Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2015 week one

Featuring Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows, Chuck Palahniuk & Cameron Stewart, Garth Ennis & Gary Erskine, Brian Michael Bendis & Andrea Sorrentino, Ales Kot & Will Tempest, Brian Buccellato & Toni Infante, Sally Jane Thompson, Jason Brubaker, Nate Simpson, Nick Sousanis, Ethan Wiltshire.

News underneath as usual!

Nonplayer #1 (£2-25, 3rd print, Image) by Nate Simpson.

Beautiful, absolutely beautiful!

The lines, the dappled shadows and the lambent colouring, so rich and warm, evoke a fantasy land you really wouldn’t want to leave. There’s a giant cat whose chin nuzzles over the side of a horizontal tree trunk; and gigantic, armour-plated dinosaurs along with their woollier, mammalian successors carry the local aristocracy in a caravan whose warriors our heroine and her compadre are about to ambush for maximum XP points.

Yup, it’s all just a Massive Multiplayer Online Game you plug yourself into: an elaborate virtual reality which Dana’s so addicted to that she’s constantly late for work.

Even in real life she prefers simulation-stimulation so when she sets out on her scooter through the grotty, concrete urban jungle she adjusts her proverbial set to make that journey more pleasant. I can’t say I blame her, but it does raise a few questions about escaping your environment or acknowledging, absorbing and even enjoying it. It put me immediately in mind of Woodrow Phoenix’s salient sentiments in RUMBLE STRIP about getting lost in your own little world while driving.

 

 

Virtual reality addiction is subject which Devin Grayson explored some time ago in the three-issue USER – and very successfully too (reprint, please!) – while Cory Doctorow gave me much pause for thought in his FUTURISTIC TALES OF THE HERE AND NOW.

Here, however, lies what I take to be the crux of the matter in NONPLAYER:

Massive Multiplayer Online Games like Warcraft allow you to combine forces with friends or even strangers from all over the world on quests for virtual loot and lolly against other avatars behind which lurk real human beings or the NPCs of the title: computer-driven Non-Playable Characters. These can and will interact with you in complex, context-specific ways which make them far from predictable. How you respond to them – verbally or physically – will dictate how they respond to you.

But when you’re nowhere near NPCs, surely they doesn’t exist? They’re certainly not playing out their own emotionally charged, personal conflicts in real time with other NPCs, are they? That would be quite the glitch.

A little over four years ago while our J-Lo was away on paternity leave I wrote about how much I relished this first issue while worrying about its schedule:

“Unfortunately I fear we may have discovered the new Joshua Middleton both in terms of talent and schedule for this single issue took a whole year to create, he’s being courted by the comicbook corp[oration]s, and ten years on we have yet to see the follow-up to SKY BETWEEN BRANCHES #0. Fingers crossed, though.”

Haha! Whatever was I worried about?

Fortunately NONPLAYER #2 is finally out today, this 3rd June, and I am rather excited!

SLH

Buy Nonplayer #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Fight Club 2 #1 (£2-99, Dark Horse) by Chuck Palahniuk & Cameron Stewart.

“Throughout childhood people tell you to be less sensitive.
“Adulthood begins the moment someone tells you, “You need to be more sensitive”.”

I swear on my psychotherapy couch that you do not need to have read the original prose novel to relish this original comic actually written – not suggested – by Chuck Palahnuik himself. I read the book many moons ago but can barely remember a word.

I seem to recall it was at least partially about smashing the system: rising in up in rebellion against corporate conditioning, financial finagling, governmental authoritarianism and the pervasive mediocrity we can obliviously settle for during our everyday, oh-so-short lives. About waking up from the ubiquitous mass hypnotism of messed-up humanity… whilst enthusiastically submitting to someone else’s indoctrination. If it wasn’t, it should have been.

It’s why Jonathan Hickman’s scathing NIGHTLY NEWS rang such a bell with me. The first paragraph of my NIGHTLY NEWS review reads:

“Terrorism. Communication. Authorative anti-authoritarianism. One man’s enlightenment is the same man’s indoctrination. Stop being a sheep, and be part of my flock instead!”

The cult of personality, eh? Unless it’s mine, I’m always suspicious.

As I said, however, Fight Club could have been about something else entirely, like hitting people. I imagine that’s why many went to see the film.

Fight Club 2 begins with a similarly iconoclastic personal survey in which you can discover, “Are You Space Monkey Material?” It poses 12 questions with mirth-inducing optional answers. Let’s try a couple.

“MY GREATEST REGRET IS…
A. The adverse effect my carbon footprint has on the intricate web of sensate life forms.
B. My past insensitivity to others whose cultural milieu and genetic makeup vary from my own.
C. My unexamined participation in the context of an entrenched capitalistic power hierarchy.
D. Nothing. Sir.”

We’ll leave aside “DO YOU GET OUT OF THE SHOWER TO TAKE A LEAK?” – it is funny, though – and skip straight past the increasingly angry activism of no-nonsense D to question number 12:

“THE GREATEST THREAT FACING OUR CURRENT GOVERNMENT IS…
A. Failure to recognise and reign in the scourge of white privilege.
B. The impending collapse of world oil reserves.
C. Dwindling honeybee populations.
D. Me.”

Okay, so the comic itself kicks off with the narrator addressing the audience directly.

“Look at him. He calls himself Sebastian these days. Ten years ago he was destined to be another Alexander the Great. A new Genghis Khan. But Sebastian… he calls himself happy.”

Well, with the aid of some tranks, anyway.

Back home his son is being nannied by a woman wielding a carving knife. But then his young son is having a time-out after being caught synthesising explosive compounds from local debris like dog poo.

His wife is unsatisfying and so dissatisfied, calling for a certain, so-far off-stage Tyler to “deliver me from this bland, boring life”. (First-time readers: you’ll see, you’ll see.) “Please, rescue me from my loving husband…”

By the end of the first issue Tyler may just have done that, but in the meantime she’s begun to take evasive manoeuvres of her own and Sebastian is swallowing them whole. Chic and suited, she’s quite the self-obsessed piece of work, invading a counselling session for those with Hutchinson Gilford Progeria Syndrome (such rapid aging that 10-year-olds appear to be 60) while complaining about her wrinkles – “They’re all on the inside!”

Chain-smoking throughout, she’s drawn by Cameron Stewart with a superb sense of insouciance that puts me in mind of Mrs Quinn, the rich bitch in Nabiel Kanan’s THE DROWNERS, though there’s more than a touch of Sean Murphy in her angular face.

My favourite pages are those on which pills or petals – rendered to striking contrast with three-dimensional modelling complete with shadows which fall over the panels beneath them – are imposed over what is being said by the narrator or the narrative’s participants. Whereas the dog’s barking merely drowns thoughts out like ASTERIOS POLYP talking over his girlfriend, the effect here is different because you can discern what lies below – with the romantic rose petals at least – suggesting that the bunch of flowers Sebastian has bought his missus is merely a smoke screen hiding the lie of their messed-up marriage.

“Happy Annive –“
“I lo – you –“
“Take your pill.”

There’s no hiding that last line.

Sebastian, meanwhile, is the epitome not so much of exhausted but sedated. Everyone’s more got more life in them than he has. Even his neighbour.

“Studies conducted by the United States Military prove that what women fear most is physical pain… What men fear most is being humiliated, losing social status, public ridicule.”

Sebastian used to be a fighter once, but he’s fallen asleep. Now it’s time to wake up.

I think I can hear alarm bells ringing.

SLH

Buy Fight Club 2 #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Providence #1 of 12 (£2-99, Avatar) by Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows…

“Say, weren’t you planning on writing a book, I heard?”
“Huh. Lot of planning, no writing. Don’t even have a subject yet, to be truthful.
“I want something big, something that cuts to the heart of this country and these times.
“That talks about things nobody’s dared talk about before.
“You know? Not just another slice of life in the city of bachelors.”

If you google providence, the two definitions you are offered are “timely preparation for future eventualities” and “the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power”. However I suspect no amount of preparation, nor indeed the care of God, is likely to provide much protection for what is to come for some of the characters in Alan’s return to the Lovecraft mythos in conjunction with artist Jaden Burrows after their grisly but gripping NEONOMICON

It’s set in Providence, Rhode Island, which itself has interesting origins, founded in 1636 by a man called Roger Williams, recently exiled from Massachusetts, to provide a refuge for religious minorities. The year is 1919 and the world, emerging from the carnage of WW1, has undoubtedly changed, yet also much has not. There are people still living double lives due to their sexuality, of which of our main character Robert Black is one. Now, apparently there is an irony here, as I have read Alan has commented he liked the idea of having a gay character in a period Lovecraftian yarn given H.P. Lovecraft was apparently immensely homophobic.

Whatever the reason it immediately helps creates a state of suspense as much of this first issue is taken up with establishing Robert’s back story, his reasons for being in Providence, and the ongoing emotional anguish he endures in trying to maintain a covert relationship, all the whilst endeavouring to appear to his co-workers at the Tribune newspaper as just another everyday Joe.

They’re all desperate to fill half a page in the next edition at short notice with something a trifle titillating when Robert mentions a French book, Sous Le Monde, that apparently sent people mad if they read it. The scandal surrounding which, Robert Chambers apparently based THE KING IN YELLOW on.

Being a bookish sort of cove, Robert knows of a professor nearby who wrote an article on Sous Le Monde, and so is dispatched to interview him. Which is where events start to creep into more Lovecraftian paranormal territory, as the good doctor has an exceptionally powerful air conditioning system in his apartment, a medical requirement due to an, as yet, unspecified illness… I’m pretty sure however it won’t be a malaise covered in any great detail at medical school, not even at Miskatonic University…

There’s much to admire in Alan’s writing in this first issue, I suspect it’s a project he’s enjoying. I like the little subtle points of connection, almost as asides he weaves in, including one a character makes to Tannhäuser which proves particularly apposite indeed. One of the biggest nods to THE KING IN YELLOW comes in the form of the Exit Gardens, which in truth are state-sponsored suicide chambers, dressed up in art deco buildings in beautiful floral surroundings. Where, once you check in, you are gently put to sleep forever whilst listening to the music of your choice. A posh version of Dignitas, basically. But because you don’t need to jump through myriad bureaucratic hoops first, anyone can simply walk in, sit down and rest in peace forevermore.

I’m intrigued to see how Robert picks up the pieces emotionally after this issue and precisely what is wrong with the mysterious professor. The best sort of opening issue, one that engages you completely, connects you emotionally with the characters, piques your curiosity and leaves you wanting more. I am quite sure the horror factor is going to be ramped up gradually until readers’ states of mental wellbeing are in tatters too. I’m still mentally wincing from the ‘where’s my contact lens’ scene in NEONOMICON

JR

Buy Providence #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Unflattening (£16-99, Harvard) by Nick Sousanis…

In our modern world, it often seems that the word in the king of communication, holding sway over images. We comics lovers know better, of course, but what if images really do inform our understanding of pretty much anything just as much as words? It’s kind of obvious when you think about it. I mean, IKEA have even taken it to a new level with entirely picture-based instructions for assembling their furniture, thus doing away with the need for multiple language versions of the same text. I’m pretty sure that’s not the example Nick Sousanis had in mind when he embarked upon this epic undertaking, but it actually sums up his philosophy quite nicely.

Nick started submitting his university work for one particular class in the form of comics, which went down so well that he started doing it for other classes too, gradually persuading more and more lecturers and professors to let him do so. In the end he decided this was something he could do a PhD about, the use of image as an equal partner to the mighty word. In the form of a comic, obviously.

So began his investigation of the process of ‘seeing’ from the perspective of science, art, literature, philosophy and even mythology to examine its specific role in the psychological process of interpretation that goes on in our brains. It’s a process he calls unflattening as he shows how images can be used not just to illustrate text, but in all manner of ways of communicating information. Text is by its very nature linear but imagery however is pure connectivity. The word ‘subtext’ springs to mind.

What follows is an extremely clever, engrossing and well constructed treatise… with pictures! He’s preaching to the converted with respect to us comic readers, of course, but it’s another vital piece of work in helping ferment wider discussion about the validity of our beloved medium. That’s not his primary aim with this work, but it’s certainly a useful adjunct.

 

Nick would like to see us “challenge text” and I think he has some very interesting points to make about the use of imagery, or lack of it, in academic learning, particularly for children. You only have to look at EVOLUTION: THE STORY OF LIFE ON EARTH or THE STUFF OF LIFE: A GRAPHIC GUIDE TO GENETICS AND DNA to see how fun comics can make pretty dry subject matter. FEYNMAN contains a lot of pretty high-end physics explained incredibly eloquently in comic form which I found far more digestible than in my excruciatingly boring quantum theory lectures at Uni. Equally, I would argue CRECY taught me more about that battle than reading about it in history at school ever did.

Ultimately, this is an impressive, powerful, and absolutely convincing display of just how much understanding can be achieved through the additional use of imagery. And comics. Now we just need a generation of comic creators to work on producing nothing but text books!

JR

Buy Unflattening and read the Page 45 review here

Material #1 (£2-75, Image) by Ales Kot & Will Tempest.

A tired and disillusioned professor questions the merits of modern life – how we’re spending so much time with machines that we’re becoming like them. A student objects and his daughter – via Skype – tells him she’s pregnant. At which point his computer begins to engage with him too.

A visionary director reaches out to a washed up, self-sedated actress for his next, largely improvised film. The studio seeks more commercially viable and quantifiable slants than ten sheets of blank script but the director is determined that the film will be both about and by the actress. Surprisingly it turns out she does have a mind of her own.

A fifteen-year-old boy standing passively at a protest march carrying the hand-written placard declaring “I cannot breath” is arrested, detained and questioned. On release, while babysitting, he discovers a pamphlet about The New Black Panther Party.

Seven months after being liberated from Guantanamo detention centre an innocent man finds he can no longer relate to his family or even touch his doting dog whom he played with as a puppy. They used dogs on him in the prison camp. Waterboarding too.  He never hurt anyone, nor planned to hurt anyone. But the only thing which arouses him now is being held down and hurt.

As with Kot’s ZERO, CHANGE, WILD CHILDREN and THE SURFACE, this is so unapologetically intelligent that it takes more than a single read to take in, and I’m still not entirely sure how these four scenarios except that lives are being changed. Rebellion seems to be on the cards.

Each is given two colour-coded pages at a time on a nine-panel grid, lending it a clarity I’m enormously grateful for. The art is direct, thin-lined and brittle. That bit about the dog really got me.

A synopsis is not a review, it’s true, so consider this a story about a story or a sales pitch. I bought it.

SLH

Buy Material #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

Beautiful, spacious and unpredictable non-stop thrill-athon with the emphasis on the images so it’s perfect for a younger age range too.

I raced through this so fast whilst loving every second.

Seven-year-old Nirvana Page has been on a holiday expedition with her Dad. Insatiably inquisitive, Nirvana and her cat Sam have explored both flora and fauna and things so strange that they might well be both! I think she may have gotten a little too close to one of them. A sort of crustaceous lamprey, its teeth didn’t half look sharp and it managed to wrap a suckered tongue round her index finger. It’s feeling a bit sore but she doesn’t tell Dad – she hides it behind her back.

Her Dad, however, is hiding something too. For when Nirvana expresses a wish to visit Light City and to see her Mum again, well, there’s obviously something so wrong with Light City that Dad wants to avoid it at all costs – as well as all talk of Mum. He just won’t tell her why.

I think it’s the landscapes I love best: big, bold, tree-topped mountains, silhouetted in front of and behind all that mist as their seaplane takes off.

Although I did feel first-hand the alarm, desperation and blind panic as something from above destroys one of their engines then shatters the cockpit window before wrenching a helpless Nirvana right out of the plane altogether. She barely manages to grab a parachute and only just rescues her toy fluffy bunny from the spare seat which it was carefully buckled into. Heaven knows what’s happened to the cat. Heaven knows what’s happened to Dad, for that matter.

She wakes beneath the canvas of her parachute as it’s pattered by the first drops of rain heralding a storm. Peering out from under its heavy, saggy folds, Nirvana is caught under the last sunbeams of dying day in a vast, verdant countryside, so very beautiful to be sure, but so very empty.

Once more, I give you the landscapes and the rolling, roiling clouds above as the deluge descends. Superb, stark lettering as Nirvana calls out to her Dad. There’s no reply. She is completely and utterly alone.

SITHRA boasts a completely different aesthetic to Luke Pearson’s all-ages HILDA but Nirvana is just as resourceful and resolute and her faith in her father’s wisdom and love is very touching indeed. “What’s the smart thing to do?” she asks herself. “That’s something her father would ask her in a situation like this.” She is determined to make him proud but she has a very long night ahead of her.

Parents, I promise you this first instalment won’t leave you in the unenviable position of having to reassure your young ones for its morning brings magic.

It appears in the form of the glossy-eyed, lightning-fast, bi-pedal Sithrah, a bright-white, seal-like creature with hope in its heart and a message:

“No one is ever alone, Nirvana… Not completely.”

Their adventure has only begun.

SLH

Buy Sithrah Book 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Scars (£2-50) by Sally Jane Thompson.

There’s nothing like exploring the countryside, especially with your girlfriend or boyf.

The two of you alone yet together, undistracted by the intrusive, prosaic practicalities of modern living.

The sense of shared discovery and Mother Nature’s eye-candy as far as the eye can see! It’s absolute, unadulterated bliss.

“Um, listen…
“I, uh… I think we should break up.”

Whoa, get mister casual! I suppose at least he had the decency not to do it in a public bar.

I had a friend who was ditched by her pop-star boyfriend just after midnight on New Year’s Day… by text!

He wasn’t really a pop star. You could tell because he was constantly calling himself one.

The young woman here is caught completely off-guard and, cruelly, in the middle of the thrill of finding the jagged lower jaw of some beastie. So she has her back turned at the time and she does not turn round. She can barely straighten up so heavy do her shoulders now feel.

“Three years. That’s all three years is worth?” she thinks.

“Babe! Come on! What are you doing?”

It’s so well observed: “Babe”. It’s a bit late for affection, don’t you think? There’ll be a “Sweetie!” later on when he drops her off at home and she slams the car door in his face without a word. He’s reaching out with affection just to make himself feel better about having cut her heart in two. You’ve got what you wanted, tosser, so just shut up and drive away.

I was once ditched by a boyfriend. Immediately afterwards he tried to kiss me.

Sally Jane Thompson has many styles, some as lush as you like: http://www.sallyjanethompson.co.uk/gallery.php This is pared down completely to the most fragile pencils imaginable and rarely have a seen a tear well up so tenderly.

For such a tiny little comic it has a vast sense of space even when we return to suburbia with its tall flats, lower houses and back gardens big enough for trees.  I was particularly struck by the cover, along the bottom centimetre along of which in the distance rise conifer tree tops above which hangs a vast and empty sky.

The jawbone will play a considerable part in the healing process, by the way, whereas once it probably opened quite the considerable wound.

SLH

Buy Scars and read the Page 45 review here

Elders #1 (£4-00) by Ethan Wiltshire…

“Hello?”
“Ah, Mrs. Gibson I presume?”
“Oh no, there isn’t one…”
“Oh I’m sorry, we must have the wrong house.”
“No, it’s Stanley you’re looking for isn’t it?”
“We’re partners but we’re not married.”
“You’re NOT married… but you LIVE together?”
“Uhm yes?”
“INDEED.”

Ha. I do love the almost demonic, Kiss-like make up shading round Elder Cohen’s eye during that last exhortation. I should probably here point out that Elder Cohen and his door-knocking cohort Elder Christensen are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints better known to you and I as Mormons. Mr. Gibson, or Brother Stanley, upon whom they have called to pay a visit, is also a Mormon, though I think we can say his faith is… wavering slightly. Perhaps a concerned visit from the Elders complete with a few choice stinging rebukes… and the threat of eternal damnation… is just what he needs to scrabble back up atop the moral high ground. Or not. Indeed, given the Lord does move in the most mysterious of ways, perhaps what we perceive before our eyes in this very comic is not all to be believed…

Right, that’s as much plot and near spoiler collision avoidage as you are going to get from me! Suffice to say this is a comedy of manners in the classic British sense that pokes fun at the Mormon church and some of its tenets, with a lovely little twist that turns everything neatly on its head at the end. Tone-wise it actually reminded me a little of Dan Berry’s THE SUITCASE, itself a classic piece of British farce, being so gently over the top that even those on the receiving end could probably enjoy the joke. Though, I have to say, those of the door-knocking persuasion, of all religious flavours, are not usually known for their sense of humour.

I remember once, when having been door-stepped by a couple of Jehoviah’s Witnesses (I was expecting the wheelie bin cleaners so opened the door without looking first) and in my surprise foolishly uttering I was a Buddhist thus hoping they’d leave me alone. Instead, my heart started sinking rapidly as I immediately saw that in fact this was a full-speed-ahead we-are-go-for-conversion signal for them.

So I decided to change tactics and upon being asked why I practiced Buddhism rather than seeing the Glory of the Lord and indeed the error of my ways, I told them years of meditation now meant I could levitate… Seeing their shock and sensing their sudden uncertainty I ploughed ahead, claiming also telepathy, mind control of small animals, and if I had a full seven days of continuous, uninterrupted meditation in a completely dark underneath the house… pyrokinesis. Politely making their excuses, they backed away from the door in search of someone less mentally deranged. It’s a tactic worth remembering if you find yourself in just such a situation.

Anyway, Ethan’s done a sterling job here with his second publication, the first being the excellent JONATHAN STARLIGHT which we sold out of. It was originally intended as the first chapter of a longer form story, a teaser if you will, following the exploits of Elders Cohen and Christensen (not forgetting Brother Gibson!) and the trials and tribulations of the door-knocking adventures. I hope it’s something he’ll pursue in some manner or other as I think the concept has legs.

Art-wise, he’s come on considerably since JONATHAN STARLIGHT, and there’s a couple of lovely artistic devices here, plus a brave extended use of black panels for a particularly amusing sequence. Yes, you can see this is an artist who is still working on his style and panel layouts in places, but undoubtedly he has excellent illustrative ability.

I should add Ethan recently commented to me that he felt very unsure about even publishing this material after finishing it, whether it was sufficiently good enough, that he could see everything that was wrong with it. I am quite sure that’s an extremely common thing amongst artists of all ages and indeed experience levels. But one needs to keep moving forward, always, even if at times you just feel like you’re scrabbling around in the dark. Dare I even say, just publish and be damned?! It’s just so important to getting keeping your material out there.

For whilst you can’t choose the faith you were born into – or indoctrinated by – as a child, you can put your faith in yourself, and then commitment and hard work will surely get you there. Maybe not being able to levitate perhaps, but to become a great comic creator, certainly!

JR

Buy Elders #1 and read the Page 45 review here

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

No idea how this dropped off our system, so sorry!

The complete edition of Erskine’s finest work to date: the perfectly poised, beautifully restrained yet totally trenchant take on the classic British space pilot, hauled out of retirement by a Prime Minister he despises in charge of a country he’s no longer in love with. Ennis’ restrained handling of Dare’s eloquently voiced disappointment keeps the man dignified but direct, a formidable figure as he sizes up the politician in front of him and delivers a considered but withering indictment of all that’s been lost through lack of leadership.

So it is when Dare has been joined by faithful old Digby and a battalion of soldiers who’ve just staved off a furious attack by a hoard of ferocious green monsters on a colony populated by both humans and the Treen (the Mekon’s people) who until recently were getting along splendidly. But the Mekon’s back, so suspicions are raised and tempers are high.

Oh yes, and there’s a thousand more nasties on their way:

“Mister Dare, I’d like a word with you please…”
“A very brief one, Captain.”
“Are you really giving civilians priority for evacuation? Over military personnel?”
“I take it you disagree?”
“Look here, sir, Fitzgerald and Kent and I are officers. If there is going to be some sort of final battle with the Mekon, chaps like us will be at a premium. And our tours of duty are almost done, and — well, frankly, we don’t feel like getting killed for a lot of prospectors and green wogs…”
“Well, if that’s the way you feel, you should board the shuttle as soon as you can.”
“Really?”
“You’ll leave your uniforms behind, of course.”
“Our — ?”
“You’re no longer British officers, you can’t possibly wear the uniform.”

Classic British reserve, but with a bite. Unashamedly patriotic and unwaveringly brave, Dare really is the quintessential old-school man of honour, but also a leader prepared to put himself on the frontline alongside his men and lead.

With art like this – as rich and British as Chris Weston’s or Bryan Talbot’s – one can’t help but regret that Erskine seems to spend so much time making others’ pencils look good with his inks rather than giving us the joy of his own layouts. It couldn’t be more apposite for the task at hand, particularly when we first meet the national legend so far into his future that he’s fully retired. He’s spending his days walking the dogs through a traditional English village past cricket pitches, oak-beamed pubs, all surrounded by rolling green fields, dry stone walls, and a brazen fox. They stop to take each others’ measure. If that sounds like an idyll that’s perfect, then surely it’s no more than the space pilot deserves after his long record of service to his beloved country.

But times, they have a habit of changing, and illusions can be shattered. It’s a very different world now, as viewed from the space station: America is an arid patchwork of craters as big as the moon’s, for America and China have finally finished each other off, the UN has failed and international cooperation is a thing of the past. Jocelyn from the old crew has at least risen to the position of Home Secretary, which will prove vital if everyone’s going to survive what happens next. Unfortunately, they don’t.

SLH

Buy Dan Dare Omnibus and read the Page 45 review here

Sons Of The Devil #1 (£2-25, Image) by Brian Buccellato & Toni Infante.

“Come on, Riggs… I’m gonna be late. Will you go already?”

Travis’ Border Collie looks up at him from the pavement, tongue lolling expectantly.

“You’re really gonna make me do it, aren’t you?”

He really is. Travis is going to have to pick Riggs up and carry him. That’s one way of taking your dog for a walk.

Thank goodness for that one moment of smile-inducing comedy because the rest is pretty horrific.

Vitally artist Toni Infante is far from sensationalist. His art is grounded in faultless figure work and suffused with a brooding intensity. Meek and innocent eyes are wide and hopeful, while others glare up from beneath baseball caps with resentment and barely suppressed rage. That Border Collie could not come with a coat that’s sleeker or a better-natured, loyal adoration.

Other faces are full of smug, self-satisfied mendacity and if there’s one thing Infante excels at – with his angular noses and tight-lipped, taut-lined faces – it’s confrontation.

Before we even begin the book has been primed with hair-trigger tensions, some of which have been building for weeks, others for thirty-plus years. Now they burst open on every conceivable front and if I were to sum this first issue up it’s with that perennial downer I refuse to endorse that no good deed goes unpunished.

Travis spies a young boy sitting on the pavement, lost and alone. There is an immediate empathy: Travis is determined to reunite the waif with his parents for he’s in search of the same thing himself. It costs him dearly.

A private investigator, the son of one of Travis’ old foster parents, believes he can do the same for Travis – to make up for an old mistake with far-reaching consequences they both have had cause for regret. This Mister Landon has found an old photograph, you see, of another man with eyes so distinctive and similar to Travis’. But that costs him more dearly still.

Flash back on the very first page to 1989 and cots are being raided two at a time, their babies stolen. There is an appalling act of violence which baby Travis witnesses far too young with his blue and blood-red eyes. It’s no wonder that Travis now needs anger management. But beware whom you’re referred to…

How’s that for oblique?

This is a book about cults. Cults have connections, don’t they? Just look at the Masonic Lodge. Unfortunately for Travis and everyone around him this particular cult has been waiting for precisely this moment.

Recommended for fans of Robert Kirkman books like OUTCAST.

SLH

Buy Sons Of The Devil and read the Page 45 review here

Old Man Logan #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Andrea Sorrentino.

Of all the SECRET WARS satellite series, this is the one I’ve been looking forward to most.

It does not disappoint!

The sound effects for a start are an integral part of the art, fusing sound and vision into a single sensory experience worthy of Dave Sim himself in CEREBUS.

Its visuals come steeped in the shadow of Jae Lee on Paul Jenkins’ INHUMANS, though it’s closer in colour and texture to his more neo-Gothic outing in Grant Morrison’s FANTASTIC FOUR 1234. Both come highly recommended as singularly eloquent, self-contained graphic novels.

Moreover, some of the sequences are presented with Jim Steranko flourishes like Logan’s assault on the gambling den of child-thieves, the lights going on / off in swift, staccato succession as if there were a strobe in the room. The figures fighting are lit up in stark black and white against a blood-orange background then each narrow window is brush-flecked in blood.

Blood. There is an awful lot of blood, but then this is a Wolverine comic so, you know…

It’s a sequel of sorts to the finest Wolverine series of all time: Mark Millar & Steve McNiven’s OLD MAN LOGAN (reviewed). It was set in a future where the heroes had lost, the villains had carved up America and something so awful had happened to Logan that he’d become a pacifist, refusing to pop his claws for anyone or anything. When you learn what that was you will understand why.

Half the fun was wondering – then discovering – what had become of those you once loved and so it is here, even if it’s only their legacy that’s left.

“Ya wear this uniform?! Do ya even know who this was?”
“What? It’s j-just a look. It’s just – It’s just cool.”
“Ya don’t even know.”

This is Bendis: whose uniform do you think they’ve so ignorantly co-opted? Love the spectacles!

Yes, I can promise Bendis fans in particular some guest appearances from those who will be close to your heart but grown rather a lot older or up now. Also, what is it with Bendis and severed Ultron heads? These disembodied silver skulls of the Avengers’ psychopathic A.I. foe are littered throughout Bendis’ books and Logan’s just found another, fallen from the sky, and it troubles him.

It is suggested to Logan that it’s come from over The Wall, the climbing of which is verboten. I think you can imagine what Logan does next.

It’s rather a long way to the top, so I’ll see you next month.

SLH

Buy Old Man Logan #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews.

Criminal vol 5: The Sinners s/c (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Fuse vol 2: Gridlock s/c (£10-99, Image) by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood

D&Q: 25 Years Of Comtemporary Cartooning, Comics & Graphic Novels (£37-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Various

Between The Billboards & The Authoring Of Architecture (£11-99, Avery Hill) by Owen D Pomery

Thanos Infinity Relativity h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin & Andy Smith, Frank D’Armata

Venom By Remender Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Tony Moor, Tom Fowler, Various

Marvel Universe Ant -Man Digest s/c (£7-50, Marvel) by Various & Various

Swamp Thing vol 6: The Sureen s/c (£12-99, DC) by Charles Soule & Javier Pina, Jesus Saiz, Matthew Wilson

Dragons Beware! (£10-99, First Second) by Rafael Rosado & Jorge Aguirre

Regular Show vol 3 s/c (£10-99, Kaboom) by K C Green & Allison Strejlau

Avengers World vol 3: Next World s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, Frank Barbiere & Marco Checchetto, Raffaele Ineco

Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol 3 s/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo vol 2: Samurai (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai

News!

ITEM! Hurrah! At last! From the creators of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, a preview of Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie’s PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERAIL GIRL

Please pop it on your Standing Order as soon as possible or bash these buttons to pre-order PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL #1 online! We ship worldwide!

Both previous collections on our shelves now! Reviews: PHONOGRAM: RUE BRITANNIA and PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB.

Pre-ordering as early as possible is vital. Retailers order comics two months in advance. If you order in advance your copies are guaranteed! If you don’t, they aren’t and everybody cries. Nobody likes to see a comic lover crying on the shop floor. For a start, your tears may fall on our comics and that’s WATER DAMAGE!

ITEM! I haven’t finished yet. Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie’s THE WICKED + THE DIVINE is picked up for television. Page 45’s review of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE.

ITEM! Free! But you must, MUST book in advance! THE WICKED + THE DIVINE’s Kieron Gillen and his historical consultant, Professor Stephen Hodkinson, discuss the creation of the comicbook THREE at Nottingham University, Saturday 13th June. Public most welcome and it’s a beautiful campus to stroll around on a summer’s day! I know – I got absolutely slaughtered there most afternoons for three who years. Page 45’s review of THREE by Kieron Gillen & Ryan Kelly.

ITEM! Less free (£4/£8) but later that same day for Age 12+: Kieron Gillen & Chrissy Williams host a create-your-own-Classics-comic in which they use the comic THREE as a springboard to help you craft your own short sequences. Nottingham University. No skillz required – so I may pop along myself!

ITEM! Are you relishing THE REALIST by Asaf Hanukah, May’s Page 45 Comic Book Of The Month? In July Asaf Hanukah is joined by Tomer Hanukah for the art on THE DIVINE which you can pre-order right now – then collect in-store so saving yourself postage if that’s what you prefer!

If you need a nudge, here’s a huge preview of THE DIVINE beneath an extensive interview with Tomer and Asaf Hanukah!

ITEM! Tickets are now on sale for events at October’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015. What a line up of talks, interviews, film presentations and workshops!

Remember: most of the festival is COMPLETELY FREE, including entry into the main exhibit hall, Kendal’s Clock Tower where creators will be signing all weekend long and Page 45 will once again be taking over the entire Georgian Room with our very own special guests!

October 16th – 18th. Hope to see you there!

– Stephen

 

Page 45 reviews written by Page 45’s Stephen and Jonathan then edited by a boss-eyed baboon.

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