Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2015 week two

Giant Days Pack (original 3 issue self-published mini-series) (£14-99) by John Allison…

All three John Allison self-published issues from the original mini-series before GIANT DAYS VOL 1 together in a pack!!!

Of Giant Days 1 Tom wrote:

Free from the shackles of school Esther Le Groot thought, like any young goth, that university might be a place to find like-minded people. A place to swap corpse paint-tips and exchange existential banter into the night. Unfortunately being a headgirl in school brings an altogether more sinister clique into play, as the legion of drunken preppies try to steal her away. Now it’s up to sheltered Enya fan Daisy and insomniac beatnik Susan to save her from becoming a BFF in the hardcore Freshers crowd.

Be warned, there will be boxing, tutus, and come-uppance. Ah, Esther, the second most beautiful woman in Tackleford comes into her own in this punchy off-shoot from John’s fantastic SCARY-GO-ROUND web comic. If you’ve ever been the new kid in town the empathy rays will be drawing you to this like a student to £1 drinks.

 

Of Giant Days 2 (at which point the series became full colour) Jonathan wrote:

“Were you CAREFUL?”
“In a prophylactic sense, yes, but… I may have knocked his guitar off the wall and broken it… while trying something.”
“SAINTS ALIVE!”
“He wasn’t pleased.”

Featuring the return of crazy-haired introvert Daisy Wooton, the phlegmatic and rather blunt Susan Ptolemy, plus the divine man-mesmerising beauty that is Esther de Groot. Readers of the first GIANT DAYS may recall our friends are in their first year of University, having only just made each other’s acquaintance in Fresher’s week. Already firm chums, they’re now settling in nicely to Uni life with all the endless socialising and lack of studying that entails. For Esther this also means pining for her boyfriend Eustace from back home and unwittingly attracting the romantic attentions of the completely harmless and also slightly gormless Ed Gemmell.

The fact that Esther is completely out of his league doesn’t deter Ed from dreaming but he’s going to regret revealing his crush to his streetwise new mate, and budding guitar god – in his own mind at least – Steve Shields. Cue one heated phone call from Eustace, a drinking binge for the ladies at the rock night down the Slag Pit (surely simultaneously the best and worst name ever for a night club?), and a rather unwise decision on Esther’s part about who to share a taxi home with. The next day there’s a very forlorn Ed to console, a reputation to repair, and a guitar to… err… repair as well. Note-perfect British comedy from Mr. Allison, illustrated as exquisitely as ever.

Of Giant Days 3 Jonathan wrote:

“Isn’t that Thom from Indie Society?”
“Yeah, with his pride and joy. Hey THOM, what’s going on?”
“Heh, just giving Vetiver a polish.”
“Vetiver?”
“My 1990 Fiat Panda. Once owned by David Gedge of the Wedding Present.”
“Literally the most indie car EVER.”
“Fully restored. My parents got her for my 18th birthday. Great for getting to gigs. We don’t get the good bands here very often.”
“Well, goodnight, Thom. Remember, hands on top of the duvet.”

Ha ha, the University adventures of Susan Ptolemy and Daisy Wooton continue, and they have a new friend in the shape of acid-tongued Erin as they investigate the merits of the Indie music society, whilst their chum Esther de Groot gets further lured to the dark side by the Black Metal Society. Ed Gemmell, meanwhile, is still following Esther around like a lost puppy dog, bless him, even though Black Metal is really absolutely most definitely not his scene at all.

JR & TR

Buy Giant Days Pack (original 3 issue self-published mini-series) and read the Page 45 Review here

The Private Eye h/c (£37-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Marcos Martin.

Hello! I do believe you’re reading this on the internet, which is where this review’s stored and where this comic first appeared, exclusively so. That was Marcos Martin’s idea, deliciously ironic given that this detective fiction thriller’s set in a future without Wi-Fi or any kind of connectivity whatsoever.

The internet is down. The internet is dead. It no longer exists.

“Once upon a time people stored all their deepest, darkest secrets in something called ‘The Cloud’, remember?
“Well, one day The Cloud burst…
“Nobody knows if was an act of war or an act of God, but for forty days and forty nights, everything just poured right out for the whole damn country to see. Every message you thought was safe, every photo you thought you deleted, every mortifying little search you ever made… it was all there for anyone to use against you.”

Since then there’s been quite the generational shift. Privacy is now paramount and photographing someone without their explicit consent is a felony offense enforced by the Fourth Estate. That’s right, the press police privacy! They’re also the only licensed detectives.

Private investigation is, under these circumstances, highly illegal and our protagonist is a P.I. calling himself Patrick Immelman whom you can see on the cover wearing a defiantly grinning hoodie. It’s actually a Dreamcoat, able to project a digital image of the background – the sort of cloaking device we’re working on right now.

Ah yes, and everyone’s wearing masks – the adults at least. It’s like one long Carnival on the streets. Some disguises are more elaborate than others. For a hefty price you can purchase a pseudo “nym”, a holographic device which can make you look like a anthropomorphic tiger if that’s your thing, and it’s now much easier to put on a happy face: you can you use “flatex” to look like anyone of any colour or complexion you choose. Venditti and Weldele played around a little more with that in SURROGATES.

There are of course consequences if you think about it and Brian K. Vaughan, writer of EX MACHINA and SAGA (whose letter column only accepts physical letters rather than web-winged missives) has thought about it all. It’s now the pre-Flood grandparents who sport ink, tattooed when people wore their hearts on their sleeves – and legs, chests and shoulders – before identification marks became the last thing you wanted. The substantial back-matter reprinting Vaughan and Martin’s email correspondence (after which they would Skype!) shows just how much Marcos contributed to this future too.

His Los Angeles high-rise architecture is as individualistic as San Francisco’s city centre, with graceful curves and rounded corners around which snake enclosed, overpass rail tubes and colour artist Munsta Vicente makes the most of it by both day and night: the pages positively glow. It’s more ecologically friendly too, with hexagonal solar panels and lush vegetation on rooftops.

Although, as you’ll discover later, there has been a price paid for our disastrous mismanagement of the global environment.

There’s still TeeVee, mind you. Those suckers are the size of your wall, which makes videogames highly immersive – you’re just going to have to handle them solo. And if you think Vaughan has already tapped into the current concerns of an age in which – thanks to us living out our lives online in public – almost all our private details and bad habits can be readily acquired by state, press, corporations or private individuals, he’s got another big one waiting in the wings.

Late at night, with the rain cascading over the midnight-blue city, one Taj McGill who is indeed wearing an expensive tiger “holo job” returns to her apartment to find a very rich man with a very big, sharp knife, wondering where she has been. To protect his past, his privacy and plans, he kills her and steals her hologram.

Unfortunately for the murderer he does so before finding out where she’d been. She’d been visiting our P.I. with an unusual request:

“I want to hire you find out everything you can about someone.”
“Oh, yeah? Who?”
“Me.”

SLH

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

Stray Bullets vol 4: Dark Days (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham.

In which we finally, unforgettably, come to the most horrific chapters of all in STRAY BULLETS which, given what’s come before, is really saying something.

I’ve always described STRAY BULLETS as terrible things happening to terrified young people and nowhere is that truer than here. When I originally read these sequences over a decade ago I became increasingly worried about where this was heading but refused to believe that Lapham would actually dare go there. I remember desperately hoping even as it looked less and less likely that somehow the worst would be averted by an intervention or maybe I’d read it all wrong.

I hadn’t.

You too may suspect what is coming when Bobby is shown those photographs, but nothing will prepare for what bubbles and builds and then bursts.

Thankfully you’ll find out only once the ordeal is over, and it’s a testament to Lapham’s good judgement, mercy and restraint that he leaves those reveals to the police going through Ginny’s improvised diary entries afterwards. Few would have thought to do that.

What I had forgotten, however, is how long Lapham leaves you in limbo before then, intercutting the episode with another Amy Racecar fantasy which is entirely apposite to what’s happening to its author. Then we have Beth’s seemingly interminable and hopeless search for Ginny whom she’s supposed to be looking out for just as Ginny was supposed to be looking out young Bobby.

If this all sounds slightly evasive, I’m trying not to give anything away to those who may be new to STRAY BULLETS which I rate right up there with CRIMINAL.

 

To those who’ve at least read my previous reviews of the series, I’d remind you that everything is connected plus we go backwards and forwards in time, and here you will finally find out precisely why Joey was so frightened of car boots way back in the very first chapter of STRAY BULLETS VOL 1.

If you thought WATCHMEN was structurally sophisticated and SANDMAN so well thought through, well, they were. They are. But the seamless dovetailing throughout STRAY BULLETS which continues to this day – of episodes which happen earlier or later or at exactly the same time – is absolutely extraordinary. Dee and I were discussing just this weekend whether we thought Lapham had it all planned out in advance and we simply don’t know. I don’t know if he could have; but then if he didn’t, I don’t know how he does it.

The same level of control within each encounter itself is remarkable. I’m not sure if I could name any creator who plays so successfully with tension.

For a much more extensive overview, please see STRAY BULLETS UBER ALLES edition which collects the first five volumes in one. Volume five as a separate edition is still a few months off.

SLH

Buy Stray Bullets vol 4: Dark Days and read the Page 45 review here

Mimi and the Wolves Act 1: The Dream (£9-99, Alabaster Comix) by Alabaster >>

                            

With a first glance at this book you would be forgiven for thinking that it is going to be a cute, girly tale with its woodland creature characters living amongst a whimsical backdrop, but give this a read and you will soon find there is much more than meets the eye.

Like a Brothers Grimm fairy-tale it begins all rather lovely and innocent, with Mimi making garlands in her tree house. However, there is a much darker side to this story lurking just below the depths. Mimi is having a recurrent dream that she longs to understand, and with the gift of a lucid sleep potion made from Feverfew, Saint John’s Heart and orange rind she gets to understand its secrets, which change her life, for better or for worse.

‘The Dream’ may only be the first instalment: small yet perfectly formed, it will leave you eager for the next. And with its beautifully hand-screen-printed cover how could you say no to this little self-published gem?

MIMI AND THE WOLVES ACT 2: THE DEN now in stock!

JP

Buy Mimi and the Wolves Act 1: The Dream and read the Page 45 review here

Very Casual (£12-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge.

A carefully arranged collection of previously printed work, we are presented with an obscure and grotesque anthology. With larger comics sandwiching many smaller strips the curation of the book envelopes you, submerging you in the surreal and absurd world of Michael Deforge.

Beautifully grotesque, the stories within VERY CASUAL don’t necessarily stick to any real rules of formatting or narrative. They instead feel free and carry with them a real honesty. The stories are not overthought, but are carefully considered, so as to involve the reader so much in such a short story.

Personal favourites of mine: ‘All About the Spotting Deer’, the longest in the collection, and ‘S M’. ‘All About the Spotting Deer’, originally published as ‘Spotting Deer’ by Koyama Press, is a documentary-style comic illustrating the life, habits and mechanics of this bizarre creature. From the biological details of its antlers and its mating habits in the wild; to its humorous identity in popular culture; to its life amongst humans in Canadian cities. However, in turn this story reveals the author of the documentaries: a depressed creator obsessed by this otherworldly creature that no one else seems to care about.

‘S M’ follows the Spotting Deer and has a different feel entirely. A much shorter story of only 12 pages, this is the tale of two rebellious punk girls after a hit. By cutting off a slice of a snowman-like creature and ingesting it the story becomes hallucinogenic, almost euphoric, but it soon escalates into something much darker.

A rollercoaster of humour, honesty and the downright grotesque, VERY CASUAL is a beautifully put together book and one certainly deserving a comfortable space nestled amongst your bookshelf. It is something that you can pick up time and again for a casual read when the moment takes you. However, those of you who are new to Deforge’s work may feel the need for a palate cleanser afterwards; such as a lemon sorbet or a picture of a kitten in a box.

JP

Buy Very Casual and read the Page 45 review here

Turtie Needs Work (£3-25, Koyama Press) by Steve Wolfhard.

In which a tiny turtle tries various jobs with comedic results. It could just be coincidence, but I’ve just starting reading the Mr. Men to Whackers (my daughter) of an evening and had forgotten that the Mr. Small story is all about him trying out different jobs, with hilarious consequences. Quite sure there’s no plagiarism going on, just a very odd bit of synchronicity. Not sure what the universe is trying to tell me, but anyway, whilst this was good, Mr. Small is better. Though obviously not comics, before the pedantry police step in. And squash him.

JR

Buy Turtie Needs Work and read the Page 45 review here

Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 00: Warzones! s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Andrea Sorrentino.

One of the satellite series to Marvel’s 2015 SECRET WARS, consider this a tour guide to its environs, negotiated by someone who won’t take no for an answer.

It’s a sequel of sorts to Mark Millar & Steve McNiven’s original OLD MAN LOGAN which, unlike this, is completely self-contained and highly recommended as the finest Wolverine solo series of all time.

It was set in an arid future where the heroes had lost with most of them dead, the villains had carved up America between them and something so traumatic 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.

To a certain extent the same is true here, not in the Marvel Universe’s future but in its alternate SECRET WARS incarnation composed of various composite domains all ruled over by Vicky von Doom, each playing out alternate versions of key Marvel crossovers from the past or whatever else the writers came up with. It’s kind of difficult to explain, sorry.

“AT LEAST YOU TRIED, STEPHEN!” Thank you.

These domains are all walled off and trespassing from one to another is strictly verboten by the Doctor of Doom himself.

It is into this baffling environment that Logan wakes up after all that has happened to him in the original OLD MAN LOGAN. This is important as I’ll try to explain for both now and later.

For the now: Logan has seen almost all his fellow X-Men die; other friends too. Yet here they are: different but alive if not very well. He travels from domain to domain. Now other versions of his former friends present themselves and if you think you’re getting a headache, imagine that you’re Logan encountering all this for yourself. His mates are equally flummoxed for this appears to be the Logan they knew and yet he has aged.

Just like the original, this is a journey. I liked that: it was in keeping.

It’s also completely incomprehensible if you haven’t read the 2015 SECRET WARS which we hope to have for you shortly as a collected edition.

What I admired regardless was Sorrentino’s lines and Maiolo’s colours.

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 of those come highly commended as singularly eloquent, self-contained superhero graphic novels.

Moreover, some of the sequences are presented with Jim Steranko flourishes, like Logan’s assault on a 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…

I also adored the colours by Marcelo Maiolo which on occasions look like you’re travelling through a zoo’s tropical nocturnal house whilst under the influence of LSD.

For the later: this leads directly into the reconstituted Marvel Universe on the other side of SECRET WARS. Why is this important? As far as his friends are concerned, Logan died in the DEATH OF WOLVERINE. But albeit ancient and battered and having endured the events of the original OLD MAN LOGAN, Wolverine is back. How on Earth will he fit in? Find out in OLD MAN LOGAN #1 due in January 2016.

This has been a public service announcement on behalf of the befuddled.

SLH

Buy Wolverine: Old Man Logan vol 00: Warzones! 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.

Kid Eternity: The Deluxe Edition h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Duncan Fregredo

Grindhouse Doors Open At Midnight vol 4: Lady Danger & Nebulina (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Alex De Campi & Mulele Jarvis, John Lucas

Jack The Ripper (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Francois Debois & Jean-charles Poupard

Harley Quinn vol 2: Power Outage s/c (£12-99, DC) by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti & Chad Hardin, John Timms

Harley Quinn vol 3: Kiss Kiss Bang Stab h/c (£18-99, DC) by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti & Chad Hardin, John Timms

Hawkeye vol 2 h/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & David Aja, Francesco Francavilla, Chris Eliopoulos, Javier Pulido, Annie Wu

Infinity Gauntlet: Warzones! s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Dustin Weaver

Runaways: Battleworld s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by various

Black Butler vol 21 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Yana Toboso

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor vol 3: Conversion (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Al Ewing, Rob Williams & Simon Fraser, Boo Cock, Warren Pleece

Hugs & Kisses Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

It’s Your Birthday You Brilliant Beast! Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Just For You Because You’re Brilliant Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

Thanks For Everything. Seriously. Card (£2-50, Paper Pipit) by Jodie Paterson

News!

ITEM! Haha! It’s retail at Christmas and I’ve spent all week on the shop floor delighting in the provision of show-and-tell recommendations tailored to your loved one’s desires.

Best part of the job! I truly adore it. Please, please do ask at the counter!

Plus I think I broke our Sunday trading record by a very wide margin this, umm, Sunday.

On the other hand I haven’t had a day off to read or to write so these reviews are fewer than you’re accustomed to, plus all the news links I’d normally pop in here are merely up there as tabs on my Firefox browser. Next week, my lovelies! Next week!

– Stephen

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