Feauturing 2000AD’s DAN DARE, Jim Henson’s STORYTELLER DRAGON, Grant Morrison & Duncan Fegredo’s KID ETERNITY and MUCH more!
Also: more cards Jodie Paterson perfect for thanking your loved ones for Christmas presents, and return of Page 45’s News section underneath!
The Only Child h/c (£14-99, Random House / Vertical) by Guojing.
Almost perfect for this Christmas time of year, each and every soft-pencil page comes flecked with a static of snow until the young, female wanderer, lost and alone, is buoyed on the back of a solicitous stag up out of her real world fraught with fear and into a comforting dreamscape high above the clouds.
With the snowfall absent, the contrast of quiet is truly arresting.
Like Daishu Ma’s LEAF and Shaun Tan’s THE ARRIVAL, this is a silent graphic novel but there’s a lot less interpretation required for the story itself perfectly straight forward – it’s the storytelling techniques which are clever.
A young child left alone at home while her mother goes to work at first finds the door closed on her to be both forbidding and final. A whole page is dedicated to a year view of the girl staring at the comparatively gargantuan implacable, thick wooden door for what could be an eternity. It doesn’t open: her mother does not return.
Gradually galvanising herself, she enjoys brief bursts of solitary play before slumping back down, head in hands, surrounded by toys which without her animation fall silent and lifeless. Then she discovers a scrapbook and, in it, photographs of herself being doted on by her grandmother. Outside snowflakes fall over factory chimneys. It beckons her out and the door is unlocked.
At first the freedom and flurries are a source of joy as the child makes her way through the urban environment to the bus station. Evidently she knows how to get to Grandma’s. But she makes the mistake of falling asleep and when she wakes up the bus is quite empty: she’s lost and alone in the middle of woods which she doesn’t even recognise.
She bursts into hot, warm, salty tears which stream down her face. Well, you would, wouldn’t you?
What ensues, however, is a flying, floating, fantastical adventure through cloudscapes involving dreamt-up animals, conjured from her memory of home, as the solitary child seeks solace in warm pelts and the familiar.
It’s a triumph in terms of temperature and scale with pencils as softly shaded as Katriona Chapman’s.
My only two problems with this are entirely personal – entirely:
1. I could almost hear Aled Jones warbling, ‘Walking Through The Air’ and for me that is not a good thing. (Yes, yes, I know Aled didn’t sing the animated original – that hardly matters.)
2. I don’t happen to find moon-faced, rosy-cheeked children in any way cute or endearing. Quite the reverse so, truly, I must be a monster.
Should you not suffer from such an inhumane lack of empathy, you’re going to absolutely adore this fabulous, fuzzy thing.
Dan Dare – The 2000 AD Years vol 1 h/c (£30-00, Rebellion) by Pat Mills, Gerry Finley-Day, Steve Moore & Dave Gibbons, Massimo Belardinelli…
“This was our Dan Dare…
“Telling a seven-year-old that what he’s reading is a travesty will get you nowhere. You can’t tell him the original Dare was a true hero, the embodiment of traditional English values; he’s too busy marvelling at the guy carrying the psychotic living axe. You won’t get very far talking about the wonderful clean lines of the Anastasia; he’s transfixed by the battle of Jupiter, with men drowning in acid and living spaceships throwing moons like rocks, and a Martian giant on the cover of Prog 11 beckoning us into the blazing hell of the sun. And you can guess what mentioning a gentler, more compassionate time will mean to him; what price compassion next to a squad of space commandos pouring automatic fire into that week’s alien freak?”
Thank you Garth Ennis! I feel slightly guilty quoting so extensively from someone’s foreword but it just perfectly encapsulates my then – as a five-year-old – sentiments, and equally my father’s contrasting nostalgic ones, to the Dan Dare of 1977’s 2000 AD. My dad just couldn’t get his head around how disturbing, twisted and violent this brave new world of Dare was. He let me keep reading it, though, to his credit! I do remember being genuinely disturbed by some of the characters though, including that psychotic living axe, but particularly a demented fused pairing called the Two Of Verath, which I think was entirely due to the art of Massimo Bellardinelli. He was a very firm favourite of mine as a kid with stints on HARLEM HEROES, MELTDOWN MAN and BLACKHAWK.
Even the Mekon was impressed with the new Dare, unaware of his suspended animation survival following a fortuitous, retconned-in accident, allowing Pat Mills to neatly move Dan forward in time from the 21st century (when the original Frank Hampson Eagle material was set) to the rather more violent 22nd century…
“Dan Dare? It cannot be! This human looks nothing like the despicable worm who thwarted me in the past! And, besides, Dan Dare would be a drooling ancient now! Yet I have learned to expect the unexpected from the infernal Dare!”
Indeed. Then after a brief, five-Prog pause, Dare returned again, this time with writer Gerry Finlay-Day, and Dave Gibbons on pencils for Dan’s stint with his space fort and rag-tag bunch of commandos investigating the Lost Worlds, an area where thousands of colonists and escorting battle cruisers had vanished without trace. Drawn from a cesspool of outcasts and outlaws, his motley crew featured the likes of Bear, an enormous psychotic Russian with a hair-trigger temper and Hitman, a nutter with a gun permanently fused to his hand after a space accident.
The relentless pace of the weekly action, as Dan alternately destroyed or freed planet after planet, made for some serious Thrill Power, as Tharg put it! Gibbons’ art style was rather different to Belardinelli’s, but it’s beautifully fluid smoothness still ensured Dare was one of my favourite strips each week. Re-reading it I was astonished just how many panels I could recall perfectly, they made that much of an impression at the time.
In fact re-reading this material some 38 years later (good grief…), I must say it really does stand up. The only advisory comment for people encountering this material for the first time would be, much like the early JUDGE DREDD CASEFILES, is that it does feel slightly choppy due to the ‘story of the week’ nature of the plotting, and thus the continuous need for cliff hangers or conclusions every few pages.
But as with all the early 2000 AD material you simply have to admire and be in awe of the quality they managed to turn out without fail, week after week. The trials and tribulations of that process, and just how close to cancellation the title came on a number of occasions were fantastically detailed in the sadly out of print THRILL POWER OVERLOAD: THE FIRST THIRTY YEARS OF 2000 AD. Given that was published in 2009 after the 2007 anniversary, hopefully they’ll update and re-release it for the forty year anniversary shortly after that occurs in 2017!!!
[For another, more recent reincarnation, please see the DAN DARE OMNIBUS by Garth Ennis & Gary Erskine, also highly recommended – ed.]
Kid Eternity: The Deluxe Edition h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Duncan Fegredo.
A much sought-after treasure from before the Vertigo label, and the first thing to note is that Fegredo’s art style took an interesting detour around 1991, exploding from the page with Bill Sienkiewicz heads and layouts and lines, whilst the fulsome colouring owed a little to McKean circa BLACK ORCHID, a little bit more to the prevailing aesthetic of U.K. comic magazine CRISIS, or perhaps a trip to an abattoir at night with its electrics on the blink.
I’m only guessing, you understand.
There’s a furious speed and frenzy in the images and a lurching giddiness in the sometimes spiralled layouts which was perfect for Morrison’s frantic mayhem.
The second thing to note is that this deluxe edition contains sixteen pages of extra material called ‘Charting The Chaosphere: Preparations and Recollections from Duncan Fegredo’ culminating in a sketch Duncan drew for the 1991 UK Comic Art Convention in which Kid Eternity shouts, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T UNDERSTAND IT?”
As Fegredo notes, “Says it all, doesn’t it?”
Expressionistic horror, then, as Kid Eternity turns himself into a thought and escapes from Hell through the mind of a stand-up comedian during a particularly tedious yuppie party, bringing with him all manner of ruthless pursuit.
“A bass note. The floor vibrates. A glass breaks. And the room goes bang! like a great flashbulb. And my face is scorched and my fillings rattle. And the buffet will never recover.”
I suppose giving birth through your head can be something like that. Who is Kid Eternity…? A man who died seventy-five years too early, got turned away from the Pearly Gates and, as compensation for his troubles, was given the talent to summon the dead for assistance.
“A crazy, mixed-up Bonsai waiting to live forever. Eight letters, okay? And the last letter’s a ‘Y’.”
“Listen, I hate this puzzle shit, man.”
Depending on which side of that fence you fall is the clue as to whether this book’s for you.
A return trip to Hell ensues as a resurrected, ash-haired Kid Eternity leads the way through demons and the damned, like a dandified John Constantine or your own, personable Jesus.
Bleach out, and touch faith.
[Editor’s Note: Stephen In Almost Accurate Shock! On soliciting Fegredo’s opinion on the first paragraph, Duncan replied with typical, self-effacing modesty: “Your observation is not far out although it was more about trying to shake off my embarrassing episodes in Crisis and evoking Dave McKean with a hint of Bill Sienkiewicz but none of the photo reference…”]
Snow Blind #1 of 4 (£2-99, Boom Studios) by Olie Masters & Tyler Jenkins.
Well, that’s a cool cover, isn’t it? Full of narrative, once you’ve read what’s inside you’ll understand how well composed it is too. You’ll be seeing a little more of that Arctic Fox right at the beginning and right at the end.
The lovely, loose line art and wet-wash colours are both provided by Tyler Jenkins who leaves plenty of space for the white Arctic light to shine through. The style and palette’s identical on the inside, and there’s a tremendous sense of movement whether someone’s rising from a chair with their weight on the table, striding through a door without careful consideration as to who’s on the other side, smacking a tree trunk with bare fists in frustration / anger or, umm… look out — !
Thanks to those washes there’s a sodden feel to the coniferous pines even when they’re not laden with snow. Plus there’s a particularly fine shot, from behind knees, of a guard dog challenging an intruder with well developed calf muscles.
She or he (we don’t yet know) isn’t the only intruder. Teenage Teddy Ruffins seems to make a habit of breaking and entering throughout.
“After last time, my Dad asked me why I broke into a library of all places.
“I didn’t answer.
“I didn’t tell him that sometimes I feel like a stranger in my own home. That I felt more comfortable around the pages of dead authors than I do my own parents.”
That’s because those books are telling you things, Teddy. Your parents are – and have been all your life – a lot less communicative.
They moved up from Louisiana to Alaska when Teddy was a baby. Teddy never thought to ask why and they certainly never told him. Teddy’s no communicator, either. He doesn’t get on with the local lads because he believes they don’t like him unless he bribes their company with a case of beer stolen from his Dad. He’s just done that at a BBQ his Dad’s throwing for friends.
“But as the alcohol took hold, I felt like I had something to prove. To them… and to my Dad. So when he got passed-out drunk, like he always did, I figured… If I have to be here, I might as well have some fun at his expense. I was finally being “one of the guys”.”
That’s what he overheard his Dad tell his Mom: that he wished Teddy would be “just one of the guys”.
So he paints his passed-out Dad with lipstick and paps a snap, sharing it on social media with, “Dad’s definitely the prettiest girl at the party. Maybe he should run for Miss Louisiana next year?”
Far from surprisingly, Teddy’s Dad is furious. But it’s not because Teddy had mocked his masculinity all over the internet – the worldwide web – where anyone anywhere can see it. I wouldn’t say it went viral but it went viral enough and now maybe it will become clearer to Teddy why they’re in Alaska and never go home. Maybe it will become clearer to Teddy’s parents that you should always communicate, especially under circumstances like theirs in the age of the internet.
I’d not thought of that before: circumstances like theirs in the age of the internet.
Bravo to Ollie Masters: more breaking and entering yet zero more communication: leopards/spots, habits of a lifetime.
Katzine Issue Three (£5-50) by Katriona Chapman.
Unlike so many online autobiographical comics which I find vacuous, repetitive, egomaniacal and twee, Katriona Chapman’s personal interests and observations have me enthralled.
She is emphatically not producing these four issues annually to obsess about herself, but to pass on her knowledge of the customs of the countries she’s visited, the Highlands and islands she has explored and the mountains she’s climbed.
Each of the eight peaks, volcanoes or ranges here is rendered in soft shading and sinuously craggy detail, distinctly, individualistically and from different eye levels.
There’s no skimping on detail, visual, historical or geological:
“The Torridon mountains rise steeply to 1,100m from deep sea lochs. They’re made of Torridonian red sandstone sitting on top of the Lewisian gneiss, some of the oldest rock in the world. The mountain tops are capped with quartzite.”
“Volcán Chicabal – A volcano covered with cloud forest vegetation with a crater lake at the summit. Department of Qetzaltenango, Guatemala. Sacred to the Mam Mayan people and still used as a ceremonial site. 2,712m.”
Her fascination is infectious, her enthusiasm enthralling, and her experiences always worth sharing.
For example, her trip to Skye and ‘Dutch Campsite Memories’ in which she travels to Amsterdam with her then-boyfriend after being kicked out of a rented room in Wandsworth back in 2002. Although they both find gainful employment, housing was in short supply even for Dutch nationals so they spend the last of their savings on a tent, two sleeping bags and camping gas stove. It’s March and far from warm – plus they have to move sites every fortnight as per regulations – but Chapman’s resourcefulness always impresses and she has campsite shower strategies to pass on. In any case I’ve always believed that the experience of deprivation is important in order to appreciate the basics when the home comforts are back – like heating, hot water and the privacy of a room; I just hadn’t thought of the silence.
‘Quicksand’ is an eloquent and unexpected departure in style and shift in P.O.V. and, with its relatively simple line unadorned by Chapman’s love of soft, moulded shading it looks just as spectral as the words are haunting.
Returning to travel, however, ‘Virgen de Guadalupe’ about Mexicans’ pride of place for the Virgin Mary is yet another reminder of the versatility of Chapman’s layouts and the clarity of her pencilled lettering which is always fully integrated into the page but also meticulously spaced, improbably neat and an almost impossibly well balanced part of the compositions themselves. In addition I was thrilled when I noticed the classy, subtle, shadow-shading floating below the title itself.
Vampire Cousins (£18-99, Pow Pow Press) by Alexandre Fontaine Rousseau & Cathon.
“By the deepest depths of Hell! What vile concoction could exude such mephitic stench?”
“That’s yummy tummy garlic soup with garlic pie… and a side of fresh garlic salad with garlic vinaigrette!”
“What treacherous demon could incite you to buy so much garlic?”
“It’s all they’ve got at the grocery store.”
Oh, the horror of it all!
I knew I was in for something truly disturbing the second Camillia thrust an S Club 7 cassette into her car stereo.
Camillia is affectionate, healthy, ditzy and oblivious, the perfect foil for her cousin Frédérique’s, wild-eyed, gothic – nay, vampiric – self-possession, and the first third of this was exquisitely funny, riffing off quaint Hammer Horror films and undercutting them at almost every turn with immaculate timing.
I can almost hear Miriam Morgolyes’ booming voice as Blackadder’s ever-outraged, puritanical aunt every time Frédérique opened her mouth to proclaim. That’s what she does throughout: proclaim. Her wide, white bug-eyes are like a reptiles’s during extreme sunlight with but the thinnest slit for each iris. I’m pretty sure there was a bald alien who looked similar on the closing credits to the original Star Trek series.
Frédérique has invited cousin Camillia back to her house on the hill where they spent a childhood summer together. Since then Frédérique’s Dad dabbled in the occult and croaked it, leaving his daughter to dabble too and she is desperate to impart the demonic results of this double-dabbling to Camilla as they sit opposite each other in the library. She’s really building up to her big reveal when Camillia interrupts her with a great big yawn.
“Oh, my dear cousin. I do find your story very interesting, but this herbal tea has made me quite drowsy. I think it’s time for me to sleep.”
“But… Don’t you want to know about my most astounding discovery.”
“Of course. Of course. But not tonight.”
There’s a single, silent beat as Frédérique – bug-eyed as ever – stares at Camillia’s smiling face in disappointed and disbelief.
“I do promise that is it is quite astounding.”
Equally funny is the scene in which Frédérique, as per tradition, begins railing against the superstitious villagers below from her balcony up above only to be interrupted not once but twice by her cousin first hearing something “indistinct” then seeing something “indistinct”. Realising she’s not going to get a good night’s rant in, Frédérique switches the lights off then bolts from the bedroom, dropping her theatrics for a dismissive “Yeah yeah”.
There’s some delicious drawing going on with notes of Richard Sala: lots of decorous detail with framed family portraits, ornate candelabras galore and one of the panels is shrouded round the edges like black and white horror movies once were.
The first third is also very tight. After that I’m afraid it kind of loses its way, meandering slowly before simply stopping. On the other hand I wouldn’t have missed Frédérique’s climactic proclamations for the world.
“I offer youth… eternal beauty… and you dare refuse it? You will transcend time itself, be free of degeneracy. You will posses infinite powers! You will be able to FLY!”
She wags a figure to emphasise her point:
“Being able to fly is awesome.”
My Hot Date (£5-99, Kilgore) by Noah Van Sciver…
I suspect everyone remembers the excruciating nature of trying to puzzle out one of the great teenage mysteries most of us faced, that of finding a date, hot or otherwise. I know I certainly do. Noah Van Sciver (FANTE BUKOWSKI and SAINT COLE) once again treats us with a glass of his own very special brand of half empty, only this time it’s personal. In fact it’s autobiographical as Noah dishes the dirt on his own proto-romantic failings.
After chatting up his intended with his brash skatepunk, rap-inflected stylings – via the safety (now here’s an irony) of an internet chatroom – they finally arrange to meet at the local. It doesn’t go well as, if you’ve read any of Noah’s works, I’m sure you can imagine, not least because the girl in question is considerably older than Noah. It’s not quite up there with Joe PEEPSHOW – SPENT Matt’s romantic disasters in terms of scale, but it isn’t far off, and I’m quite sure for Noah himself it was painful enough.
Noah recently shared on Facebook a postcard he’d received from Robert Crumb of all people, singing the praises of MY HOT DATE and exhorting him to continue making more autobiographical comics. High praise indeed and I wholeheartedly concur!
* I feel strangely compelled to share this moderately synchronous story after enjoying Noah’s soul-baring honesty on this subject. Does anyone of a certain age out there remember Partyline? A strange, mid-eighties invention whereby eight people could speak on the same phone line, conference-call-stylee, though it usually felt like at least double or triple that as there was usually several teenagers huddled round each landline handset (no hands-free speakerphone in those days, either!!). They were all local as well, so there was clearly some sort of telephonic science involved behind the scenes working out where people were calling from and grouping them together.
Anyway, occasionally we’d get lucky and there would be far fewer people on the line, and my best friend Savage and I would get actually chance to talk to some girls. Eventually we managed to find some that were daft enough to meet us at the Merrion Shopping Centre in Leeds city centre. Excited thirteen year olds that we were, we were surprised / delighted / terrified to discover the two good ladies in question were considerably older than us. Where it all really started to go wrong, though, was when their two ‘boyfriends’, who unbeknownst to the ladies in question, had suspiciously followed them into town, suddenly revealed themselves and ended up chasing us round the Merrion Centre brandishing Stanley knives… I’ve never run so fast!! Good times!
Safari Honeymoon (£12-99, Koyama Press) by Jesse Jacobs…
“When you spend as much time as I do out here you’re sure to host a number of parasites.
“A few years back a parasite slipped into my mouth as I slept.
“It secured itself firmly at the base of my throat.
“Within a few minutes it had devoured my tongue and attached itself to the stub where my tongue used to be.
“It’s still in there.
“The parasite behaves like a tongue, allowing me to function normally. It’s really more of a symbiotic relationship than a parasitic one.
“My sense of taste has actually improved. That’s why I’m such a talented chef.
“In return it takes a small portion of every bite of food I chew.”
The jungle is a dangerous and unforgiving environment, that’s for certain. Particularly this one, replete as it is with terrifying, multi-limbed beasts with huge teeth lurking behind every bush, telepathic simians with wibbly-wobbly antennae trying to take over your mind, and even foothills peppered with stroke-inducing temporal distortions. It’s an odd choice for a romantic honeymoon getaway, that’s for sure, but then the new groom, a successful businessman wanting to impress his new much younger trophy wife is used to getting what he wants.
Their guide, who cooks a mean grilled croque-monsieur with crème fraiche and gruyere topped with an organic quail egg, is having a hard time simultaneously keeping the newlyweds out of ever-present trouble, mostly of their own idiotic instigation, whilst whipping up a culinary storm over the campfire. Eventually, of course, matters do get psychotically, completely and surreally utterly out of control, but by then the not-so-happy couple are too busy just trying to stay alive to realise their travel insurance probably isn’t going to cover this one…
Haha, I thought this was a brilliant bit of farce. The triumvirate of characters: the arrogant businessman, the doting trophy wife and the dashing guide are exaggerated up to suitably ridiculous levels. The ever-increasing disbelief of the businessman, still refusing to believe he can’t get matters back under his control to the very bitter end, is hilarious. Even when he thinks he’s not going to make it, he’s lambasting his wife to make sure she sues the travel agency on his behalf!
Published by the same outfit that puts out much of Michael DeForge’s output, Koyama Press, this is just as bonkers as anything he comes up with. The art reminds of both DeForge and also Huizenga.
Dad’s Not All There Any More (£7-99, Singing Dragon) by Alex Demetris…
“I remembered Muhammad Ali on TV back in 1996.”
“This is sad. But it looks like he’s having a wank!”
“Dad! You can’t say that!”
“Maybe the Gods overheard that comment. Mind you, Dad never got this kind of body tremor.”
Oh that is so, so wrong but it did make me laugh. Still, I think humour in the face of adversity is one of the best medicines there is. Or indeed palliatives in the face of terminal illness which is what John’s Dad Pete is facing now that he also has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. And whilst Pete fortunately hasn’t developed the tremors typically associated with the condition that Muhammad Ali so bravely put on show to the entire world whilst he held the Olympic torch aloft, he has developed dementia. A very specific sort of dementia linked with Parkinson’s known as Lewy body dementia.
Named after the neuroscientist Friedrich Lewy, who discovered abnormal protein deposits in the brains of a small proportion of deceased Parkinson’s sufferers, this form of dementia is sadly just as pernicious as the more well known types. Thus we see Pete’s story unfold from his diagnosis through to his current state in nursing care. His son John recounts the sad degeneration from spritely retiree to a mentally befuddled, physically incapacitated wreck. I should also add this comic is based directly on creator Alex Demetris and his family’s experiences with his own father’s Lewy body dementia, so whilst it is ostensibly fiction, I’m sure what you’re reading is most heartfelt and extremely personal to some considerable degree.
I have to say, though, for a comic dealing with such a tragic personal story (and topic generally), there is a surprising degree of levity to be found. It is some consolation to John that his dad – and this is certainly not for the case for all dementia sufferers – seems fairly content, despite all his problems. As John puts it, just below a pair of panels with a ribald joke from his dad too rude to repeat here, “His mind may be misfiring, but his personality is still very evident.” It’s one of the great mysteries of dementia isn’t it? How someone can be fully present one moment, conversing with loved ones, then gone again the next? Another excellent medically orientated publication from Singing Dragon who are to be wholly commended for their efforts in championing this genre of material.
Number 1 (£5-50, Retrofit / Big Planet) by Box Brown…
Diamond Dick Courduroy is, well was, a wrestler, the superstar of his era and as a kid, Virgil was his biggest fan. Their initial meeting whilst Dick was in his pomp first brought the wrestling concept of kayfabe (the portrayal of fake rivalries and staged events as real) into Virgil’s consciousness, where it got under his skin and stayed there. So much so that after tracking Diamond Dick down and being offered some more salient words of wisdom…
“Mr. Corduroyzsky? Yeah. I looked up your real name on the internet. Yeah. Your whole ‘layer of bullshit’ theory? It fucked me up.”
“BROTHER!! Let me tell you something: the sooner you realise everyone’s gonna act based on their own motives and their own personal agenda the better! Everyone in this business is either out for themselves or… they’re suckers! And the business ain’t just wrestling, it’s life.”
… Virgil decided the people must know this universal truth and so the Kayfabe Quarterly free magazine was born. To everyone’s surprise, including Virgil’s, it was a huge, ever-expanding hit, becoming a titan of the free publication world, making him a vast fortune in advertising. But can any success story, either in wrestling, or in real life, never mind the cutthroat world of publishing last forever?
Ha, Box Brown returns to two of his favourite themes, ludicrous low concept speculative storytelling (AN ENTITY THAT OBSERVES ALL THINGS) and the whacky world of wrestling (ANDRE THE GIANT), tag-teaming them perfectly, to produce yet another glorious leap off the top rope piledriver slam of a story. Also new in stock from Box in this new anthology series is NUMBER 2, with stories about skateboarding, filmmaking and tramps!
The Storyteller: Dragons #1 of 4 (£2-99, Archaia) by Fabian Rangel Jr & Daniel Bayliss.
Dragons are a draw. Few words sell comics or art books so successfully as we discovered with IN SEARCH ON DRAGONS.
This self-contained story boasts the same artist within as without, so if you’re loving the look of that fanged, aquatic dragon with its iridescent dermal scales and wild-stag antlers then there’s more on the inside. More of that dragon, and other beasts with equally ornate markings.
A proud father is taking his young son fishing with spears, determined to pass on his skills of self-sufficiency and provision. He urges his son to pay attention. However:
“Most fathers often struggle with being too hard or too soft on their children. And this father was no exception. But with just a wink he could set his son’s mind at ease.”
Caught in the middle of a maelstrom as an attacking dragon is itself seized upon by airborne, electrically charged Thunderbirds which seem to shatter the skies which their screeching, their boat is broken in two and the pair are separated. The son is washed ashore, stranded on a strange island and forages for what food he can find; the father too is washed ashore, on an even stranger island too barren to provide material for a raft. Guess what lives there, then?
It’s a poignant little tale, well told, with plenty of surprises and every word that I’ve written and quoted is relevant. Of course, if you’re going to call a comic STORYTELLER and you can’t tell stories then you’re only setting yourself up as a laughing stock.
Includes the words “dreadful”, “ghastly”, “deafening” and “fury”.
I was never a fan of the framing device of an overly knowing bloke preaching to his pooch. He was thankfully absent from STORYTELLER: WITCHES which contains some seriously beautiful and unusual compositions, but his presence here didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story he’s telling.
Also available: the original JIM HENSON’S THE STORYTELLER collection with, as I recall, more preaching to pooch.
Hawkeye vol 2 h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & David Aja, Francesco Francavilla, Chris Eliopoulos, Javier Pulido, Annie Wu.
Oh, Kate, of course you’ve no plan. You’re as bad as Clint is!
Much of the mirth in HAWKEYE has been watching Kate Bishop – the younger, female and infinitely more clued-up of the two Hawkeyes – pick up the pieces of her mentor Clint Barton’s cock-ups. They have been manifold, and Kate has been constantly peering over her sunglasses at the archer / Avenger with a mixture of recrimination and resignation. Now it transpires that our equally impetuous Ms Bishop is equally prone to pratfalls.
I’ve described HAWKEYE as being a book about helping people starring the one guy who cannot help himself. We’ve now swapped coasts – New York for Los Angeles – as well as sharp-shooters’ perspectives, but hilariously nothing has changed except the age and gender of the dive-in-first and wonder-what-on-earth-went-wrong wrong-righter.
Okay, no, the artists have changed for some of this at least. While Aja remains on board for the Clint Barton episodes, Kate’s West Coast sabbatical is introduced by Javier Pulido who will delight Darwyn Cooke fans with a fine line in fashion coloured by Matt Hollingsworth as if L.A. was the brightest, most beautiful city with the freshest air in the world. As Annie Wu takes the driving seat things grow much darker, though the body language – both broken and indefatigable – can rarely be beaten along with the facial tics which reveal exactly what our Kate’s thinking long before she’s uttered a word.
Kate Bishop has set off for L.A. in a very flash car after finally losing patience with Clint as well as her cash-rich father.
“Kate, let your mother get you a little something to drink.”
“She’s not my mother.”
“Well, no, but I hope, maybe with time, you’ll begin to think of me as –“
“You’re three years older than me. We were literally in school together, Heather.”
“That was a nice time. Diazepam?”
Lovely touch with Jack Kirby’s Sue Storm portrait in the background there!
Unfortunately before Kate has even turned her ignition key Madame Masque has Ms Bishop in her revenge-seeking sights and arranges for her credit card to be bled, her stuff to be stolen and that car won’t last long, either. Broke and homeless, Kate is determined to reverse her misfortune by taking on jobs as a Private Investigator. Alas, she has no knowledge of the law and absolutely no knack for investigating privately. She’s spotted within seconds. Also, swimming pools aside, L.A. isn’t all it’s cracked up to be:
“People can be so mean to each other and out here you can take bus tours to get better views of it all.”
But, as I say, this book at its heart is about helping people and, oh, it has so much heart!
There’s the tragic case of the Bryson Brothers who essentially were The Sixties to some. But the musical one, Will, became so absorbed in his masterpiece ‘Wish’ that he could never complete it to his own satisfaction so his production-orientated brother, Grey, could never release it. They’re now old, ill, and at odds in a sequestered mansion.
“It’s like if Mike Brady designed the Bates Motel. If I had to live here for 60 years I bet I’d have gone full Syd Barrett m’self…”
Fraction fills every page with these pop culture references both contemporary (which Kate mostly gets) and less so (mostly not, but please see above). It’s such a completely different approach to writing a superhero comic that this isn’t one. Never has been. It’s an action-adventure comedy of manners.
Back to the heart, and the first case Miss Bishop chances on involves her neighbours Marcus and Finch who, after waiting so long to be married, find their perfect day in danger of being ruined when the orchids of Marcus’ dream-vision are stolen. You won’t believe how fast that escalates and where it eventually leads to. Nor will Kate, but it all comes beautifully – yet appallingly – full circle.
Before then, however, there’s plenty of time to exasperate the L.A.P.D.’s Detective Caudle, infuriate Flynt Ward The Weed Lord (it is all legal there) and throw in a great many cat jokes while the mysterious man in the market aisle, a certain Harold H. Harold (you’ll never guess his middle name), offers words of encouragement at every wrong turn. Will our couple ever get their orchids back and their wedding on track? Regardless:
“Oh honey. You are my happily ever after.”
Now, aren’t you forgetting someone, Kate? I think Clint’s going to need all the help he can get.
He’s been duffed up and deafened, his brother’s back in town and the Tracksuit Dracula mafia are about to launch one final assault on his tenement building.
I remember some saying that they found the deaf scenes difficult to read, but that was the whole point: a world without sound requires a great deal of additional interpretation. You’re going to have to walk the metaphorical mile in the proverbial shoes of those who have to do so every day including, now, Clint. Thanks to Fraction and Aja’s skilful storytelling, judgement and balance, the experience proved utterly immersive.
It’s Your Birthday You Brilliant Beast! Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.
It’s my birthday!
Oh wait, no it’s not.
But if it was, there is not a card in the land I would rather receive than this.
It’s almost tailor-made for me, for I am indeed a brilliant beast, although not a smidgeon as brilliant as its artist Jodie Paterson whose calligraphy is virtually without peer and whose placement of purple ladyfinger biscuits makes this look like a Blackberry Charlotte on the verge of collapse.
The public quietly communes:
“Is this Stephen?”
“Those are his initials below.”
“He’s been deluded into thinking he’s brilliant.”
“I know. It’s a scream!”
“I’m going to send him this card, though, next year.”
“Are you really? I mean really?”
“Yes. I’m just going to cross out the ‘brilliant’.”
I HATE YOU.
Hugs & Kisses Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.
“Hugs & Kisses To My Favourite Person.”
What an endearing sentiment!
No matter that you splattered or spat out an apricot and raspberry mouse all over the card, Paterson’s personalised calligraphy shines through!
Did you know that Diana and Duncan Fegredo are massive fans of our Jodie Paterson? They are! They’ve bought her cards and everything!
Neither has sent me this one, though.
Just For You Because You’re Brilliant Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.
There’s something so classy about Jodie Paterson’s range of cards which not even my own inane witterings can undermine.
Her composition is absolutely exquisite and, after all, would you not rather send your loved ones something so organic and so completely individualistic that they could never find elsewhere?
You can’t buy these in any other shop other than Page 45 or Jodie Paterson’s own website where there’s an even bigger bounty of beauty than we sadly have room for.
“Just For You,” this says. “Because You’re Brilliant.”
And you are, you know, because you took the time and trouble to read this.
The splodge on the right reminds me that I really do need to buy a watermelon soon.
Thanks For Everything. Seriously. Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.
In ideal world I would have bought one of these already, dedicated it to its author/artist, then sent it back to Jodie with love.
It would have been slightly to the left of ‘meta’, I think, but heartfelt nonetheless.
Did you know that Jodie prepped, packed then dispatched 110 Page 45 mail order parcels the other Wednesday? All over the world they went! Even those supposed to travel no further than Beeston.
THAT IS A JOKE. OUR MAIL ORDER SERVICE IS PIN-POINT ACCURATE – AND TIMELY TOO!
We’d be lost without Jodie both on the shop floor and up in the mail-order salt mines, plus I can no longer imagine Page 45 without the decorous addition of her beautiful art.
Thanks for everything, Jodie. Seriously.
Wrapped Up Good Wrapping Paper Set (£6-00, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.
2 x luxury wrapping sheets!
2 x ready strung gift tags!
2 x metres of ribbon, roughly the shade of your goldfish!
Please note: should you be in possess no goldfish, or even if your aquatic friend with zero memory retention who neither recognises your distorted face whenever it looms disturbingly into view nor is remotely grateful for the dried, smelly flakes you drop into its water has recently died and been flushed unceremoniously down the toilet… the colour of the ribbon will remain unaffected.
Gift tags are similarly strung.
Snap these up off our shelves for last-minute, face-saving emergencies along with that randomly chosen present you’re picking up for your wife / husband / concubine / catamite whom you’ve only just remembered.
On Christmas Eve.
Merry Christmas Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson.
Warm, contemporary and organic, the leaf-like bulbs glow with an environmentally friendly and economically expedient zero-energy output.
Do not plug into electrical sockets as this may cause the cards to overheat.
By which I mean, burst into flames.
Merry Christmas, everybody!
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.
Boom Box 2015 Mix Tape one-shot (£7-50, Boom) by various inc. John Allison
Avatar, The Last Airbender vol 11: Smoke And Shadow Part 2 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru
Cinderella Or The Little Glass Slipper h/c (£10-99, Harper Collins) by Charles Perrault & Camille Rose Garcia
Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor vol 3: The Fountains Of Forever (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Nick Abadzis & Elena Casagrande, Rachel Stott, others
Grindhouse Doors Open At Midnight vol 3: Slay Ride | Blood Lagoon s/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Alex De Campi & R.M. Guera & Chris Peterson
Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 12: Encounters (£22-50, Random House / Vertical) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
The Witcher vol 2: Fox Children s/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Paul Tobin & Joe Querio
Trauma Is Really Strange (£7-99, Singing Dragon) by Steve Haines & Sophie Standing
Violenzia & Other Deadly Amusements (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Richard Sala
Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham s/c (£12-99, DC) by Mike Mignola, Richard Pace & Troy Nixey, Dennis Janke, Mike Mignola
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows: Warzones! s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Adam Kubert, Scott Hanna
Black Panther: Complete Christopher Priest Collection vol 2 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Christopher Priest & various
Inferno: Warzones! s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Dennis Hopeless & Javi Garron
Jessica Jones: Pulse – The Complete Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley, Brent Anderson, Michael Lark, Michael Gaydos, Olivier Coipel
Attack On Titan vol 17 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama
Fairy Tail vol 51 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima
Tsubasa: World Chronicle 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Clamp
ITEM! Last year Page 45 bought its entire building. This year rent negotiations were substantially smoother:
“I’m doubling your rent.”
“We won’t pay a penny more.”
ITEM! Retailers of the UK, US and Canadian and quality comic lovers everywhere: Improper Books are now freely available internationally. For extensive previews and international ordering information for retailers or readers to give to your retailers, please click on the images on Improper Books’ website!
Page 45 stocks every single Improper Books comic and graphic novel and we’ve sold over 1,000 copies so far!
Ian Williams is the creator of THE BAD DOCTOR graphic novel which is doing a roaring trade here.
ITEM! Lots of other comic creators select their favourite comics and graphic novels of 2015. Some of my own favourites there. Again, please pop ‘em in our search engine.
ITEM! By RUINS‘ Peter Kuper: a short comic on climate change called CLIMATE UNCHANGE. You may want to start at the bottom.
ITEM! Marvel announces CIVIL WAR II by Bendis & Marquez. I’m an enormous fan of Marvel’s original CIVIL WAR by Millar & McNiven, in stock and reviewed, which had far more to say than “I hit you – punch”.
ITEM! Striking collage of all 12 covers to Brubaker & Phillips’ THE FADE OUT with a few thoughts. THE FADE OUT #12 has yet to ship but Sean Phillips announced just a couple of days ago that it was now finished.