands go on forever. The entire world is one great big landfill of garbage and trash, scavenged by feral gangs under constant assault from zombies, vermin, rabid dogs and the Night Creepers. If you slash off their heads, be sure to stamp on the swarms of green-sputum-spitting flies which loiter within bearing messages implying that The Wrenchies are next.

The very air is toxic and corrosive to body and mind, sapping hope, debilitating will and swarming with that which is rotten and putrescent. Entropy increases, things fall apart, and all that is left is dour determination and youthful grit. A catapult in hand and a voice calling out on the radio.

The Wrenchies are one such gang of girls and boys, holed up in their pretty neat bunker and subsisting as best they can. Boy, can they scrap! Armed with rocks, knives, catapults and baseball bats, they and their blue wolf Murmur fearlessly defend their territory from the ever-encroaching hoards.  They took their name from a comicbook written and drawn by one Sherwood Presley Breadcoat featuring adult adventurers in equally dire straits. And, advised by the solemn and ancient grey giant known as The Scientist, before long their own quest begins to read like a comicbook written like a daydream of children at play.

 

Back in an urban world more familiar to us with comics and Sunday school and bullies on every street corner, Hollis – a paunchy boy with a penchant for dressing up as a crimson superhero – struggles with what he worries is bad behaviour displeasing to God and obsesses about the safety of his soul. He fantasies about having friends but makes do with a silent ghost only he can see which seems to spend an awful lot of time in the open-plan apartment opposite Hollis’ where Sherwood Presley Breadcoat resides, drawing comics.

When he was ten Sherwood Presley Breadcoat and his younger brother Orson entered what they considered a cave. It was actually a vast industrial pipeline as big as a boy. At its entrance crows – the majority of them dead as doornails, flat on their backs, claws reaching from the skies they should never have flown down from – stalked about the detritus, disinclined to scatter as the two boys approached.

“The cave changed us. Made us. The cave cost us.
“I tried, but couldn’t close my eyes.
“We weren’t supposed to go in there. We never should have entered the shadows.
“Something left a back door open.”

As I say, crikey. We haven’t even touched on adult Sherwood’s drunken self-loathing.

“Jesus, I really have no idea what I’m doing. Nobody does. Some of us are just better at faking it.”

This dense, 300-page graphic novel with its complex, intertwined threads sewn together then spooling out madly, took me ages to absorb. You could write a dissertation on it, but I don’t have time and neither do you.

The detail is staggering, from the contemporary tenemenents with their iron fire escapes to the sprawling, apocalyptic trash heap of the future. There are elaborate cross-sections of those apartments, of The Wrenchies’ HQ and Olweyez’s “Hole” of silos and ducts and The Scientist’s Lair is a subterranean warren of wonder including a big but botched attempt at horticulture.

The colours are earthern and blood-caked and angry as anything at the drug-addled nightclub, with enough snot-green to make you feel queasy: if you have an aversion to flies you’ll find it amplified exponentially here.

The Wrenchies’ behaviour as a gang – their levels of respect and appreciation for talent – is as acutely observed as Taiyo Matsumoto’s SUNNY and TEKKON KINKREET, and I loved how Olweyez began to bore them with babbling until flashing in front of them a drawing dashed out before their eyes. Altogether:

“Ooooooh, COOL!”

Everyone loves an artist, right?

SLH

Buy The Wrenchies and read the Page 45 review here

Shoplifter h/c (£14-99, Pantheon) by Michael Cho…

“Ok, people. It’s new and it’s in 30 days. Thoughts?”
Hot. Nine to twelves is a great place to expand their brand. That segment is really opening up. I can get Liz at ChildLike to put together a focus. We’ll get specifics.”
“Right. And parents are a non-starter here. Obviously we’re doing placements, but how many blocks are we talking about? kTV? Street teams? I’d do games but that’s still iffy with girls. Print?”
“Print is dead. And TV is dead. I say we keep building something viral. We’ve been having some fun with Twitter later. But we need a new meme. A new story.”
“Corrina?”
“How about “Daddy says I smell special?”

“It’s perfume. For little girls. For little nine-year-girls.”

“Well, that was a bit awkward.”

Ha ha, advertising people. I’ve always had the strange feeling with the few I’ve met that they’ve sold so much bullshit to so many people, they’ve actually started to believe their own hype, in that they are a vital cog in improving people’s lives by bringing to their attention things people absolutely need to feel happy and fulfilled. Deep down, I’m sure they probably know that’s absolute nonsense, but if they admit it to themselves, well then how can they keep up the whole charade of what they do, pushing endless inanity to other people?

And so it is with Corrina Park… With a degree in English literature she always imagined that her first job at an advertising agency was merely to get some life experience and pay off her student debts before moving onto her dream career as a successful novelist. Five years later and she’s in a rut, both professionally and personally, and it’s becoming rather apparent to those around her. Her one outlet, to make herself feel at least a little alive, is shoplifting from her local convenience store. Nothing large, just the odd magazine here and there. She’s knows it wrong, but she manages to justify to herself regardless.

The shoplifting element is merely an aside to this work, as it happens, though it does contribute a pivotal moment when her pilfering is finally discovered. What this really is about is being at a crossroads in life, and having the mental strength to make the correct decisions that will keep you moving forward emotionally, rather than merely treading water and stagnating unhappily. Which is something everyone will be able to relate to, I’m sure. You’ll find yourself rooting for Corrina as she struggles with the difficult decision of whether to give up the apparent safety net of a secure if unfulfilling job, to pursue her dreams.

 

 

It’s certainly impressive writing from Michael Cho, but the art is even more so. If you’re a fan of Darwyn PARKER Cooke, the comparison will be immediately evident, even down to the use of a single colour alongside black for shading. Though whereas Darwyn usually picks blue or brown to provide an appropriately pulpy noir feel, Michael has gone for a pastel pink that is just perfect for this work, which is obviously completely different in tone to Cooke’s crime joints. From the endless bustle of the big city to the silent, lonesome box of Corrina’s apartment, the art is awash with exquisite detail. A genuinely uplifting read which I enjoyed immensely from start to finish.

JR

Buy Shoplifter h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wild’s End #1 of 6 (£2-99, Boom! Studios) by Dan Abnett & I.N.J. Culbard.

Surely there must be someone out there as dim as me who didn’t cotton onto the titular pun in Abnett and Culbard’s THE NEW DEADWARDIANS (“The Nude Edwardians”)?

Culbard had to tell me himself.

Which was embarrassing.

While we speak of the prolific craftsman known as Nottingham’s I.N.J. Culbard, the man has kindly agreed not only to sign but to sketch in all pre-orders of his forthcoming adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s DREAM QUEST OF THE UNKNOWN KADATH placed with Page 45. (Actually due mid-November.) Ian’s in so much demand that he cannot find time to hit the American comicbook convention circuit but, since we ship worldwide, this would be the perfect opportunity for those on t’other side of the pond to get a free sketch.

End of blatantly self-serving Public Service Announcement.

Abnett & Culbard seem to have a thing for alien invasion at the moment. In DARK AGES #1 and DARK AGES #2 (both still in stock at the time of typing, #1 reviewed with interior art) a cadre of 14th Century mercenaries were wishing for war and got what they wanted. Whoops.

Its alien invasion aside, this couldn’t be more different.

The leafy, tranquil and idyllic English country village of Lower Crowchurch is planning its annual fête over a few pints down the King’s Arms. Judging by the open-topped motor cars parked up outside, we’re looking at the early or mid-1930s. The wobbly-necked solicitor Gilbert Arrant is a shoe-in for the committee chair again. A natural leader, he’s confident, encouraging, forward-thinking and assertive without being overbearing. His good friend Peter Minks, a journalist for the local paper with his hat permanently set at a jaunty old angle, will be in charge of the tombola.

“That’s right, so bring along all your donations to me. Nice prizes, please. Not a lucky horseshoe again, Frank.”
“It were a lucky horseshoe!”
“Not for the winner it wasn’t.”

Monocled Squire Umbleton will be demonstrating his revolutionary new agricultural engine which runs on diesel combustion, and of course there will be all the traditional competitions for cakes, jams, vegetables, flower arrangements, arts and crafts and possibly farm animals.

Joining them this year is retired old seadog Mr Clive Slipaway who has just moved in to Journey’s End thatched country cottage and is giving its door and windows a fresh lick of nautical navy-blue paint. He appears reserved, even wary, reluctant to engage, but agrees to provide target practice with straw bales, tin targets and pellet guns. Nothing too dangerous, anyway…

Unfortunately for everyone danger is heading their way, regardless. I suspect you’ll have taken note of the cover.

The night before Fawkes and chum Bodie saw a falling star crash to earth on the other side of Hightop. He gate-crashes the committee meeting to warn his fellow villages, claiming it killed Bodie, burned up in a fierce flash of light. Unfortunately Fawkes is a fox who’s cried wolf way too often whilst under the influence, and only Slipaway gives credence to his cry for help.

“I’ve — I’ve seen enough young men gripped in terror to know what genuine fear looks like.”

As Arrant, Minks and Slipaway set off to investigate, something stirs at Shortmile End and heads for Mrs. Swagger’s cottage.

It’s all very Doctor Who. I’m thinking specifically of Spearhead From Space, John Pertwee’s first episode, with an element of Christopher Eccleston’s second. Except, of course, this is anthropomorphics – I haven’t mentioned that yet, have I?

It is, however, quite different from any anthropomorphic comic I’ve seen before. Compared to the likes of GRANDVILLE and BLACKSAD this looks far more like a children’s story book with bright colours, bold, clean lines and shapes, and a map at the back which has aged at the edges. It has that magical, fairy-tale aspect of Alice In Wonderland, the protagonists looking like actors who’ve donned oversized animal heads as they might for a pantomime. Whereas most anthropomorphic characters come with bright, shiny eyes, here – Fawkesie aside, wide-eyed in terror – the old ‘uns eyes are almost closed under the glare of the summer sunshine, giving them a terrific sense of age. When Gilbert’s do open a little indoors they have a fantastical sense of otherness.

Gilbert’s body language is exquisite, delicate, his hands afloat, fingers crossed or gently caressing his chin. Peter’s more of a cheeky chappy while Clive is doleful, heavy and tired with saggy jowls. The one time he becomes animated enough to exert his undoubted physical strength and authority, you can just about see his lower teeth bared to intimidate. It’s masterfully drawn.

It’s also very, very English. Not British – specifically English – with a fabulous sense of both time and space.

SLH

Buy Wild’s End #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Stumptown (vol 3) #1 (£2-99, Oni) by Greg Rucka & Justin Greenwood…

From the writer of LAZARUS. Brits: for flop, read “dive”.

“That was a total flop. You saw the way she was holding me?”
“Oh, I saw it… Now I’m wondering when you’ll finally get over yourself and ask her out?”
“Fuck you.”
“Hot sweaty bodies colliding roughly… if it’s not love, it’s lust, admit it.”
“She’s from Seattle. I do not date Flounders. The way you let her score on you, you’re one to talk.”
“That sounds like jealousy to me.”

P.I. Dex Parios returns, and in a football-related story to boot! Sorry, couldn’t resist that one, I’ll give myself a stern talking to, and a yellow card…

Ah, I really wish Rucka would make this an ongoing series, his characterisation and dialogue are superb. This time around, after the frankly odd artwork of STUMPTOWN VOL 2 which felt like an increasingly surrealist experiment (STUMPTOWN VOL 1’s art by the same artist was tremendous strangely enough), he’s also got an artist to match his talents in Justin Greenwood, currently also illustrating Antony Johnston’s THE FUSE.

This case opens with Dex playing in goal against the lovely ladies of Seattle Muddy Balls. Still, her team is called Reál Pain, which isn’t much better frankly, but considerably more classy than FC Vagisil, which was the name of my friend’s Sunday league team for a number of years… But, as Dex has to point out to her teammate Hoffman, it’s just a game. Hoffman, in the vein of Shankly, disagrees vehemently, and if you know the rest of Bill’s famous quote you might have half an idea where things are going…

After her kickabout, Dex is off to take her younger brother Ansell to the Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Flounders local derby. It’s a fiery affair to be sure, as much off the pitch as on it, I hadn’t realised Americans soccer crowds had become so skilled in the art of verbally abusing the opposition supporters. It quite took me back to my own salad days of terrace serenading. Issue one concludes with Dex’s friend Mike being found near the stadium, having taking a serious beating. On the face of it, it’s a simple case of hooliganism, but I’m sure there’s much more to it than that.

I really feel like Rucka is back on track with the emotional elements again after STUMPTOWN VOLUME TWO where I can’t say I really warmed to anyone, and Dex herself felt somewhat peripheral to the main action. Dex and her brother are key components of what makes this title so interesting so I’m pleased the focus, for this first issue at least, is squarely on them.

I am also extremely happy Justin Greenwood is on board for this arc. It’s exactly what this title required art-wise to bring it back to the forefront of crime comics. Clearly they’ve decided to go for less gritty and more colourful, but Justin’s style still adds a hard-nosed edge to proceedings.

JR

Buy Stumptown (vol 3) #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Y – The Last Man Book 1 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra.

From the writer of EX MACHINA, SAGA and PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, this new edition reprints the first two softcovers.

Gripping premise in which everyone on the planet in possession of a Y chromosome haemorrhages in an instant. Think about that – Vaughan certainly has.

“495 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are now dead, as are 99% of the world’s landowners. In the US alone, more than 95% of all commercial pilots, truck drivers, and ship captains died… as did 92% of violent felons. Internationally, 99% of all mechanics, electricians, and construction workers are now deceased… though 51% of the planet’s agricultural labour force is still alive..”

Then there’s the religious and governmental significance of this sudden shift in power. Oh yes, and the military. Planes drop out of the sky; the fields, cities, roads and oceans are full of corpses. And although this is itself a damning indictment of the current state of gender play, if you think that the world would be a more peaceful place with women in charge, this series soon puts paid to that. Amazon cults emerge, severing their left breasts, seducing the impressionable and imposing their own bigoted militancy on others. Others wrestle for power, and it’s up to one agent and a lone scientist to escort the sole surviving males – escape artist Yorick and his pet monkey – to a laboratory where the doctor was working on an illegal process she suspects had something to do with the catastrophe when she tried to give birth to her own clone.

An earlier work than EX MACHINA, SAGA or even PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, although some of the dialogue reeks of exposition in the first half, I can assure you it improves swiftly and dramatically, plus Vaughan follows up on more repercussions than so many would have thought of.

The pace of the plot – the twists and the turns – constantly kept me on my toes, and Vaughan really knows when to slip those surprises in. He also threw characters down some unexpectedly dark dead ends, including the protagonist’s sister, and here introduced a town whose inhabitants share a secret they cannot afford to divulge.

Then there’s the matter of a space station, manned when disaster struck but unable to make a safe re-entry. Did the dudes drop dead there? Toss in international espionage, a missing girlfriend and a mother at the top of a precarious political ladder and you have a recipe for ramifications it took Brian K. Vaughan 75 issues to cook through.

SLH

Buy Y – The Last Man Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Legal Drug Omnibus (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Clamp ~

On the cover you’ll see this book has a “suspicious” leaf motif; on the back, a green and white pill. Why?

Kazahaya Kudo works at Green Drug pharmacy with a tall moody feller called Rikuo and their boss, Kakei. Kakei took them both off the streets, gave them a place (the storeroom) and now they earn their keep filling shelves and sweeping up. Or at least that’s how it seems to outside world. When the doors at Green Drug close, Kazahaya and Rikuo really start to pay the rent. By going on secret paranormal missions for their boss and filling out prescriptions for people with “special ailments”. Things that cannot be cured with conventional medicine.

Oh! The two young bucks have strange, psychic powers too, which kind of helps. Although the plot seems kinda throwaway (which they often do), CLAMP have a great knack of leaving things unsaid or unexplained. Like the guys’ powers, the origins of which will probably be explained later on. With much dramatic posturing and a flurry of multiple close-ups/speedlines. Or the fact that almost all the male characters are gay. Which isn’t an issue, so there’s no prolonged thoughtful insights into what it is to be gay, because only groups of straight men do that.

You might want to check out TOKYO BABYLON as well on that score.

I love the design with this book, lots of nice green on black. The suspicious leaf motif from the logo pops up again throughout.

TR

Buy Legal Drug Omnibus and read the Page 45 review here

Cyanide & Happiness vol 3: Punching Zoo s/c (£10-99, Boom! Box) by Kris, Rob, Matt, Dave.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

I love it.

Short strips merrily defiling innocence on the internet with thirty additional episodes here deemed too way awful for such webular exposure* plus The Hot Date dinner disaster chews-your-own-adventure story.

Instinctively I turned to Page 45 – and you should too, for all your comicbook cravings – and what I found there was so appallingly that I sobbed with laughter:

“You’ll be a big movie star, baby! I see Oscars and Tonys in your future!”
“Where do I sign?”

… he cries gleefully. Later:

“Okay, Oscar and Tony, you’re up!”

I could not possibly even imply the punchline, but infer what you will. The look on the poor lad’s face as he contemplates the nature of niche markets…

Its closest comparison point is the PERRY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP ALMANACK which also straddles the fine line at times between that which is inarguably either spot-on observation of some humans’ nature or the most wittily rendered, left-field expression of a very real phenomenon and that which should perhaps have been left on the cutting-room floor. See also Ivan Brunetti’s HO! If you’ve the stomach for it.

* I am not even kidding you.

SLH

Buy Cyanide & Happiness vol 3: Punching Zoo s/c and read the Page 45 review here

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 9 – Reign Of Black Flame (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & James Harren…

So, just when think I can’t enjoy this title even more, it steps up the action and drama even further. Quick recap… the world has quite literally gone to hell in a badly woven handbasket following the events of the PLAGUE OF FROGS and subsequent spawning of huge Ctthulu-esque creatures, reducing pretty much every city in the world to slimy rubble.

Amidst the chaos, even darker forces seek to control what remains on behalf of the Ogdru Jahad, those seven entities with designs on our reality who lie beyond our space and time. For now… In New York City, the returned Black Flame, assisted by the ever-helpful Nazi remnants has complete control, reducing what remains of the city’s population to slaves. The BPRD doesn’t know what is going on within the confines of the city due to a strange electronic blackout preventing all communications and surveillance.

Thus, two teams, headed up by the bodiless Johann and resident pyrokinetic Liz Sherman, including various Russian elements from their own BPRD equivalent, are dispatched to reconnoitre and return with hard intel, without confronting the enemy. A simple in-and-out mission right…? Well, it certainly doesn’t help when people won’t follow orders. Still, that always was Liz’s strong suit, not listening to authority. Cue one spectacular conflagration when she confronts the Black Flame…

 

JR

Buy BPRD Hell On Earth vol 9 – Reign Of Black Flame and read the Page 45 review here

Forever Evil h/c (£18-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & David Finch…

It is a little known fact that, for a number of years, my nickname amongst the circle of my oldest friends was “evil Rigby” for, well, a variety of reasons that I need not elaborate on here. Said behaviour was nothing too untoward, I should add, hence the non-capital ‘e’. Why I felt the need to share that I have no idea.

Anyway… there is a world within the DC Multiverse where those who are good in our reality, are evil in theirs… Thus instead of a Justice League there is the Crime Syndicate containing twisted, villainous versions of all our heroes, who have managed to kill all the heroes of their world and take over the planet. They are probably Evil with a capital ‘E’, therefore.

However, something considerably more powerful than even them has destroyed their world, forcing them to seek another to conquer… ours.

So, this was DC’s big summer event, written by Geoff BLACKEST NIGHT Johns, and it was pretty decent, actually. There were a few clever tricks and switches amidst the usual over-the-top set-piece melees, not least being that Lex Luthor has decided he wants to play hero and be a member of the Justice League. Oh, and he’s worked out who Batman really is. Not that Luthor’s entirely on the straight and narrow, obviously, his ego just likes the idea that they can’t save the world without him.

If you fancy a bit of capes and tights of the DC flavour going at it with everything including the kitchen sink, this will do nicely.

JR

Buy and read the Page 45 review here

Winter Soldier Brubaker Complete Collection s/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Butch Guice, Michael Lark.

“Your memorial starts in an hour. You planning on attending?”
“Ha. No… Just do me justice… And make sure all the girls are cryin’.”

Shadows and light. Like the weather itself – rain, sleet and snow at midnight – the colouring by Bettie Breitweiser is beautifully bleak: an erosion of Butch Guice’s phenomenal form and action so frantic that it’s like being tossed into the firefight yourself. Rarely do I rave so vocally about the colouring in a Marvel comic but it’s both brave and bold and works perfectly in what is essentially another espionage thriller by Brubaker who’s going out with a bang at Marvel, on his fiercest form there since the first three years of CAPTAIN AMERICA itself. And as an espionage action-thriller co-starring Nick Fury, there are apposite explosions of Jim Steranko and Gene Colan throughout – you really can’t miss them. A joy.

Following the catastrophic events in FEAR ITSELF, what’s left of the world is mourning for Bucky Barnes who fell on the frontline. For many years Steve Rogers’ best friend was thought dead, lost after a plane disaster in WWII, although in truth Barnes had been captured by the Russians, cryogenically frozen and brainwashed into becoming the Winter Soldier, their occasional stealth assassin during the Cold War. Thankfully he broke his conditioning and went on to sub for Steve Rogers as Captain America until being set up and exposed by Zemo for his Cold War crimes then sold out by elements in the US government to Russia. When he died on the battlefield of FEAR ITSELF, Bucky Barnes was still a wanted man.

Now: the report of Bucky’s death was an exaggeration. Nick Fury and Natasha Romanov, the Russian superspy codenamed Black Widow, conspired to save Bucky using an almost depleted source only at Nick’s disposal whilst covering up his survival. What did they use for a corpse? Oh, come on, you know your S.H.I.E.L.D. history! So that takes care of the international hunt for Bucky as fugitive. Only question is… who’s going to tell Steve?

Barnes and Romanov are now free to embark on a series of necessarily covert stealth missions to track down the three other Russian Sleepers that have since been shipped in stasis tubes to US soil. So far they’ve arrived just in time to be too late, finding the stasis tubes empty. And so desperate have they been to prevent the acquisition then activation of the Sleeper Agents, they’ve charged in too fast to take in the details: who they’re up against and the true identity of their opponents’ target.

The target is Victor Von Doom Esq, but the assassins have so far only used enough firepower to make Doom angry. To what end…? All will become a great deal clearer when you discover what else was bought alongside the acquisition codes. Oh yes, and who bought them.

This is slick as slick can be, with beautifully balanced banter between Barnes and Romanov. That they are lovers and equals makes for a different dynamic both in the field and in bed. Add in Natasha’s permanently arched eyebrow and you’re in for a treat. Doom too is the source of much mirth, and there was one panel in which he masked a certain degree of fretful guilt which I swear looks like it was drawn by SCOTT PILGRIM’s Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Of the second slice here, I wrote:

More exceptional, high-octane espionage action with one hell of a cliffhanger I never saw coming. I never see anything coming, do I? I shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Or cross the street.

Previously in WINTER SOLDIER VOL 1: two ex-Soviet sleeper agents, trained during the Cold War by a brainwashed Bucky Barnes then bought and brought to America, came close to starting World War Three. Two of them – and there were supposed to be three. Why didn’t the third one show?

The answer lies buried under San Francisco in an underground bunker where our Winter Soldier finds the shattered remains of that third sleeper agent’s cryogenic stasis tube. The whole place has been crushed. It’s as if a bomb went off or… when was the last time the San Andreas Belt shifted? Twelve years ago there was an earthquake and, as the saying goes, it woke the giant up. Unfortunately there was no one on hand to administer the reorientating drugs necessary for a successful resurrection or help acclimatise the walking, talking weapon of mass destruction as to where, when or who he was. He staggered naked to the surface, a lethal blank slate. So what’s he been doing for twelve years?

The central cast of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sitwell, Natasha Romanov (the Black Widow) and Bucky Barnes himself are so well played. And I mean that in both senses of the word for, without giving the game away, the Winter Soldier isn’t the only one who’s spent many years in Russia. Natasha comes with her own insider knowledge, set of skills and experience. And they’re very much in demand.

Of the third and final chapter:

“I like the rain… The way it sounds on the umbrella… The way the air feels.”

With which Ed Brubaker’s triumphant, epic stint on the world of CAPTAIN AMERICA which began with CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER comes to a devastating end. There are things worse than death, you know, and this is one of worst I can imagine. It is not what you think, no.

Butch Guice has been on blistering form with the mood-esque atmosphere enhanced no end by colour artist Bettie Breiweiser who made some very brave choices in volume one which paid off to perfection. Here they are better than ever, with rain that will soak you to your tear-stained skin and, boy, there are some neat Gene Colan riffs! Perfectly apposite as you will see, but I will not tell you why.

I have to be very careful what I type here so as not to spoil those books – particularly the second one – however…

“Here’s the thing about being under mind-control, the part nobody talks about… That you’re still in there… Some small piece‘a you is awake… watching. Like bein’ a passenger in your own body. You struggle to break free… but you lose… Over and over again… you lose… And it makes whatever you’re forced to do that much worse…”

Oh dear.

SLH

Buy Winter Soldier Brubaker Complete Collection s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Regular Show vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by various…

You know who else reads comics? MY MOM!

It’s true, actually, though probably not REGULAR SHOW. I would imagine it might fall into the ‘too weird’ category. Fans of the show will undoubtedly recognise the long-standing joke, repeatedly exhorted by Muscle Man to the increasing irritation of all the other crazy characters: Rigby, Mordecai, Benson, Skips, Pops and High Five Ghost, who are a bizarre mixture of animals, humans and even someone with a gumball machine for a head, who all live and work in a park. Where very, very strange things happen. A lot.

Obviously, I love comics. I have to say, though, I don’t fully understand the need to produce comic versions of cartoons, the blatantly apparent fiscal and cross-platform marketing benefits aside. To me, when comics and indeed prose books are converted to films or television shows, often much is left out and the adaptations are a pale imitation. I tend to find with cartoons being converted to comics that the same is equally true. For something as zany and insane as REGULAR SHOW, ADVENTURE TIME et al, to me their natural medium is on screen. I just find I am not as entertained by the comic versions of them to anywhere near the same extent as the shows.

 

Personal, curmudgeonly observations aside, if you are a fan of the coolest racoon* ever – and I don’t mean ROCKET RACOON, though that would be a pretty interesting rodent-related cross-over, now I come to think about it – and his friends, you probably will enjoy it regardless.

* Obviously I am heavily biased given my surname.

JR

Buy Regular Show vol 1 s/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 River h/c (£15-99, Enchanted Lion Books) by Alessandro Sana

Courtney Crumrin vol 6: The Final Spell h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Ted Naifeh

Ricky Rouse Has A Gun (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Jorg Tittel & John Aggs

Maddy Kettle vol 1: The Adventure Of The Thimblewitch (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Eric Orchard

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor And The Ship That Sank Twice s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Mike Carey & Peter Gross, various

Blue Estate h/c (£22-50, Image) by Viktor Kalvachev, Kosta Yanev, Andrew Osborne & Viktor Kalvachev, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, Paul Maybury, Marley Zarcone, Tomm Coker, Andrew Robinson, Peter Nguyen

Astro City: Through Open Doors s/c (£12-99, DC) by Kurt Busiek & Brent Eric Anderson

Forever Evil: Arkham War s/c (£12-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Scot Eaton, various

All New X-Men vol 5: One Down (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen

Deadpool Vs. Carnage  (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Salvador Espin

Guardians Of The Galaxy / All New X-Men: The Trial Of Jean Grey (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Sara Pichelli

New Avengers vol 2: Infinity s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Mike Deodato Jr.

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 5 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez

Deadman Wonderland vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou

Ikigami The Ultimate Limit vol 10 (£8-99, Viz) by Motoro Mase

Loveless vol 12 (£6-99, Viz) by Yun Kouga

Spell Of Desire vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Tomu Ohmi

Time Killers (£9-99, Viz) by Kazue Kato

Pandora Hearts vol 21 (£9-99, Yen) by Jun Mochizuki

News

ITEM! Swoon, swoon, swoon, swoon, swoon! THE RIVER by Alessandro Sanna is in stock at Page 45 now (see top of Also Arrived). Just look at those watercolour landscapes!

ITEM! Alan Moore finishes one-million-word novel, Jerusalem!

ITEM! Spanish artist Max draws Jeff Smith’s BONE.

ITEM! Advance review / preview of Scott Snyder & Jock’s WYTCHES!

ITEM! Thrilling sense of speed then break-neck brakes in MURDER + MIDNIGHT by Jon Eastman & David Ward. Kickstarter deadline imminent. Eeep!

ITEM! Sally J. Thompson’s gorgeous Estonia sketches. Swoon!

ITEM! Sean Phillips’ limited edition giclee for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

ITEM! Finally, fanfare, please…

Behold the brand-new Lakes International Comic Art Festival Programme 2014!

Oh my days, it is beautiful!

So much to see, so much to do, and yet it’s laid out with such clarity I could cry!

Almost everything at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014 is FREE (click on that link for their website, click on the one directly below cover for programme) including Page 45’s signings with Scott McCloud & Glyn Dillon and Page 45’s 20th Anniversary Booze Bash!

However, please note that the ticketed talks with comicbook creators like Scott McCloud, Jeff Smith, Eddie Campbell, Becky Cloonan, Sean Phillips at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival do require a small contribution and should be booked as soon as possible because space is limited.

– Stephen

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