Page 45 Reviews December 2014 week two

The two creators communicate; they are on the same page: what Gillen does in his scene-setting envelope is reflected by Bennett in her epistle within.

 – Stephen on Angela #1 by Gillen, Bennet & Jimenez, Hans

Here h/c (£25-00, Hamish Hamilton) by Richard McGuire.

1932: “I lost my wallet.”
1923: “I must have left the umbrella somewhere.”
2008: “I think I’m losing my mind.”

500,000 BC: You are currently on the coast. Tectonic plates will need to shift somewhat before that house even gets built.

Absolutely extraordinary.

I have never seen anything like this in my life

Six pages of this were originally published in Spiegelman’s RAW back in 1989. Thirty-five years later: here, have 200+ pages of something so current it could even be Chris Ware.

Every single shot on every single double-page spread takes place from the same vantage point: the corner of one particular room. The camera angle moves not once. However, there are two things to bear in mind:

1) That house has not always stood there.

2) Different things happen in different parts of that room during different periods of time. How interesting would it be to marry those events in separate panels on the same double-page spread?

I think this is one of those “Seeing is believing” books which I may have to show you on the shop floor. It’s a bit like Ray Fawkes’ equally inventive ONE SOUL and THE PEOPLE INSIDE in that respect.

The story weaves backwards and forwards in time as the various inhabitants move in, move out, take family photographs, grow up, grow old or break down. Exterior shots (remember, that house has not always stood there) are startling and rendered in rough-hewn pencil, wash or colour flats. Same goes for the inhabitants whether inside or out. But the interior shots of the room itself are all very much matt, colour flats with only the ever-changing wallpaper boasting any patterned line. It’s beautiful – absolutely exquisite.

‘Life’ and ‘Time’ magazines lie side by side on one tableau’s coffee table which seems – in this context – a very funny joke to me.

Exchanges or reflections may sound familiar:

“You find yourself singing a song…
“Then you realise the lyrics are the perfect commentary on your thoughts. Your subconscious has selected them like a jukebox.”

That happened to me the other day with Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson’s ‘In My Secret Life’ – which I guess is no longer so secret.

A lit fireplace at night in 1955 stood out as surprising, snug and warm; especially since in the inset 1986 panel a couple look coldly away from each other. I don’t suppose they lasted long there.

One page is given over to the multitude of insults thrown over the years.

I cannot be sure what is happening in 1777 but I have some very nasty suspicions.

Highly commended then, with all my soul: this is a graphic novel which will really make you reflect.

P.S. Dear publisher: comics is a medium, not a genre.


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

The Shaolin Cowboy s/c (£14-99, Burlyman) by Geof Darrow.

“How charmingly Asian of you…
“And without the aid of wires.”

Honey, you have never seen a kung-fu flick with such slick choreography, frozen-framed here for detailed analysis as only a comic can do!

Even the noble and nimble Jackie Chan would bow to Geoff (one ‘f’) Darrow’s superiority as nigh-on a hundred vengeful varmints queue behind King Crab, a somewhat self-involved crustacean whose entire family and prospective wife were gorged on by the Shaolin Cowboy in search of a sea-food platter. I can assure you these revengers will be disassembled in no uncertain terms, and will learn the true meaning of the term gut-punch.

First, though, they stand in line… after line… after line… in a sequence of double-page spreads so deliciously self-indulgent – so hilariously inexhaustible all the way to the fly-clouded portable loo – that you cannot help but cackle. This is the artist, remember, who rendered Frank Miller’s HARD BOILED in its all its gore-strewn glory and his detail exceeds even the great George Pérez. Pore over the Alton-Towers-scale queue with its cats, parakeets and monkeys, its tattoos, handcuffs and (warning) cock rings! It demands that you do so.


This is a man relishing his craft, drawing for the sheer joy of it. The landscapes are epic with gigantic geological outcrops, while the skies coloured predominantly by Peter Doherty are a lambent, pollution-free blue.

Then when those geological features start moving… What? Take a look at the back cover hinted at on its front! Those are quite specific rock formations, aren’t they? There’s a scene here I feel sure inspired another in Brandon Graham’s MULTIPLE WARHEADS.

Like Beat Takeshi, The Shaolin Cowboy himself is a man of few words, leaving those for his sun-visored, hip-hop-hating horse who has quite the thing for Robert Mitchum. The script is packed with political and cultural satire but remains light, bright and breezy. It’s all about the acrobatics instead.


Buy The Shaolin Cowboy s/c and read the Page 45 review here

I Blame Grandma (£4-99, self-published) by Joe Decie.

God bless The Deech: all our copies are signed and sketched-in!

I love everything about Joe THE LISTENING AGENT Decie: his mischief, his timing, his otherwise mundane household objects… even his handwriting.

Yes, his handwriting! It’s one of the most attractive in comics: capital letters, far from rigid, that dance up and down while remaining as crystal clear as the layout here. (Although now THE END’s Dan Berry’s going to tell me it’s one of the many fonts he’s created.)

Speaking of Dan Berry, like his own NICHOLAS & EDITH this is another of seven 24 Hour Comics he orchestrated at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. I can’t imagine the pressure but it doesn’t look like Joe felt any.

This is as effortlessly entertaining as ever, about how his gran invented the paper clip, fashioning it from fuse wire while working as a clerk in Sir Gerald Patten’s War Office around 1940. So that’s several household objects on the very first page. Our Joe draws a perfect pair of pliers, you know.


I always wonder about who invented everyday objects and why: it’s usually necessity popping out another sprog, isn’t it? In this case Joe’s grandma felt the need to file faster and keep what she filed better organised. The paperclip quickly catches on and before you know it she’s given her own office to set to it in the reappropriated Malvern Road Tube Station.

“Apparently it was mostly used for anti aircraft operations, but Gran had her own bit, separate with its own lift!
“From her room she has direct access to the station.
“She said she used to eat her sandwiches down there. In the dark.”

You couldn’t make this up, could you?

Anyway, fast-forward to the present day and there are repercussions. Well, you have to think of the patent and all that implies. I’m not going to give the game away, but there’s a big chunk of Joe’s life here I knew nothing about and next time I bump into him I’m going to quiz him quite chronically. Fascinating!

I will just say she that his gran was given a St Hubbins Cross medal and – typically – kept it in a tin of boot polish. An empty one, obviously. Well, empty apart from the medal. Joe draws a mean tin of boot polish too!


Buy I Blame Grandma and read the Page 45 review here

Hansel & Gretel h/c (£12-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman, The Brothers Grimm & Lorenzo Mattotti.

The drawings came first.

They are eerie, awful things, crawling with shadows, swirling in darkness, with the thickest of tree-trunks blotting out the sky.

Stark, dark and black with just a glimpse of white light, they are cold and claustrophobic, evoking all the bleakness of a land ravaged by soldiers to the point of being all but barren, bringing those few inhabitants left to the brink of starvation.

That is why the mother persuades the father to drag their children the ancient forest to be left to fend for themselves. Yes, “drag”, the second time; just look at the angle of Mattotti’s three figures!

“Nobody said anything about killing anybody. We’ll take them deep into the forest, and lose them.”

“We” won’t do anything. She will make him do that.

“They will be fine. Perhaps a kind person will take them in, and feed them. And we can always have more children,” she added, practically.
“A bear might eat them,” said the woodcutter, dejectedly. “We cannot do this thing.”
“If you do not eat,” said the wife, “then you will not be able to swing an axe. And if you cannot cut down a tree, or haul wood into the town, then we all starve and die. Two dead are better than four dead. That is mathematics, and it is logic.”

Terribly, Hansel’s stomach is so cramped with hunger he cannot sleep and overhears that entire conversation.

I’ve read many versions of this tale which the Brothers Grimm themselves tinkered with in different editions; none evoked quite this same sense of physical starvation or moral malnutrition. I’ve found almost all illustrations running contrary to the contents with their colour and candysticks. Here the old woman’s domestic lure looks more like some occidental pagoda, its furnace primed for human flesh raging in the darkness.

Not an ideal Christmas present, I grant you, but highly recommended all the same.

Illustrated prose BTW.


Buy and read the Page 45 review here

The Cats Of Tanglewood Forest s/c (£5-99, Little Brown) by Charles De Lint & Charles Vess –

Not comics (I repeat, not comics!) but prose with a healthy dose of illustration from the utterly lovely Charles Vess. Good god but do I want to live in a forest drawn by Charles Vess! The shade is cool, the leaves are damp and the tree bark is rough and warm. I do wish he did more sequential stuff but if I am to get my Vess fix through beautifully crafted children’s stories like these then I really won’t complain.

The story is of a likeable, kindly, headstrong girl who lives on her Aunt’s farm and loves to explore the woods around her home. Mostly she is looking for Faeries and magic; she’s sure there must be some about but she can never seem to find it. But when an accident occurs she is drawn into that magic; a magic which has existed all around her for her entire life but which she is only now becoming aware of. So begins the journey with all the trials, lessons and lucky escapes you’d expect from a fantasy adventure such as this.

While the story is very well written, engaging and very sweet in places it is the art which really made this book stick in my head.


Back in the day I had a conversation with the late great Mark Simpson (one half of the genius behind Page 45) about the books which informed our aesthetic. Picture books from very early childhood that we were barely able to remember but which had imprinted on our brains, shaping our idea of beauty before we were even really conscious of what beauty was. He showed me a book his parents had uncovered in storage somewhere; it was full of painted pictures of animals and immediately you could see where some of the colours and shapes he preferred in his own art came from. I feel similarly when I see Charles Vess’ art: there is something about the foliage and the trees which just takes me somewhere *else*. It’s beyond dreamy, utterly gorgeous.

I would have devoured this book as a child and so I have been recommending it to parents in the shop left right and centre! But I also enjoyed it as an adult, not just for the marvellous illustrations but for the rich sense of place the writing created. A lovely, lovely book.


Buy and read the Page 45 review here

Andre The Giant: Life And Legend (£12-99, First Second) by Box Brown…

“We are unusual men
Though we walk with you
We don’t think like you
We are not like you
We see with unusual eyes
We have unusual minds
We wear one-piece suits
We are not you.”

Song lyrics from We Are Unusual Men, taken from Nine And A Half Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling Of The 1970s & Early 1980s by Luke Haines.

Wrestling. For people of a certain generation like myself, Saturday morning television consisted of Tiswas and repeats of the classic Adam West Batman, but Saturday afternoon, well, there was only one thing you wanted to watch during the Dickie-Davies-presented World Of Sport marathon, and that was the wrestling. It’s hard to comprehend now, the cultural sway this pastime held over vast swathes of the nation, young and old alike, at the time. With colourful characters like Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Rollerball Rocco and Kendo Nagasaki, it was a glimpse into a strange world of feuds, grudges and vendettas, that could only be settled honourably, or with a bit of judicious bending of the rules, inside the ring. The villains like Rocco always tried to cheat, mind you, but ninety percent or so of the time, the good guys would win out. And if not, well, there was always the inevitable rematch to settle the score.

Of course, we all believed it was completely real… Everyone – sensible, right minded adults, not just the kids – truly believed that someone could actually survive an Atomic Splash whereby a thirty-stone plus man would just drop his full bodily weight directly upon you whilst you were lying prone upon the ground.

Then, someone, the Daily Mail I think (always the Daily Mail…) ran a huge exposé proving it was all a big act, that the matches were in fact fixed, the opponents <gasp> colluding with each other, and somehow it just all seemed somewhat tawdry after that. Actually, I think the nation’s youth became ensconced in the rather more stimulating delights of the ZX Spectrum 48K, Commodore 64, BBC Microcomputer et al, but that’s a different story. But, coinciding with it disappearing off television in some sort of rights dispute, well, it gradually drifted from the UK public consciousness entirely.

Meanwhile though, across the pond, the burgeoning US wrestling scene managed to somehow make the transition from illegitimate sporting event to legitimate entertainment spectacle and remain in the forefront of television programming. One of the main reasons for this was undoubtedly the man mountain known as Andre The Giant. I had vaguely heard of him, simply because I was aware that the boxer versus wrestler match between Rocky Balboa and Thunderlips (played by Hulk Hogan who until the Rock came along in latter years was probably the best known US wrestler in the UK simply by dint of this cameo) in Rocky 3 was based on just such a miss-matchup between Andre and a hapless stooge of a pugilist.

This, then, is the story of one of the most colourful characters in US wrestling history. Born in rural France with a genetic disorder that resulted in his freakish large stature at even an extremely young age, and ultimately led to his premature death, Andre was always marked out as different. Thus when the opportunity to take the road less travelled into the grappling business presented itself, he quite literally seized it with both hands. Box Brown presents a fascinating tale of a complex character, who knew he was doomed to live a shorter life than most, and perhaps thus decided it needed to be lived to the full. You can’t say Andre was entirely a good man, he certainly had his demons and darker side, which came more to the fore particularly towards the end of his life, but he was always entertaining.

Whilst you might not be familiar with Andre, if like myself you think wistfully of the days of Kendo Nagasaki bashing Catweasel’s brains in on the corner stanchion before tagging his tag team partner in to complete the demolition job, you’ll get a flying dropkick out of seeing what was going at a comparable time on the other side of the Atlantic. Even without any great love of grappling it’s a splendid biography of a world inhabited by, as Luke Haines would put it, unusual men, with unusual minds, who wear one-piece suits, and are not like you. Unless you’re into cosplay that is I suppose…

It just goes to show how a biography written by a man with a passion for his topic is always going to engage the reader. Wonderfully illustrated, it really captures the incessant energy and rollercoaster emotions present throughout Andre’s eventful life, from an early encounter as a youth with Samuel Beckett who encouraged him to spread his wings and live his dreams, through to the difficult days towards the end, when prolific drinking was his only solace from the extreme pain of his condition.


Box clearly has the sort of fondness for wrestling from this era that I do, and I seriously wonder if could interest him in doing a graphic biography on that most mysterious man of all, Kendo Nagasaki? I can still recall my jaw dropping during his ceremonial unmasking performed in front of literally millions of people on television, with his manager Gorgeous George dressed in some spangly garb more befitting a glam rock star, the two robed acolytes falling prostrate upon the canvas whilst Nagasaki plunged his samurai sword into the centre of the ring, before his mask was removed to reveal a rather striking man with a part shaven head, plaited pony tail and mystic symbol tattooed on the top of his head. Pure theatre, quite incredible stuff, and if you would like to see it for yourself, check it out HERE, because someone has managed to get hold of the original World Of Sport broadcast and get it up on Youtube! These days Kendo holds Buddhist retreats at his Wolverhampton mansion, claims to have remote healing powers, and errr… drives a banana yellow Lamborghini Countach… A most unusual man…


Buy Andre The Giant: Life And Legend and read the Page 45 review here

Crossed Plus One Hundred #1 (£2-99, Avatar) by Alan Moore & Gabriel Andrade.

One hundred years have passed since The Surprise.

And it was quite a surprise, let me tell you. You’d be quite surprised if you found yourself in Nottingham city centre and it was suddenly writhing in howling, bellowing, jabbering hoards of half-clad cretins, urinating in doorways and leering lasciviously at anyone who passed by.

Outside of a Saturday night, anyway.

Yet that’s what has happened in CROSSED, kicked off by Garth Ennis a dozen or so volumes ago: a worldwide pandemic of sexually insatiable savages in which no one – no matter how old or young or how closely related – was safe. “This is what the worst of humanity looks like uninhibited by law” is what Garth seemed to say; and you look at some geographical regimes and cannot help but agree.

I enjoyed the first book, if “enjoyed” is the right word. I was actually vicariously terrified, peering through my fingers as I tentatively turned the pages – which isn’t easy using only your elbows. I initially promoted the series thus:

“Whatever your most terrifying nightmare, this is infinitely worse.”

After that, I’m afraid it lost me. The genuine, stomach-churning tension which made me invest emotionally in each individual or shudder at their complete callousness and disregard for their fellow fugitive was replaced by such grotesquery that it repelled me with its not-necessary nastiness and so from what was occurring. Jonathan assured me that its spin-off series CROSSED: WISH YOU WERE HERE by Si Spurrier was a huge return to form but I haven’t been sufficiently intrigued until the words “Alan” and “Moore” lured me back, and look: he’s brought a rather fine artist with him.

The textures on this detritus-strewn landscape are as rich as its detail: there’s so much to look at surrounding the more obvious focal points of the plot: the libraries, churches and the rusted stream train carrying this cast of archivists across a much more thinly populated wilderness where you can almost hear the silence.

It seems there are now far fewer nests of The Crossed (so-called because of the cross of red blisters which erupts across their faces on infection like some pustular St George’s flag), largely because they’ve eaten their own children before they’re old enough to breed. So it’s relatively (relatively) safe to venture a little further from the tracks to see what can be gleaned from what’s left of the relics of their past to better understand what used to be considered their culture. Although everyone goes armed with a shotgun.

Just as well, because one such expedition is startled to be set upon by a second nest of nudists in two days, covered in blood and faeces, the men as priapic as ever and they are roaring, “Packemin! Packemin! Aha ha haaa…” And they do love to pack ‘em in, but that’s not what they’re screaming. Everyone is in for a very big surprise.

I’m back onboard and, in case you’re wondering, you need not have read a single sentence of this series before to launch straight in now.

This is far more culturally orientated, Moore extrapolating from the Ennis scenario and musing on what might have happened one hundred years on. For a start, the ozone layer has repaired itself. Well, all our smoke-billowing industries have shut down. So it’s not all bad. It’s still pretty bad and right now I am very much appreciating the safety of my study and my steady supply of Sauvignon Blanc.

In particular Moore is considering what may have happened to language and its slang in a world where there are isolated packs of human beings rather than an instantly accessible global information hub. There are neologisms aplenty, many of which made me smile but – Jonathan and I agree – rather too many. Language should enrich a story, not obfuscate it, and I wince typing this for Alan Moore is one thousand times the writer that I will ever be but, for me, the number rendered the narrative just a little too opaque. Maybe I need a little longer to adjust with a couple more instalments – I’m pretty confident that I am the one more likely to be failing!

Bonus in the back: Ennis is interviewed about CROSSED and comes up with some perceptive observations about heroism in fiction and heroism in reality. Sometimes you try, you really do, but sometimes the situation overwhelms you.

It’ll make you think, I promise.


Buy Crossed Plus One Hundred #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Tomb Raider vol 1: Season Of The Witch (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Gail Simone & Nicolas Daniel Selma.


Why the films never incorporated that knee-scraping trademark as an in-joke eludes me.

It was one of my favourite elements. The favourite element of my housemate’s girlfriend was to send Lara Croft careening over a cliff to her bone-crunching death. Over and over again. My, how she chuckled at those really rather vivid sound effects. (I think she may have been jealous!)

Tombraider has been reborn!

Well, partly. There’s still waaaaay too much hand-holding rather than free-roaming exploration (and exasperation, to be sure) in order to solve the puzzles and so wend your way through; but I loved both the emotional investment and the slickness and thrill of the cut-scene-to-first-person-performance of Lara’s last desert-island outing.

I may have skewered an excessive number of innocent deer given that I’m such a strict vegetarian (who wears leather and eats fish – fish are monumentally stupid, don’t you think?) but I felt their pain too, just as I felt Lara’s bewilderment at her outnumbered predicament and whoooooooooooooo I wasn’t going to cross a rope bridge in my life to begin with but now….? Never.

It’s easy to forget that, before its potency was frittered away on several half-arsed outings, the Tombraider franchise was full of the most spectacular and exotic settings: from Escher-like labyrinths of staircases so high up I came down with vertigo and treacherous stone temples with secret passages, hidden traps and demonic creatures lurking in the shadows to rusting tanker hulks abandoned under the ocean… with sharks on the loose!

It was like Antony Johnston’s UMBRAL.

Then there were those sequences which set you on fire like in Venice when you had to pilot a speedboat through the canals and its mines just in time to… I played that to The Propellerheads’ version of ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ and ‘Spybreak’. It took me long-time.

Sorry…? No, I’m not reviewing the comic. Not read it. I’m sure it’s aces, though.

I’m just sharing the love of our candelabra-leaping Lara. Even my Mum got in on the act. Remember when you had to judge whether Lara sprang one-step or two-steps between stone edifices? The entire time Ma and I spent in Venice, we couldn’t help but look up and wonder whether various leaps of confidence were single jumps or “runny-jumps”. Runny jumps!

And we were in Venice!

We’re so fucking cultured, us two.


Buy Tomb Raider vol 1: Season Of The Witch and read the Page 45 review here

Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen, Marguerite Bennett & Phil Jimenez, Stephanie Hans.

“It was far too early in the day for murder.
“She really was trying to cut down.”

The two creators communicate; they are on the same page: what Gillen does in his scene-setting envelope is reflected by Bennett in her epistle within. This is a story about loyalty, oath, debt and indebtedness; about having a price, naming that price and then paying that price if that price is not paid.

I should be a bank manager. Or a judge. I’m already a Libran, if that helps.

There’s a lot of dead-pan humour thrown into an already heady mix of action, distraction, reputation and revelation designed to intrigue you further but give you single-issue satisfaction all the same. That’s reasonably rare. There is the mother of all cliff-hangers, don’t get me wrong, but you will still have read something so smile-inducingly succinct with a beginning, middle and end – distilling the very essence of the comics to come – that you will walk away nodding that you now know Angela even if you have never met her before in your life.

Angela has been revealed to be the daughter of Odin and Freyja but was raised to hate all Asgardians because complicated. Don’t worry, it’s all explained in the comic. It’s basically left her between a rock and a hard place, a lineage limbo of sorts, and that’s where we find her, battling through a flesh-tearing temporal sandstorm to save Sera, an angel from Heven (sic).

Flashback to the self-contained sub-story when she did that once before.

Angela used to think that she herself was an angel from Heven but now she knows better. She’s an Asgardian and Asgard and Heven have never got on since Angela was presumed murdered as a newborn babe. I said: “COMPLICATED”! As it so happens, Thor now knows better too and Angela’s done something ever so slightly inflammatory….

Sera aside, I really wouldn’t have recognised Gillen’s book-end sequences as being drawn by Phil Jimenez. Sera’s profiles still boast that George Pérez stamp but inked by the legendary Tom Palmer (John Buscema’s best ink artist) it’s a much fuller affair, closer to Quesada, and I’m equally up for that. Hans meanwhile is more painterly so think Frazer Irving. Either way it’s all very attractive but if you’ll excuse me I need to step back.

It’s “Evisceration Hour”.

For more Angela, please see Bendis’ GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.


Buy Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Wolverine: Origin h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Paul Jenkins & Andy Kubert, Richard Isanove.

Beautifully packaged hardcover reprint of the softcover reprint of the hardcover reprint of the six-issue series that started off like The Secret Garden (mansion, sickly male child, girl visitor) before blossoming into something really quite powerful. Lost of lush landscapes, gorgeously rendered, and lots of misery spread around by the miserable and twisted. And as hardcover it will sit better on your shelves with ORIGIN II that the ORIGIN I s/c.

For those seeking a straight forward account of Wolverine’s birth, adolescence and the order in which he was enlisted by various agencies before joining the X-Men, you might as well walk away now because Marvel decided not to be so bloody tedious, and instead served up a piece of historical drama, intelligently going for partial revelation with just enough mystery to make you do some of the work yourself.

The sickly, surviving son of wealthy John Howett, James, is given a playmate called Rose. His mother is sequestered on the top floors of the mansion, rarely to be seen since the death of her eldest. Rose recalls the events in her diary, as the pair of them make friends with ‘Dawg’, the gardener’s boy, but of course there’s trouble and whenever there is, James’ irascible grandfather erupts like a volcano and the alcoholic gardener beats his submissive son to a pulp. From the first time you see him, the growling, resentful servant with his feral child will look immediately familiar, and his name will only confirm your suspicions. But I’d curb your initial instincts if I were you, because thankfully this story, like Logan’s lineage, isn’t as obvious as it seems.

Some have said that Jenkins’ attempt at a Brontë feel was a bit naff, but it suits the story and Kubert’s seasonal landscapes, first on the Howlett estate then round the snow-capped mountains and quarries of British Columbia, shifting from parched to verdant then chill, are rendered with detail, majesty and, courtesy of Isanove, a subtlety of colour. The wildlife moves with astonishing vivacity and power, whilst the figure work is all you could hope for.

And, come on, you do want to know now, don’t you…?


Buy Wolverine: Origin I h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The New 52: Future’s End vol 1 s/c (£29-99, DC) by Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen & Patrick Zircher, Ethan Van Sciver, various…

What If… DC decided to do a massive non-continuity event running weekly for nearly a year that focused on various smaller characters? Obviously not a new thing, they did it before with 52, or perhaps The Old 52 as it should be referred to now. Yes, yes, I know technically that was continuity, apparently filling in the ‘missing year’ between INFINITE CRISIS and, the errr… rather imaginatively titled ONE YEAR LATER (that no one remembers) when Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman had disappeared for some  spurious reason I can’t for the life of me remember, but actually, it was rather enjoyable nonsense.

This is basically more of the same, just with a much more interesting set-up. It all begins 35 years in the future in the BATMAN BEYOND era, which is now apparently in the mainstream DC continuity, whereas it never was before. I know I said this was a non-continuity yarn, but do bear with me, questions may be asked by The Answer Man later and he’s a bigger stickler than Norris McWhirter for detail…

The world of the future is now a total mess with the artificial intelligence Brother Eye having assimilated virtually all our heroes in a dystopian nightmare made real. I’m not quite sure how that factoid ties-in continuity-wise with Batman’s Brother Eye technology from (pre-New 52) THE OMAC PROJECT yet, (does anything pre-New 52 technically have any relevance with current continuity anymore, I honestly have no idea) but given Omacs feature heavily throughout this first volume and it all begins with an elderly cane wielding, if not tap dancing, Bruce Wayne sending the BATMAN BEYOND Batman a.k.a. Terry McGinnis back in time to our era to try and avert the A.I.’s ascension, I’d say it’s a passing nod at least

Anyway, the wrinkle is that Bruce only succeeds in sending Terry back thirty years, to a possible future five years from now, where Earth Prime is recovering from a massive war against alien intruders that came through a dimension rift from Earth 2, which itself had been under attack and virtually destroyed. Note: this really has absolutely nothing to do with the current Earth 2 storyline where Earth 2 is under attack from a vast alien invasion… I know, that confused me as well at first, trying to figure out if it was… I think not anyway…

Vast numbers of Earth Prime heroes were killed in defence of Earth Prime, and only a few hundred thousand Earth 2 refugees, including some of its heroes, were evacuated safely through to this dimension, but now live as mistrusted, stigmatised second-class citizens blamed for the destruction wreaked upon Earth Prime by the aliens – which seems a tad harsh given their world was entirely destroyed, but anyway… Meanwhile, the few surviving Earth 2 heroes have all mysteriously vanished. The overall implication though is that a bigger impending threat to Earth Prime is still looming, which we know of course is the dystopian future of Brother Eye.

What I have enjoyed about this weekly series so far is how it has constantly shifted from set of characters to characters, week after week, focusing mainly on a lot of the old Wildstorm characters like Grifter, Stormwatch etc. but also other random bods like some of the Justice League Dark such as Frankenstein and Amethyst , plus the Atom, Hawkman, Firestorm, Mr. Terrific etc. and only revealing another tiny piece of the much bigger puzzle each time. One issue you’re getting Grifter abducted by Deathstroke and taken to some mysterious island where Cadmus scientists seem to be experimenting on abducted Earth 2 heroes, then it’s into the Bleed where most of Stormwatch are wiped out instantaneously just for fun by some mysterious entity with some as yet unknown connection to what is happening back on Earth, then it’s over to John Constantine trekking round the desert in search of a bearded wandering Superman who seems to be having some sort of existential crisis. And all the while you have Terry McGinnis on his covert undercover mission. He’s obviously realised he’s five years later than he should be of course, but still thinks he can prevent the rise of the machines. He can’t reveal his presence to any of the superheroes of the day, of course, for reasons I won’t elaborate on here, and so is forced to turn to the lower end of the superpowered criminal fraternity for assistance. Who are just delighted to be helping any sort of Batman out of course!

It’s utterly bonkers clearly, but the writing from Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens, Keith Giffen, who I get the impression are each writing the different slices of what I’ve outlined above is nice, slick stuff, and you feel they are enjoying themselves immensely. So much of the DC output at the moment is so turgid it beggars belief, weighed down under its own pomposity and primary-school-level plotting, so it’s nice to have something that’s a bit more convoluted and involved, frankly.

This is the first extended DC run I’ve read since Geoff Johns’ long GREEN LANTERN run that I can say has held my interest to the same degree, Scott Snyder’s BATMAN aside, and even that has had its patchy moments frankly. I think actually the weekly release schedule in helping in that respect, keeping me engrossed. Plus, compared to the hackneyed drivel that is the current big Marvel event AXIS (and hey, I am a big Rick BLACK SCIENCE / UNCANNY X-FORCE Remender fan), this title is positively Shakespearean.

Anyway, if you want an entertaining doorstep of capes ‘n’ tights material, some 18 issues worth which does just about justify the £29-99 price tag, to sensorially sequester yourself away with on Boxing Day whilst the rest of the family watch endless repeats on the goggle box, this will probably fit the bill. Note: I presume there will be two subsequent volumes if the plan is for it to run to 52 issues or thereabouts.


Buy The New 52: Futures End vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marshal Law s/c (£22-50, DC) by Pat Mills & Kevin O’Neill.

“I’m a hero hunter. I hunt heroes. Haven’t found any yet.”

450 pages of smear and loathing, designed to make your mouth curl at the very same time you’re chortling your toes off. You’ll be gurning and groaning, like the Elephantman being given a blowjob.

Before Veitch delivered pretty much the last word worth saying on the pervy nature of superheroes in BRATPACK (although we’ve since been treated to Garth Ennis’ sustained sexual assault in THE BOYS), Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill voiced their own distaste in their ultra-violent, iconoclastic, joke-in-every-corner MARSHAL LAW books. All things establishment and status quo get a jack-booted kick to the crotch, from Reagan and the Church to the Justice League of America and theme parks. It’s kind of like MAD on crack (I did not just type “it’s kind of like” – you never read that), though I don’t mean Kurtzman-esque, for you won’t find too much social dissection going on. That was left, as previous mentioned, to Rick Veitch.

What you will witness is a gross-out ejaculation of repressed sexuality; of sadism, masochism and self-loathing. Maximum punnage is the order of the day and they keep it coming, thick and fast, spawning now-familiar slogans like “Nuke Me Gently.”

It’s not quite as slick as I recall – the voice-overs don’t half interrupt the flow – but it’s still the work of two men having the grimmest of laughs while firing on all cylinders.

This whopping volume, heavy enough to cave in the cranium of anyone in a kinky costume or cape, reprints MARSHAL LAW #1-6, MARSHAL LAW: FEAR AND LOATHING, MARSHAL LAW TAKES MANHATTAN, MARSHAL LAW: KINGDOM OF THE BLIND and MARSHAL LAW: THE HATEFUL DEAD, MARSHAL LAW: SUPER BABYLON and MARSHAL LAW: SECRET TRIBUNAL #1-2. Gallery section, and an introduction by Jonathan Ross.


Buy Marshal Law 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?

A Bunch Of Amateurs (£4-99) by Andrew Waugh

The Great Salt Lake (£5-00) by Matt Taylor

Bad Machinery vol 3: The Case Of The Simple Soul (£14-99) by John Allison

Brass Sun vol 1: The Wheel Of Worlds h/c (£25-00, Rebellion) by Ian Edginton & I.N.J. Culbard

The Complete D.R. & Quinch (£11-99, Rebellion) by Alan Moore, Jamie Delano, Alan Davis & Alan Moore

Disenchanted vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Simon Spurrier & German Erramouspe

Enigma s/c (£13-50, Vertigo) by Peter Milligan & Duncan Fegredo

The Graphic Canon Of Children’s Literature (£25-99, Seven Studies) by various, edited by Russ Kick

In The Frame 2012-2014 (£12-00) by Tom Humberstone

The Royals – Masters Of War s/c (£10-99, Vertigo) by Rob Williams & Simon Coleby

Showa 1944 – 1953: A History Of Japan vol 3  (£18-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Shigeru Mizuki

The Walking Man h/c (£14-99, Fanfare – Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi

William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back h/c (£11-99, Quirk) by Ian Doescher

William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return h/c (£11-99, Quirk) by Ian Doescher

Nightwing vol 5: Setting Son s/c (£12-99, DC) by Kyle Higgins & various

Red Hood And The Outlaws vol 5: The Big Picture s/c (£10-99, DC) by James Tynion IV, Will Pfeifer, Joe Keatinge & various

Superman: Unchained Deluxe Edition h/c (£22-50, DC) by Scott Snyder & Jim Lee

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 3: Guardians Disassembled (UK Edition) s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Nick Bradshaw, various

Mighty Avengers vol 3: Original Sin – Not Your Fathers Avengers s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Greg Land

Savage Hulk vol 1: Man Within s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Alan Davis, Stan Lee & Alan Davis, Sal Buscema

Attack On Titan: Before The Fall vol 3 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Ryo Suzukaze & Satoshi Shiki

Battle Angel Alita Last Order Omnibus vol 5 (£14-99, Kodansha) by Yukito Kishiro

Ranma 1/2 2-in-1 vols 9 & 10 (£9-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi

Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Serizawa

Spell Of Desire vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Tomu Ohmi 


ITEM! It’s glove weather! So the other morning I rootled through my winter wardrobe (it’s a heap of jumpers and scarves on the bedroom floor) and I found my gloves, hurray! Slight problem, I suspect. I just can’t put my thumb on it.

ITEM! Lizz Lunney’s one-a-day advent calendar comics are hilarious. For best results follow Lizz @LizzLizz on Twitter. For catastrophic results follow me on the Good Ship Drunk As Fuck @pagefortyfive where we sail the stormy — [you’re fired – ed.]

ITEM! I have been offline at home which is where I generally glean these ITEM!s. It’s very disconcerting. It’s like living in a cold dark cave. Thankfully my cave comes with a fridge full of Sauvignon Blanc. I’m diving in now.


– Stephen

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