Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2015 week four

Ed Brubaker! Steve Epting! Adrian Tomine! David Lapham! Sam Humphries! Marc Laming! James Stokoe! Antonio Altarriba! Victor Hussenot! More! Apparently these lists are great for Google. WE ARE SUCH CYNICS!

The Spectators h/c (£14-99, Nobrow) by Victor Hussenot.

A book of reverie and rumination, this is a serene experience with plenty of space for you to stop and think for yourself.

It’s full of curiosity and questions, about one’s own life in the grand scheme of things and the lives of others – strangers you’ll never know or whose paths you may only partially, temporarily intersect.

As such there are a lot of silhouettes and shadows seen from afar, perhaps against the light of city windows at night.

And it is very much another city book, but a far less frightening one than FLOOD. There’s a nod to the existence of countryside beyond, right at the start rendered in a Gaugin-esque cacophony of non-local colour, before the tranquil misty blues, salmon pinks and creams herald the start of our tour round a city which has much to show us if we stop to look carefully and much to make us muse if we use our mind’s eyes. There’s a lot of imagining of what lies within and what lies beyond.

City transport features heavily. Early on Hussenot reflects on the contrast between the familiarity of one’s surroundings every day – the actual train or bus – and one’s fellow commuters who come and go. Some may reappear from time to time sitting in different pairs, others may never been seen again. But this was one of my favourite sequences as an actually playing card held up in one panel becomes instead a passenger on a platform seen through a subway car window.

“Arriving at a new station is as exciting as drawing a card in a poker game.
“A new platform appears… it’s a new deal of the cards…
“Some leave the game; others join it… but not always the one’s you’re expecting.
“Each is full of promise, but is the one we really need still hidden in the deck?”

Accompanying that third line is a page of six panels, roughly playing card shape, in five of which a commuter catches the narrator’s eye, their panels lighting up in different colours while the one who is oblivious remains in the figurative dark.

The unexpected one is a bloke, for the narrator’s a bloke, but he doesn’t make it onto the lamp-lit drawing board of possibilities whose face cards are all women!

There’s another devilishly clever page after two men who’ve been sitting inches apart on a bench surveying different aspects of the cityscape in front of them are shown to have largely parallel lives as well – give or take a musical influence. I won’t give the game away but there are elements of Ray Fawkes’ THE PEOPLE INSIDE.

That’s one of the rare instances that any word balloons appear in this graphic novel. Predominantly – if there are any words at all – you’ll find one or perhaps two sentences above, between or below a full-page spread or two or three tiers of images.

There’s a morphing motif which runs throughout, kicked off as our narrator discovers a clothes rail from which four bodies hang with differently coloured clothes. He tries one on for size (and sighs) before selecting another later on. Further down the line he’ll be clicking a remote control for a similar but quicker effect. I’ve been referring to him as our narrator because I couldn’t work out what else to do but he’s not really. Let’s call him our constant companion, even though the body swapping means that constant is the last thing he is!

“When I revisit certain places, painful memories resurface: In find myself back in that moment.”

Sure enough, as our narrator/companion walks onto set, there’s a differently coloured, former version of him sitting at a cafe table with a girl he quite evidently is not longer going out with. But – and this made me sit up and think for I’d never considered it an option – a red-hued future version of him now appears chasing a new girl across the page before they make merry with the drinks and the dancing.

“The only way to erase these memories is to return, again and again, to these same locations and fill them with new moments… Which in turn will become memories, which will renew themselves again… and again…”

I’ll leave you to discover how that is portrayed!

With debossed silver foil on the cover, it’s another Nobrow looker and a dreamy affair with some imaginative framing from which I was abruptly awoken, unnecessarily, by the legal gubbins being printed between the prologue and the main body of work. That was a bit daft, wasn’t it?

SLH

Buy The Spectators h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Optic Nerve #14 (£4-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Adrian Tomine…

“Hey, did you see that [censored] gave you a shout out on twitter? She used some of your art for her header image and said your drawing of her in The New Yorker was ‘a teenage dream fulfilled’.”
“Really? Wow, that’s nice!”
“So why didn’t you respond? You could’ve at least re-tweeted and said thanks.”
“Yeah… I’m actually not on twitter. I’m kind of… morally opposed to all that stuff.”
“Well, her two million twitter followers aren’t.”
“Haha… to each his own, right?”
“Made you look like kind of a dick, actually.”

Heh. As ever, the single-page autobiographical strip, once more tucked away right at the end after the letter column, steals the show even after the two brilliant stories that precede it. It is a mere three brief scenes of absolute perfection in terms of how to tell a story: chock full of drama, humour, plus Adrian’s trademark curmudgeonly angst, of course, with a belting piece of misdirection for the punchline that made me laugh out loud. I would say LOL but I know that is precisely the sort of modern day acronymical shennanigans that would make Tomine weep tears of despair. How he manages to pack so much into a mere twenty panels should be a compulsory lesson for all budding creators, that less really can be so much more when it comes to what to put in versus what to leave out.

As before, this issue follows the pattern of two very different longer form stories. The first, in Adrian’s new usual art style, covers the excruciating, budding comedy career of Jesse, a rather introverted young lady with a debilitating stutter. Her parents – having seen many a new obsession come and go with perturbingly repetitive frequency – fall into their typical roles and cycle of enthusiasm / pessimism / argument, before letting nature run its ever-turbulent course where their daughter is concerned.

What follows is another shot of Tomine’s classic blend of wince-worthy humour. I was practically peeking through my fingers when I got to Jesse’s first stand-up gig, as her parents sit in the audience waiting in a state of near hyper-tension for the inevitable car crash to occur. It doesn’t, for reasons of not wishing a spoil a great joke I won’t elaborate on but, rest assured, it’s a merely the metaphorical mother of all multiple car pile-ups deferred…

The second story, told in a somewhat looser art style, with lots of black shading and a single secondary light olive tone, tells the story of a divorced military veteran, living out of cheap motels, who unexpectedly bumps into a girl who house-sat an apartment he and his wife were renting when they were on vacation. Having recently cleaned out her car, she finds a set of keys she’d forgotten to give back to them. Pulled, perhaps in equal part by memories past, the curiosity of who had replaced them as tenants, and the thrill of doing something illicit, he stakes out the apartment, making note of the coming and goings of the occupant, and when he finally feels safe, let’s himself in.

It might be breaking and entering more on a scale of adult hedge-hopping, no maliciousness intended, however, again obviously, it’s not going to end well. But that’s the thrill with Tomine: bracing yourself for the moments the characters well and truly splash down in the fire, often before even realising they’ve even been daft enough to leap from the comparative safety of the proverbial frying pan. As always, one comes away from an issue of OPTIC NERVE feeling a strange mixture of sadness and relief, the latter being purely for not having such a sad life as a Tomine character!

JR

Buy Optic Nerve #14 and read the Page 45 review here

The Art Of Flying h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Antonio Altarriba & Kim…

Sometimes, as with people, things are not always as they initially appear. A first glance inside this hardcover revealed what appeared to be a relatively primitive art style, wordily lettered in a somewhat jarring font. I persisted with it though, for three reasons.

Firstly, Random House / Jonathan Cape have published some rather good graphic novels over the years so I thought they at least deserved some benefit of the doubt! Secondly, I was aware this work has won six major European comic prizes including the Spanish 2010 Best Comic Prize. Finally, I do have an interest in that particular era, WW2 and the run up to it.

The Spanish Civil War, though, was not something I knew a great deal about, other than from accounts by people like George Orwell etc. who had volunteered to go there and fight against the rise of fascism in the form of General Franco. So I thought it would be an interesting historical primer if nothing else.

This work is narrated by Altaribba, recounting the entirety of his father Antonio’s life, beginning with his decision, aged 90, to leap from the top floor of his nursing home, freshly shaved and dressed to go out in style, which presumably inspired the title. Once we’ve seen that denouement revealed, we then go back to the very beginning, to his crushingly austere and rather brutal childhood in the rural, agricultural Spanish heartlands.

As biographies of a life go, it’s extremely well told, the child’s clear desire to escape what was tantamount to penal servitude and spread his wings, thus, inadvertently at first, getting caught up in an incredibly turbulent period of Spanish history. Antonio’s teenage and early adult life was certainly also one of struggle and strife, those he never really truly escaped.

After the rather chaotic years of partisan fighting, sometimes of an internecine, factional nature amongst other elements of the Republican resistance, as well as against their main enemy the fascists, things took a considerable turn for the worse  when the Republican forces were finally defeated and driven from Spain. Rather than being welcomed by France, the losers were forced first into internment camps, then indentured labour. The squalid conditions of the camps killed a number of gallant fighters and their families who had already given so much in their doomed support of the cause.

Eventually, seizing his chance to escape, Antonio tried at first to settle in France before eventually admitting defeat and heading back to Spain, where he found a number of his former comrades, now trying to get by in Franco’s Spain by keeping their heads down and their mouths shut about their pasts. For a brief while you could actually say he thrived, being reasonably successful in business, but his latter days were spent once more in comparative poverty, having been financially betrayed by one of his business partners.

Sadly, he then found life in the old people’s home which he entered relatively early – simply by dint of being unable to afford anything else – a rather strictured, unpleasant and ultimately demoralising experience. In many ways, no different from most of his life. So, when you reach the point where the ninety-year-old Antonio is preparing to make his final escape, you can fully understand his decision to depart this world entirely on his own terms.

This is a very moving book in many ways, with much to say about how life less than a century ago in what we now perceive as stable, civilised Western European was anything but, with widespread poverty, violence, political instability and corruption, large scale movement of refugees, discrimination. We do have it easy these days in comparison, there’s no doubt about that.

I think it’s testament to Altaribba Jr.’s narrative skills, plus the fascinating details of Antonio’s life, that very quickly I didn’t notice the art too much. It’s not bad, it’s just nothing special. Frankly, in some ways, the art isn’t actually that important in a work like this, it’s the story which is always going to be the star. I should note, aside from the fact I can’t draw at all, apparently Kim is a highly regarded cartoonist responsible for a hugely popular humour strip in Spanish newspapers called MARTINEZ THE FASCIST, though having googled that it seems far more Robert Crumb / Gilbert Shelton in style than this work. Meanwhile, I did realise that the lettering would obviously have originally been in Spanish, possibly in a different font, so I guess I shouldn’t be too critical on that point. Neither remotely spoilt my enjoyment of what was ultimately a fascinating and highly illuminating biography.

JR

Buy The Art Of Flying h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Velvet vol 2: The Secret Lives Of Dead Men (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting, Bettie Breitweiser.

“That’s what happens when you’re ordered to kill your own husband on your honeymoon, it turns out. You lose your mind.”

1973. There is a Britain-based espionage agency called ARC-7 so secret that most other ops don’t even know it exists. Within that service there are field agents who are not names but numbers, and at its heart lies the Director. The Director has a secretary with long, sable hair now distinguished with a thick, white streak of maturity. She is his eyes, she is his ears but for so many years she was something else: one of ARC-7s most effective field operatives. So deep was her cover that even ARC’s agents aren’t aware of her former activities. And that may prove the undoing of whichever infiltrator has just set her up for treachery, treason and murder.

Throughout VELVET VOL 1 Velvet Templeton has been on the run from her own agency, desperately retracing assassinated Agent X-14’s steps and contacts across Eastern Europe while cross-referencing what she discovers with her own substantial and at times painful history in order to work out why Agent X was murdered from within. What had he discovered that made him such a threat? Was it the same thing that her husband discovered? Because he too was set up and Templeton took the fall so far for it that she almost didn’t recover.

But Velvet’s been thinking things through and now she’s done running.

She’s going to do the one thing they’ll least expect. She’s going to turn right around, breeze back into London and head straight into the lion’s den: ARC-7’s highly secure headquarters. And for that she will require a bomb and some far from voluntary help from the Director.

“Velvet… what is this about?”
“I really do wish I could tell you… because it’s not you I don’t trust.”
“You know what you sound like? Like every operative who ever got lost down their own rabbit hole.”

At which point I refer you back to the opening sentiments.

Brubaker’s internal monologues have always been compelling, individualistic and often fucked up affairs – in CRIMINAL, FATALE, THE FADE OUT et al – but here you’re almost as much in the dark as Velvet is, learning as she goes along, so you’re even more emotionally invested than usual. Several times I found myself suspicious of what I was being told because it sounded almost too perfect but with the strangest gaps (why, for example, so-and-so hadn’t been offed when everyone around him had) and I wondered if I was missing something.

I was. But then so was Velvet.

During the final two chapters you will have your head whipped round not once, not twice, but three times in swift succession and at exactly the same moment as Velvet’s because these people she’s up against are so deviously clever and who is playing whom at any given moment is far from obvious.

As I mention in VELVET VOL 1, Breitweiser’s colours have always been one of the title’s great draws. Here she introduces some of the more expressionistic effects which have lit up the THE FADE OUT and helped draw the eye. However, so much of this takes place at night that you may be enjoying the results without necessarily noticing their cause.

As to Epting, once more his eye for period detail – from vehicles to lounge furniture and a particularly posh, trans-European train dining car – makes one deeply nostalgic for a 1970s I really wouldn’t want to revisit if the truth be told. It’s just fortunate that Velvet Templeton’s always had a better fashion sense than most and I almost wept when she had to ditch that knee-length, black and white pashmina cardigan. I’m very emotional, aren’t I?

Epting’s also exceptional at age and Velvet is certainly showing hers. She’s not slowing down – she cannot afford to – but that face could not belong to a thirty-year-old and quite right too. This is a period espionage thriller starring a woman with decades’ experience at the agency. It’s this very history which is revisited which informs her psychological makeup and the whole point of the plot.

Astonishing, then, that an America television channel was so keen to sign up the series… as long as they could turn our Templeton into her twenties. Or maybe not.

SLH

Buy Velvet vol 2: The Secret Lives Of Dead Men and read the Page 45 review here

Stray Bullets vol 2: Somewhere Out West (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham.

“A happy ending is knowing where to put those two words: THE END.”

They usually come way too late in STRAY BULLETS, which can be summarised thus:

Terrible things happen to terrified young people, turning them into terrifyingly out-of-control car wrecks. They get caught in the cross-fire of other people’s greed, grief or beef, and it sends their broken lives careening in horrifying directions.

Everything is connected.

This is the best crime comic in the business, right up there with Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ CRIMINAL, and we had missed it terribly.

STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition at £45 contains all 41 issues of the series prior to STRAY BULLETS VOL 6: KILLERS, while this contains the second 7 chapters of STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition – which shows you just how good value for money STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition really is! However, you may not be comfortable with reading such a big book, so here is the alternative. They’re coming out at roughly two a year.

With more compelling individuals and more convincing characterisation in a single story than most people manage in a whole graphic novel, there is an 8-panel-per-page density and intensity to these tales broken by moments of golden sunshine that make what follows all the more devastating.

Here what seemed like disparate strands in STRAY BULLETS VOL 1 converge in a small town called Seaside, way out in the middle of the desert. Naturally. The mayor is waiting for an earthquake to swallow California whole, bringing Seaside to the coast.

Young runaway Virginia Applejack who had it unbelievably tough in book one tries her best to protect vulnerable, drug-addled Nina from the advances of Seaside’s revoltingly seedy old-age pensioners, one of whom looks just like a toad, another of whom has drugs of his own to further blur Nina’s brains out. Nina is far from her own best friend.

Come to think of it she’s no one’s best friend in this state, not even towards the ever-loyal if ever-volatile Beth and Beth’s far more orthodox boyfriend, Orson. Their relationship’s been struggling in this back end of nowhere. Beth craves conflict like smokers crave their next cigarette and she grows jittery and fractious without it. It’s good news / bad news, then when Spanish Scott turns up in search of his missing coke. And with Scott comes Rose, and of course little Joey. I told you everything was connected.

What follows is an accelerating climax of desperate, tangled gambits and frankly wince-worthy violence as these impossibly complicated relationships finally play themselves out. It’s an immensely satisfying pay-off for all your hard concentration that point, but we have only just begun because, remember, this series goes backwards as well as forwards in time!

The main differences between this and, say, 100 BULLETS which we all love to wit-riddled death, is that this is all so intimate, so personal, and that the individuals – the victims in this series – are so young. That’s what made Lapham’s SILVERFISH such a nail-biter too.

As to the art, it is pure black and white with no grey tone at all. It’s incredibly clean but supple as well. The figure work is immaculate, the local behemoth Nick having the burly, hunched-up and sweaty same physicality as the protagonist of Jeff Smith’s RASL. In fact most of these townsfolk are drawn as grotesques. As to the expressions, they communicate so much going on behind the eyes whether you like what you see or you don’t. Everyone here lives and breathes. For a while, anyway.

Lastly, if you haven’t yet clocked who Amy Racecar really is, all will finally be revealed.

THE END

SLH

Buy Stray Bullets vol 2: Somewhere Out West and read the Page 45 review here

Ex Machina Book 5 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris.

From the writer of SAGA comes the finale to EX MACHINA, my favourite piece of political comic fiction of all time.

Hundred finds his tenure as Mayor of New York City coming to a close more abruptly than he’d planned. He’s already declared he won’t stand for a second term so that he can concentrate on finishing his job rather than campaigning for re-election. But the power of the media is demonstrated when a radio show compels the citizens of the city to rise up en masse and it’s not very pretty.

All of that is as nothing compared to the final issue set several months later where we witness the separate fates of Bradbury, Kremlin and Hundred himself. Not one of them will you see coming.

This is a promise I make to you: not one of them will you see coming.

I almost dropped the book when reading the Bradbury scene, I did drop it during the Kremlin confrontation and my mouth gaped wide after my mind had fully processed the final page and its preceding phone call…

 

Before the politics rears its ugly head, however, I promised you repercussions when it comes to the sci-fi element and here be rats. A lot of rats. Also a rat catcher with an eye-patch sporting the words “Out Of Order”. Ha!

As Pherson – the man who can command animals the way Mayor Mitchell Hundred can command mechanisms – returns again and again with a message for Mitchell that he simply won’t listen to, we finally learn exactly what all the colour-coded control systems are all about, and why they’ve been given. It’s not good news, nor is the White Box. In fact it has serious implications not just for the future but for how Hundred conducted his original election campaign way back when.

All of which brings us to this new edition’s cover, and way back at the beginning I promised you this series was far from black and white. What does that cover say to you of the man it portrays?

Pour yourself a stiff one. You’re going to need it.

SLH

Buy Ex Machina Book 5 and read the Page 45 review here

Godzilla: Half Century War s/c (£14-99, IDW) by James Stokoe.

“I had arrogantly begun to think of Godzilla as an anomaly, a one-off. An animal of the Atomic Age too stubborn to die. Once the A.M.F. figured out how to deal with him, that would be it. We could all go home knowing that we had done some good.
“Then the others showed up and humbled the lot of us…”

Ah yes, the others

Not since I glued together my very first Aurora model kit, at the tender age of eight, have I been so in love with Godzilla. And yes, I used every piece of glow-in-the-dark plastic they offered, including that magnificent, jagged spine.

Here too the crystalline spine glows, as does the billowing smoke on page after page thanks to some monumentally lambent colouring by, I infer, James Stokoe himself, assisted by Heather Breckel. So much attention has been paid to each cloudy puff’s highlights. From the very first page I can promise you carnage on a gargantuan scale – we’re talking Geoff Darrow on SHAOLIN COWBOY or Frank Miller’s HARD BOILED – whenceforth it only multiplies.

Along with rookie soldier Ota Murakami, we first encounter Godzilla in 1954; in Japan, of course, where they first dropped the bomb. It’s pretty tough luck for the Japanese, having to reap what we sowed in the form of this rampaging mutation. The soldiers cannot contain the beast; they can only survive it thanks to some shit-hot tank driving. In the wake of such wreckage the Anti Megalosaurus Force is formed, Murakami being its key recruit. But it’s in Vietnam in 1967 that they realise Godzilla is far from alone and, worse still, its trajectory is far from random. After that it’s Africa, Bombay, then the whole bloody world as those ridiculous creatures swarm: Megalon, Rodan, Ebirrah, Hedorah, Mothra… Battra! As the stakes escalate, so do the A.M.F.’s counter-measures, but just when you think the odds can’t get any worse, the fight is joined by those from beyond and oh dear lord my eyes are on fire!

Inevitably there’s some manga in the mix this time out, and I love the puffing, sweaty faces. Most of all, however, I love the way the transport subtly reflects each era, especially in 1975 where the crack team’s more of a whack team, crashing about in a VW Campervan presumably pimped in Haight-Ashbury.

SLH

Buy Godzilla: The Half-Century War and read the Page 45 review here

Planet Hulk #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Sam Humphries & Marc Laming.

Seldom has an artist filled every conceivable inch on the page with big, bold forms without it for one second feeling cluttered or crowded.

And that’s what you want from a HULK comic: big, bold forms! Especially when there are multiple Hulks of so many different sizes, hues and degrees of semi-sentience! Regardless of whether or not they’re given lines, each is imbued with a distinct personality, some even less friendly than others.

Back with you in a second…

Previously on SECRET WARS #1 and SECRET WARS #2 (both reviewed): the Marvel Universe was destroyed, Earth ceased to exist and everyone on it perished. In its wake a new world appeared populated by those who will be familiar to you but in oh so different circumstances! This Battleworld is divided into kingdoms between which trespass is strictly forbidden by God above, the lord and master of all he surveys,  ****** ****** *** ****

Let’s play Hang Man! It wouldn’t be inapposite.

SECRET WARS, then, is the central title for the next few months and now sees the launch its satellite series, each of which focuses on a distinct kingdom or zone although – having read this first week’s wave (far many more than I’ll be covering here) – I can see how cleverly some will be connected, trespass or no trespass.

Here an incursion is authorised – but by whom? Who is it sitting there scowling implacably on his throne? * He’s a lot less loquacious than usual, I’ll tell you.

As the comic commences a blonde warrior called The Captain is hailed as victor in the latest Killiseum combat tournament transmitted throughout Battleworld. Huge jubilation to the non-existent rafters etc.

His chain-mail, cloth and leather garb combo is a fusion of warrior-race soldiers many moons ago, although its icons and arrangement are strangely reminiscent of a certain Steve Rogers. He has triumphed over the feral Wolverine Clan with the aid of an axe, a star-striped shield and a bellicose, bi-pedal, Cretaceous-era chappie we’ll simply call Tall, Red And Toothsome.

 

The Captain’s not done this for fame, he’s not done it for fortune. He’s done if for information about a missing companion; for this single moment when the vainglorious master of ceremonies, Arcade, strides forth to commend his accomplishment; and for when Steve Rogers springs his trap – ready and waiting and right by his side.

When you realise where Arcade’s been imprisoned, I promise you will roar with laughter!

What does any of this have to do with multiple Hulks? They’re subsisting in a barbaric environment similar to the original PLANET HULK and under attack by the Hammers of God whom we call Thors. They appear to be holding their own but don’t think they’re all working as one.

According to ****** ****** *** **** this is where The Captain will find his companion. Now why do you think he would impart this much-prized information to someone who has royally pissed him off?

I swear to green goodness that everything I’ve typed has been relevant. Sam Humphries has written this so you will care. It’s not a random companion Cap’s after – guess who! And if you thought someone was missing from this – your official HULK substitute for several months to come – Ahahahahahaha! I give you final-page, revelatory shenanigans!

* It is actually possible to scowl implacably. As irrefutable evidence I present you with exhibit A by Marc Laming. You’ll see.

SLH

Buy Planet Hulk #1 and read the Page 45 review here

A-Force #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Marguerite Bennett, G. Willow Wilson & Jorge Molina.

Previously on SECRET WARS #1 and SECRET WARS #2 (both reviewed): the Marvel Universe was destroyed, Earth ceased to exist and everyone on it perished. In its wake a new world appeared populated by those who will be familiar to you but in oh so different circumstances! This Battleworld is divided into kingdoms between which trespass is strictly forbidden by God above, the lord and master of all he surveys,  ****** ****** *** ****

SECRET WARS, then is the central title for the next few months and now sees the launch its satellite series, each of which focuses on a distinct kingdom or zone although – having read this first week’s wave (far more than I’ll be covering here) – I can see how cleverly some will be connected, trespass or no trespass.

Although in this case: most definitely trespass!

“In the shadow of The Shield, with the sun on the sea… there is an island. Welcome to Arcadia. It’s pretty tight.”

It’s also thoroughly Florentine in its Italian Renaissance, red-roofed domes. Throw in a little Venice because we’re living by the sea, although there are fewer wooden jetties on stilts and a substantial, solid rock base instead.

Keeping its inhabitants safe from harm is A-Force, an female fun-for-all led by She-Hulk. While patrolling today A-Force discovers a stray mutant Megalodon, which is essential a Great White Shark on spinach and steroids before you even get to the “mutant” part. One of their members acts in haste and the world – in the form of Word From On High – comes crashing down around them. Autonomy? I don’t think so!

Of course I’m still being cryptic. I want you to enjoy discovering these for yourselves but you can join the dots up between what I’ve written here, just as I did with this and the preview for SIEGE #1 by Kieron Gillen & Filipe Andrade into which this so slickly ties. If you need any more clues just think which other Marvel titles Kieron Gillen has written.

Gorgeous art at either end while the bits in the middle are a bit toy-doll, to be frank. Certainly nothing like the great Jimmy Cheung on the cover.

SLH

Buy A-Force #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Thor vol 1: The Goddess Of Thunder (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman, Jorge Molina.

“Thor… There are things that have happened since you fell… Things you should know before you…”
Not now, Father. It will have to wait until after I’ve –“
“Your hammer has gone missing.”
“What?”
“And so has your mother.”

Fairly standard superhero art, a little too heavy on the line until Molina turns up, but some pretty cool Frost Giants underwater.

Alas, the Son of Odin has fallen from grace and is no longer worthy enough to lift his fabled Mjolnir. Although neither is All-Doting Daddy. Has the All-Mithering Mother gone and got herself an immortal make-over while their backs were turned?

If she had, then the thought bubbles issuing in tandem with – but in contrast to – the new wench-warrior’s confident Thor-speak wouldn’t be so startled at her current condition, dubious about her abilities or ridden with Americanisms. On the other hand the new soul deemed worthy of being Thor is at least be familiar enough with the Odin-son, his family and his Mjolnir to know their names and past behaviour, so who is she?

I know the answer, it maketh sense, but after some deft misdirection Aaron rings a clanger of a bell so loud you’ll be hospitalised.

Meanwhile back to the story and Roxon Oil is at it again, sticking its international nose where it does not belong and sinking its corporate claws into that which belongs to others, in this case the skull of a fallen Frost Giant – their dead king. The Frost Giants are led on an underwater assault on Roxon by dark elf Malekith (used for largely comedic purposes like Gillen used Mephisto and Loki) and they’d all deserve whatever they’d get but our new female Thor intervenes.

Neither father nor son is remotely happy that someone has half-inched the hammer. The son’s complaint is proprietorial and so understandable. But the All-Incandescent, All-Intolerant, All-Interfering dipshit of a daddy is going to bollocks things up for everyone just because it wasn’t what he had planned and anyway she’s a girl.

Men!

SLH

Buy Thor vol 1: The Goddess Of Thunder (UK Edition) 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.

Sam Jamwitch #3 (£2-50) by Kate Hazell, Ed Hawkesworth

Scars (£2-50) by Sally Jane Thompson

24 by 7 h/c (£14-99, Fanfare Presents) by Kristyna Baczynski, Dan Berry, Joe Decie, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, Sarah McIntyre, Fumio Obata, Jack Teagle

Sithrah Book 1 h/c (£14-99, Coffee Table Comics) by Jason Brubaker

The Power Of Tank Girl (£19-99, Titan) by Alan Martin & Rufus Dayglo, Ashley Wood

Superman Wonder Woman vol 2: War And Peace h/c (£18-99, DC) by Charles Soule & Tony S. Daniel

Deadpool Classic vol 11 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Victor Gischler, Mary H.K. Choi & Bong Dazo, Rob Liefeld, Kyle Baker, Matteo Scalera

Deadpool vol 8: All Good Things s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by various

Thanos Vs. Hulk s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin

Wolverines vol 2: Claw Blade And Fang s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule, Ray Fawkes & various

A Silent Voice vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yoshitoki Oima

The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past (£13-99, Viz) by Shotaro Ishinomori

Rosario + Vampire Season II vol 14 (£6-99, Viz) by Akihisa Ikeda

The Summit Of The Gods vol 5 (£14-99, Fanfare / Portent Mon) by Yumemakura Baku & Jiro Taniguchi

Dan Dare Omnibus (£14-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Gary Erskine

Eric h/c (£5-99, Templar Publishing) by Shaun Tan

Strangers In Paradise vol 3 Pocket Edition (£13-50, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

News!

ITEM! Robot 6 at Comic Book Resources interviews Page 45’s own Jonathan! Loads of photos! Please note: there are two pages of interview! Please click on “NEXT” at the bottom of the first page!

ITEM! Alex De Campi has made a trailer for NO MERCY as recommended by Kieron Gillen & Bryan K Vaughan. Nice! NO MERCY #1 by Alex De Campi & Carla Speed McNeil reviewed by moi. In stock now!

ITEM! I watched Alan Bennett’s ‘Sunset Across The Bay’ (1975) again the other night. Devastating. Ridiculously you can buy a 12-film Alan Bennett BBC DVD collection for just £12-83 at Hive Stores. You can even nominate Page 45 as your local independent store so we make a cut and have it delivered here as well so you pay no postage at all. Here are the details:

How To Buy Discounted Books, CDs, DVDs etc Via Hive AND Support Your Local Independent.

“You can’t be branching out into yoghurt at our age!” Bernard Wrigley cameo in Alan Bennett’s Sunset Across The Bay.

– Stephen

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