Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2016 week one

Featuring Kazu Kibuishi, Meredith Gran, Kevin Huizenga, Michael DeForge, Grant Morrison & Philip Bond, Ben Haggarty & Adam Brockbank, Sheila Alvarado, Stephane Levallois, Ming Doyle, James Tynion IV & Riley Rossmo, Rick Remender & Stuart Immonen. News underneath!

Big Kids h/c (£12-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Michael DeForge…

“I got drunk in the afternoon, fell asleep.
“I felt the change when I woke up.
“The first thing I noticed was the television set.
“It looked different, but the same. It was identical, but not at all like it was before.
“It still had the same buttons.
“I recognised the channel, the show playing.
“I recognised the actors – again different, but the same.
“Even the way the light shone against objects in the room had changed.”

Yes, because he’s turned into a tree…

Now, the thing is, this is all perfectly normal for a Michael DeForge yarn. We never find out the main character’s name, a young teenage boy grappling with his sexual identity and being abused on a daily basis, physically and emotionally, by his so-called friends, but handily his family’s lodger April is helpfully able to explain it all to him. And us…

“You’re a tree, now. It happens to most people when they reach a certain age. You’re aren’t hallucinating. You’re seeing the world through tree eyes.”
“So what I was seeing before wasn’t real?”
“It’s not that you weren’t able to see before, or that your sight was faulty. You’re just about to see more now.”
“How come no one told me this was coming?”
“Some people don’t tree until later in life. Some turn into twigs and stay twigs until they die. We don’t like bringing up tree-ness in front of twigs. Twigs don’t know they’re twigs. They don’t know they’re missing out.”

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I have occasionally pondered the idea that Michael (LOSE #7 / DRESSING / FIRST YEAR HEALTHY) DeForge is a reincarnate Rinzai Zen master who just likes messing with our heads, attempting to induce kenshō in those curious enough to pick up his books through the supranatural, mind-shattering power of his comic kōan. I also like to think he is the William Blake of 21st century comics, forever destined to be viewed as an idiosyncratic lunatic by those unable to perceive the philosophical nature of his works. He is, I believe, a genius. Open this book, open your mind. Turn a page, tune in, let your ego drop out. Maybe don’t transmute into a plant-based life form, though…

JR

Buy Big Kids h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ganges vol 5 (£5-99, Fantagraphics) by Kevin Huizenga…

“Mom, how old is the Earth?”
“It’s like, 4.5 billion years.”
“Yeah right, ha ha… that’s what they’ll try and teach him in public school.”

What you can’t see from the above exchange between Kevin, his wife Wendy’s cousin Angela and her son having dinner together after the funeral of Wendy’s Great Aunt Shelly is the huge kick under the table Kevin receives from Wendy, when he answers the young kid’s question without thinking! I should probably add that Shelly’s family are Baptists living in Florida and smack bang in the heartlands of America’s Bible Belt. Creationism is rife down there and offense can be taken very easily.

Meanwhile, not thinking, and indeed, not doing, are two things Wendy accuses Kevin of rather a lot. Quite rightly so, by his own admission, but it’s to the extent that not only can he now usually see an admonishment of yet another transgression coming, but he’s developed a whole range of deflective techniques to avoid said lectures on the twin topics of his thoughtlessness and procrastination. This time, though, Wendy’s needed to put the boot in sharpish before he can sink his own foot any deeper into troubled temporal waters. It’s not even the first time she’s had to do it today, either, having already dispensed another covert leg sweep during the eulogy itself as Kevin zoned out to a happier place of pondering the big question you might find yourself asking at any funeral… of what they were having for lunch…

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As ever, Kevin does a marvellous turn in self-deprecating humour and once again the amusing auto-biographical material provides a neat lead-in to this issue’s topic on which he’d like to enlighten us, the evolution of our planet, and the timescales thereof. Or as he much more prosaically describes it… “Time Travelling: Deep Time.”

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I love how Kevin really let’s his talents for composition run wild in these sections. He always starts us off gently with a few simple devices, gradually increasing in educative and artistic complexity, as he explains how Scottish “Gentleman Scientist” James Hutton, who we could arguably call the first geologist, decided in the 1700s (pre-Charles Darwin mind) that the Earth simply had to be considerably older than the perceived scientific wisdom of the time of a mere five to six thousand years.

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Kevin then walks us through Hutton’s theories and thought experiments to show us how he hypothesised the formation of the planet, plus also illustrating the geological processes actually involved, culminating in a truly impressive double page spread. His ability to get what he’s visualising out of his head and onto the page is exceptional.

[Editor’s note: each issue of GANGES can be read independently of the others.]

JR

Buy Ganges vol 5 and read the Page 45 review here

Amulet vol 7: Firelight (£9-99, Scholastic) by Kazu Kibuishi.

“I have never travelled there to help someone remember.
“These memories are the kind you want to forget.”

These memories are also the kind which others want buried, forgotten.

They have been wiped from the minds of individuals and hidden deep underwater in The Cortex, a space ship the size of a city. It’s there that Emily must travel next, in the company of one other Stonekeeper and an old enemy whom she has little reason to trust, except that he warned Emily so long ago about her Stone and its Voice and she singularly failed to listen.

But trust has to be earned, and it has to be reciprocated in order to mean anything worthwhile. I’m afraid in one instance here, it may prove everyone’s undoing…

I don’t think we’ve been underwater in AMULET before, have we? What creatures do you imagine lurk in its vast, inky depths? What does a Tenta-Drive look like? The Cortex itself, shimmering in the dark, will take your breath away!

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AMULET is our best-selling all-ages fantasy renowned for its majestic landscapes; its Hayao Miyazaki flourishes like the library in the lake surrounded by pale, mist-shrouded mountains last volume, its ancient structure built on the back of a gigantic stone sculpture of the Elf nation’s very first leader, holding it aloft like Atlas.

Here there’s a vast mountain range whose massive, craggy, snow-ridged peaks rise high above the clouds, and I love the dry-brush effect of the yellow-green grass on their sweeping plains and the perilous path which Navin and company must negotiate in their next step to be reunited with his sister Emily and the rest of the resistance.

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AMULET began with family and here it comes back to the fore.

There’s the flying restaurant where Suzy makes a point of treating her staff like family and ensures the patrons feel like they are dining at home. There’s the Elf King, his son Trellis and Trellis’ Uncle Virgil: Uncle Virgil taught knowledge, history and the importance of asking questions; Trellis’ father dismissed all those in favour of training in tactics and military exercises as well as blind obedience.

Specifically AMULET began with the death of Emily and Navin’s Dad in a car accident back on Earth, after which their Mum took them to live at their great grandfather’s empty and abandoned house in the countryside. Swept through a portal into the world of Alledia, they’ve made many allies but also enemies and become embroiled in a war between humans and elves, the real reason behind which will finally be revealed. Along the way Emily found herself in possession of a Stone which granted her telekinetic powers. Or did she become possessed by it? We’ve since met other Stonekeepers, some kindly, some less in control than others. Crucially none of them were ever trained to become Stonekeepers but selected instead.

Then the Stone started speaking to Emily, and less and less has she liked what it said.

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“Vigo… do you think all Stonekeepers are cursed? Maybe that’s why we were chosen.
“Not because we were the most powerful… but because we were the most vulnerable.”

As AMULET VOL 7 opens Emily awakens from a heart-wrenching dream of her Dad to find that her Stone seems particularly interested in their new destination: a supply station which was attacked but not ransacked and is now flooded with echoes, with memories. Which is where, I believe, we came in.

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“Be careful who you trust, Chief.
“Not everyone you believe is an ally has your best interests at heart.”

Trust, trust, it’s all about trust and while the above is most certainly true – leading readers to watch old allies and newcomers anxiously! – what’s very refreshing about this series is how many supposed enemies have proved themselves capable of reconsideration, gratitude and honour. Throughout AMULET Kibuishi has made it equally clear that you cannot judge individuals by their race or nation, and the majority by the actions of the minority at the top. Humans versus Dark Elves: it may seem clear-cut on the surface but everything is a matter of perspective, and humans, as we know, are capable of many atrocities and much injustice. So many here have become moulded by their past.

Much of which Kibuishi has carefully laid down long ago is finally coming together – so much more than expected. It’s not over yet but, given the scale of the revelations and reactions – the most shocking in the series so far – we’re certainly getting close!

SLH

Buy Amulet vol 7: Firelight and read the Page 45 review here

Mezolith vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Ben Haggarty & Adam Brockbank.

Set in the unspoiled wilds on the eastern shores of Stone Age Britain 10,000 years ago, this is a book of beauty that will make your eyes glow and heart sing as a boy called Poika takes his first tentative steps towards becoming a man.

It’s an unforgiving life where wounds are deep, infection rife, the winters harsh and tribal territories fiercely enforced; but it’s also one rich in folklore, and although the lad’s courage far outstrips the experience his elders will need to teach him – about hunting, survival and the balance of things – his affinity for nature, tenacity and curiosity will undoubtedly prove the making of him.

It’s the oral tradition of passing down stories from one generation to the next which lies at the heart of the book. Since knowledge came so often at a terrible cost and survival depended upon it, preserving as much as possible in the form of fables was essential.

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All the legends involve suffering and mortality to some degree or another. Personal histories are embroidered upon, giving them a fantastical, mythical status, but don’t be deceived: whatever her true origins, Korppi Velho – the medicine woman clothed in raven’s wings who is of the Kansa tribe but lives apart like a hermit – is as capable as her revered reputation, perhaps preternaturally so.

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It’s an all-ages book, and since Brockbank’s film credits range from Harry Potter to Maleficent you’ll be unsurprised to learn that the luminous artwork here is a joy, whether it’s of the five ebony-eyed sisters with their snow-white swan feathers draped over their silk-smooth, cream-coloured bodies, the expertly choreographed hunt for fresh meat which goes awry or simply the woodland climbs in the heat of the day.

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The light plays on the rocks and grass wherever it can penetrate the pines, the shadows are clean and crisp, the wildlife is a wonder, and the boy grows visibly physically, during the course of the book.

SLH

Buy Mezolith vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Kill Your Boyfriend / Vimanarama The Deluxe Edition h/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Philip Bond.

Another repacking, and not bad value for money, either.

KILL YOUR BOYFRIEND first:

BLAM!
BLAM!
BLAM!
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
“Got a bit carried away there.”
BLAM!
“Shit. No more vodka.”

“I didn’t really think he’d do it. He’d killed him with no remorse, no pity, no regard for the sanctity of life. He’d gunned down my whole future.
“I think I’m in love.”

Fourth printing of Morrison’s ode to anarchy originally published in 1995, as a charming man sweeps up a bored British schoolgirl from the suburban straightjacket of settling for second-best: Mums who search their teenage children’s drawers, three-wheeled cars for the disabled (“Even the fucking car’s an invalid. They ought to give people a bit of dignity.”), boyfriends who leave you with little more than a peck on a cheek, and suffocating in a vacuum of nothing better to do than watch Top Of The fucking Pops when one minute with an Uzi in Mr. Mandible’s Geography class would solve most of your psychological problems for the next three years.

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Way ahead of its time and without an inhibition in the world, this “Get it out of your system” made TANK GIRL look like JACKIE or BUNTY. I could have pulled a quote from every single page. That this is its fourth production speaks volumes about its popularity, an appeal shared by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo’s equally antagonistic and refreshingly outspoken GIRL which, criminally, has not been reprinted once.

Bond with D’Israeli on inks is a magnificent combo, a pair who should be reunited this very instant – and until I say otherwise – to give us more British eyes, hair and teeth which we can all fall in love with. They keep the urban urbane then slowly but surely introduce a Chelsea-Girl glamour after the eyes start lighting up with new life.

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Time to trash a tea room in search of consumables and pull out a gun for a bun:

“Look, we’re starving and we want some of your cakes.
“If you don’t give us free cakes, we’ll kill you.”

Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

SLH

VIMANARAMA

A title more misspelled than any other – oh, come on, you type VINAMARAMA too! Here’s our Tom who, since leaving us, has become a chef. Tom was very fond of cake too.

Sofia: “That tiny little sort of popping noise you just heard was the sound of me going completely insane.”
Ali: “Mine was sort of a ‘ping’.”

Poor Ali is at a crux in his young life. His father has arranged for him to be married to an accountant’s daughter from Southampton. If she’s ugly (or stupid or boring), Ali will take it as existential proof that God does indeed hate him, and hang himself. But before he can get too Emo, the floor at his father’s shop caves in, burying his brother Omar under a mountain of Turkish Delight and creating an opening to an ancient city which has lain dormant under what we now know as Bradford for six thousand years.

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Ali’s baby nephew, Imran, decides to learn to walk and goes off exploring the buried city, accidentally releasing an army of 8-foot-tall demons bent on unleashing hell on earth. Now the only one who can stop them is… No, not Ali, but Prince Ben Rama and the Ultra-Hadeen. Unfortunately for Ali, Ben Rama gains his power from love – and he loves Ali’s betrothed, Sofia, who’s actually everything he could want in a girl. Now the world’s going to end, the girl of Ali’s dreams has been pulled by an 8-foot Demi-God, and everyone’s going to die before he’s even had a chance to really live.

I’ve never seen Bond’s art look better than it does here. Nobody draws slightly despondent young adults quite like him. And, yeah, this isn’t WE3 but if you ignore all the weird fantasy and boil this story down, it’s all about family. And how at 18 years of age they may seem like nothing but a hindrance, when in fact they really are your only hope.

TR

Buy Kill Your Boyfriend / Vimanarama The Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Octopus Pie vol 1 (£10-99, Image) by Meredith Gran.

“Based on experience? The things you get excited about fastest are the things that get boring the fastest. Anything that ever meant a damn took a while.”

I wouldn’t call that a universal truth, but when I thought about the two times I have genuinely fallen in love (as opposed to mere infatuation; who can even tell at the time?) I found this to be right on the mark. I’m kind of hoping that, given whom the conversation’s between, there’s a degree of dramatic irony there which Gran has planned from the beginning and things will develop against the current odds.

It was also my experience with OCTOPUS PIE which took me a little while to warm to before falling in love, but then this is a 250-page collection of its first two years and everyone and everything needs time to develop. I’m a big believer in “publish and be damned” when it comes to creativity: get yourself going, get yourself out there; don’t wait until you consider yourself fully formed before letting rip because you risk never pleasing yourself enough to go public. One of the joys of STRANGERS IN PARADISE is seeing the skills of its beloved creator Terry Moore develop on the page in front of you.

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OCTOPUS PIE was originally published on the internet in daily single-page bursts which quickly coalesced into longer storylines focussing on health food shops, bike theft, romances, childhood rivalry, nerds-versus-stoners rivalry, selling fares at Renaissance Fayres and urban development in Brooklyn. Right from the start it is topical for its time, raising serious issues like security versus freedom albeit in ludicrous ways. This is, after all, a comedy.

“Perhaps someday I’ll wear a costume that inhibits my shame.”
“How ‘bout a Wall Street business suit?”
“Blam! Topical.”

It stars Eve Ning who works as a clerk at Olly’s Organix (“empty calories for empty people”) and a flatmate foisted upon her called Hanna who bakes cakes for a living while stoned. She can’t seem to do it straight. Eve has no problem which all the doobage wafting sweetly through the air, yet balks when she discovers that young Will – whom she’s on the verge of dating after such a long non-courtship – is Hanna’s dealer. There’s nothing shady about the lad; he’s into rock-climbing.

A fellow enthusiast: “I’ve been doing this for years! Makes you feel closet to Heaven!”
Ning, looking below her: “Agreed.”

Perhaps my favourite sequence involved the ludicrously detailed, military-level pre-planning strategy session for a laser-tag contest to settle the nerds-versus-stoners dispute, then its life-or-death execution. I once scored minus 180 at Laser Quest.

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But some of the comedy is much gentler, more universal and oh so wittily expressed:

“Let me guess: lured here against your better judgement for a weekend’s pay?”
“Man, is the story of my life that obvious?”
“Not obvious, just widely read.”

On the surface Gran comes from the Matt Groenig school of cartooning, with big balls for eyes which are squished to denote various levels of knowingness, suspicion and cunning. There’s a certain degree of melodrama, yes, but that’s part of the energy and the silliness. The fashions, meanwhile, remind one of SECONDS / SCOTT PILGRIM / LOST AT SEA‘s Bryan Lee O’Malley (Will in particular) who is the most enormous fan, describing it as “unafraid to be ridiculous, wildly experimental, deeply personal. It’s sort of like a SCOTT PILGRIM that *I* can enjoy because it isn’t by me.”

Look a little closer and many of the characters are rendered in their own, distinct signature style: Hannah’s all lank and spiky with a beak-like mouth! Same goes for the woman Will meets at the fayre – could not be more differently delineated.

Then, just when you think you know all there is to know about Gran’s repertoire, she hits you with an ice-skating scene of pure balletic grace, the contours of Eve’s shoulders, waist and skirt’s hem flowing just-so. Typically, Eve dances the entire manoeuvre, from start to finish, as grumpy as ever.

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Lastly for now (there’s plenty more to come) I’d never even considered the sexist hypocrisy of women being scorned for going topless in public when men go bare-chested all the time. Of course the restriction would be unconstitutional, and I was delighted to learn that “Eventually, in 1992, the court ruled that prohibiting exposure of breasts served no governmental purpose – nor did our “public sensibilities” justify a discriminatory law.”

OCTOPUS PIE: learn as you laugh.

SLH

Buy Octopus Pie vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

 

City Of Clowns (£16-99, Riverhead Books) by Sheila Alvarado…

“The way my mother sometimes spoke of Pasco, one might imagine an Andean paradise instead of the poor and violent mining town it really was. Lima frightened her. She felt safe in exactly two places: our house and the Azcarates house.”

Lima frightened me a little too actually. Aside from the Plaza Mayor main square and a not particularly pretty Cathedral it’s an unremittingly dreary, rubbish-infested shit hole of a city. Apologies to any residents of Lima reading this review, but I suspect you’ll be in completely concurrence if so. I had been warned it was a muggers’ paradise and the few times I ventured out of my hotel before getting out of town and heading up into the Andes I did feel a continuous sense of unease that I was being watched as a predator might size up his prey.

Plus the peculiar micro-climate due to the Humboldt Current means Lima is by far the cloudiest, mistiest, foggiest city in South America, which only adds to the depressing feel. The second you get a reasonable distance up the highway to the north of the country into the desert plains the blazing sun comes out and it did feels like a different altogether more welcoming world entirely. Until you get to Cuzco, that is, and have to have eyes in the back of your head once more for the infamous strangle muggers apparently lying in wait down every side street for unsuspecting gringo tourists! Yes, I much preferred Bolivia to Peru, I must say.

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Anyway… the prospect of reading a story set in such a dispiriting locale was perversely part of the appeal in having a look at this work centred around the neophyte journalist Oscar. Having discovered that his recently deceased father, a philandering petty criminal, had another family has left Oscar deeply questioning his own identity. In trying to understand how much of his personality has been shaped by his father and his wayward lifestyle, Oscar finds himself becoming increasingly estranged from his mother, perhaps not least because she seems be developing an almost sisterly bond with the other woman. Oscar’s own feelings that his father perhaps regarded the other woman and their children together as his real family is starting to push him into an emotionally unstable state.

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His editor, meanwhile, is pushing him no less hard for a news story. Short of ideas, and time, he decides to explore the world of Lima’s street clowns, whose bleak, begging lifestyle was apparently the inspiration behind Smokey Robinson’s 1967 Motown classic “Tears Of A Clown”… That, obviously, is a complete and utter fabrication, worthy of the sort of nonsense Oscar’s father would spin to him to justify his house-breaking sprees, illicit activities which Oscar was eventually forced to be complicit with and indeed participate in. But, it is perhaps more than a little ironic that the destitute denizens of one of the most soul-breaking cities in the world feel the need to dress up as circus performers to try and blag enough money from commuters just to make it through another day. Well, that and play pan pipes made of empty plastic bottles lashed together to unsuspecting, and conveniently trapped in situ, bus travellers which, trust me, after the eighteenth time you’ve heard El Condor Pasa so mangled is enough to make you want to dispense some summary plastic recycling advice…

Anyway, feeling like a man adrift from what was the bedrock of his life, Oscar concludes the best way to understand the tears of a clown is to become one, if only for a week. (No pan pipes thankfully…) To his surprise, the anonymity of the greasepaint, wig and costume provide just the remove, and perspective, both figuratively and literally, on his family and own emotional state, to finally begin to come to terms with it all.

This is wonderfully written material, if rather on the dark side obviously. The art style matches the tone of the piece perfectly, though I found myself appreciating it rather than enjoying it. There is so much black ink and so many heavy lines I found it a little oppressive, but I suspect that is entirely the point, and as I say, entirely appropriate. I had a little look at the artist’s other works online, and I couldn’t find anything else like this, it is all incredibly vibrant and colourful, so I can only conclude this is a very deliberate use of style. She’s clearly extremely talented to be able to so radically adjust her techniques to the story.

JR

Buy City Of Clowns and read the Page 45 review here

The Ark h/c (£18-99, Humanoids) by Stephane Levallois…

This hauntingly illustrated silent work left me slightly bewildered. I enjoyed it, I think, absorbing it rather than reading it. I think that might be the best way of expressing it. It’s clearly allegorical but I must profess myself unable to decipher the hidden meaning or meanings.

A lone being in a diving suit straight out of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea is relentlessly dragging a huge wooden ark through a near-featureless desert. Nothing dents their relentless progress towards… well, what?

In the meantime, to keep us entertained, there is a dramatic plane crash, a zeppelin patrolling the dazzling skies, mysterious lighthouses arising from receding sands containing caged Siren-like seductresses clad in burkas, plus battling bands of Bedouins and beautifully livered soldiers. Oh, and a boy holding a scorpion in each hand! The ark, though, forges on regardless…

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It may even be there are several allegories being made here. My best guesses are: man versus nature, the futility of war, the greed of man ensuring self-destruction etc. All the usual tropes perhaps, and yet this work does have an enigmatic and endearing quality which kept me enraptured right until the end. Partly because I wanted some answers. Who is the figure in the diving suit, what was on the Ark, where was it going? But maybe THE ARK is all about the journey, not the destination, as they say…

… and the art, which is as beautiful as you would expect from a Humanoids publication.

JR

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

Constantine: The Hellblazer vol 1: Going Down s/c (£10-99, DC) by Ming Doyle, James Tynion IV & Riley Rossmo, various…

“That’s me. Nothing but the truth from the lips of your old pal John.”

Surely there isn’t anyone left in the entirety of the DC Universe(s – however many there are now…) who’d fall for that one?!! John Constantine is apparently still in the DCU as this is on the DC imprint rather than Vertigo, but I am extremely happy to report this has far more in common with the original Vertigo HELLBLAZER than the recent semi-execrable New 52 CONSTANTINE. It’s back to what John does best: verbally jousting with demons and staying one step ahead of the hordes of hell rather than all that posturing and faffing about with the tights and capes brigade.

John is thus once more the debonair, debauched, trench-coated purveyor of prestidigitation who’ll proffer one hand in friendship whilst simultaneously stabbing you in the back with the other. All the whilst charismatically reassuring you that nothing is amiss until the sickening moment you realise he’s completely shafted you, often either at the expense of your life, or soul, or indeed even both!

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Here he’s involved in a scheme to try and save the ghosts of his past that frequently haunt his waking moments, always reminding him of his myriad moral trespasses against them, as something has begun murdering the dead themselves. Along the way he’ll re-encounter an old adversary and various other characters that will be familiar to long-term Constantine devotees.

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I like what writers Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV are doing with John, I must say. They’ve certainly captured his scathingly sarcastic wit and louche personality perfectly, plus whereas it was certainly alluded to a couple of times in HELLBLAZER that he might have had an eye for the chaps as well the ladies, here we’re left in no doubt as he pursues a rather hunky barista who seems as equally enamoured with him for whatever reason. Yep, expect one coffee-dispensing casualty before you can say “I’ll have a half-whole milk, one quarter semi-skimmed, one quarter non-fat, split quad shots – one and a half shots decaf, two and a half shots caffeinated – no foam latte, with a touch of vanilla syrup and three short sprinkles of cinnamon.”

I do so absolutely hate it when Stephen asks me to make that for him… Every bloody morning, what a diva! Nothing but the truth from the lips of your old reviewer Jonathan…

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My one small caveat is I do feel this is ever so slightly HELLBLAZER-lite, with not quite the same seriousness of the original, though Riley Rossmo’s art might possibly be a factor in my thinking there. It is excellent art, mind you, I am certainly not knocking the talents of Mr. Rossmo and the supporting pencillers, it’s perfectly suitable for this character and title, but the style just doesn’t quite have the gravitas of say, a Sean Phillips, that I feel should go hand in hand with Constantine. With that said, there were arcs towards the end of HELLBLAZER itself that I felt suffered from the same problem but far, far worse, where the cartoonish style of the art totally diluted the intensity of the writing for me, eroding my suspension of disbelief. Which is never a good thing where magic tricks are involved, let’s be frank.

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JR

Buy Constantine: The Hellblazer vol 1: Going Down s/c and read the Page 45 review here

All New Captain America vol 1: Hydra Ascendant s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & Stuart Immonen.

“That’s the problem with having people you care for, isn’t it? Love is such a liability.”

As frazzling, dazzling and fast-paced as this is, it’s essentially a book about family, just like Remender’s subaquatic sci-fi, LOW. If the theme of LOW is maintaining hope in the wake of overwhelming adversity, the lesson here is about not only looking out for your own family’s future but for others’ as well, even down to the specific threat faced which I will not be spoiling for you.

We’ll get to all that in a second, but in the meantime: Stuart Immonen.

Immonen is one of those rare comic artists like Mark Buckingham and Bryan Talbot who is a true chameleon, able to adapt his style to suit his subject, and quite radically so. Rarer still, he operates both within and without the superhero subgenre.

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In RUSSIAN OLIVE TO RED KING written by his wife Kathryn, Stuart used colour not only to convey light and temperature but also sound. When attending Kurt Busiek’s SECRET IDENTITY scenario of what might happen in the real world if a Superman was discovered by the C.I.A., he produced exquisite, photo-realistic landscapes and forms which even when floating conveyed a physical weight.

Illustrating Warren Ellis’ bombastic, mischievous, pugilistic pageantry of the absurd in NEXTWAVE Immonen reduced the sort of neo-classical, visceral thrill you’ll relish here to comedic cartoons. And on Bendis’ original run on ALL NEW X-MEN Stuart proved he could separate the lither forms of teenagers from their older antagonists.

Here the all-but-opening double-page spread is an immaculate composition of speed, perspective, foreshortening, shadow and light. Its G-Force is utterly thrilling.

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With Steve Rogers now semi-retired, aged closer to what he would be without the aid of his anti-agapic Supersoldier Serum, the mantle of Captain America has not been passed to Steve’s adopted son Ian but to his long-standing friend and former partner in crime-fighting, Sam Wilson AKA the Falcon.

“Really makes you wonder why I wasn’t the one he picked.”
“Cronyism beats nepotism, I guess.”

At an early age Sam lost his father, a minister revered throughout Harlem, when the preacher was gunned down while trying to calm down a fight. Soon after his mother too died, leaving Sam to raise his sister alone. His younger sister’s since had two beautiful children, whereas Sam’s been too busy helping others – both as a social worker and a superhero – to start a family of his own. Now that opportunity make be taken away from him for good, not by standing in for Steve Rogers but by what happens here.

Neo-Nazi Baron Zemo, son of the original, has acquired a young man whose blood has very specific properties and which will be dispersed throughout the globe in multiple locations using diverse methods of deployment. Many of them are highly inventive. To make our new Captain’s desperate attempt to stop this disaster from detonating all over the planet, Zemo has surrounded himself with some of Steve Rogers’ most formidable foes, now made even more effective by Remender’s ability to instil them with real wit and intelligence. The repartee from the first familiar super-villain who has always been the one-dimensional, stereotypical brunt of a certain degree of xenophobia here gives as good as he gets in America’s direction, and it’s not off the mark.

All New Captain America 2

There is no let up. Everything happens so fast that Sam’s interior monologue is but a series of snap-shot impressions: he’s given no opportunity for analysis or consideration – no evaluation of what he’s been presented with by enemy and ally alike. So don’t take everyone at face value like Sam.

Finally, a sermon of sorts from Sam’s mother before she passed away, after her husband was gone, and Sam is left wondering what would have happened if only his Dad had kept his mouth shut and not intervened:

“Sam, if we only looked out for our own families, if every person only worried about and cared for themselves… what kind of a word would this be?

“If we stop trying to help other people, we give up everything. And sometimes this has a price.”

I completely agree.

Wait, did she mean the price came with stop trying, or trying?

Sometimes I’m afraid that it’s both.

SLH

Buy All New Captain America vol 1: Hydra Ascendant s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Amazing Spider-Man: Complete Spider-Verse s/c (£37-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, others & various.

From the last incarnation of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, the central storyline is very pretty, but then you’d expect nothing less of Olivier Coipel who did such a masterful work of rendering Norse eyebrows in THOR and so much more, so maybe pop the artist into our search engine and see for yourself!

In it a feuding family called Inheritors have set their gluttonous eyes on every incarnation of Spider-Man in Marvel’s Earth past, present and future along with its alternate Earths past, present and future. They actually want to eat them and eww.

But, boy, there are a lot of Spider-People! If you wanted to unlock all these costumes whilst playing a videogame then you would be here for approximately 7 billion hours of button-bashing with calloused thumbs like nobody’s business. There’s Spider-Man, Spider-Ham, Spider-Woman, Spider-Girl, Spider-Gwen, Spider-*** and even a punk iteration that… oh I’ve just bored myself.

The problem is that what starts off as a customarily witty Dan Slot script with both a sly sleight of hand then an ever so naughty side-bar castigating you for fixating on Peter’s bottom (which the artist has ensured that you will – it is naked and only just beneath the sheets!) turns into an interminable series of side-bar boxes explaining who everyone is and whence they web-weave.

Amazing SpiderMan Complete SpiderVerse sc

This may be for you the thrill of a lifetime. “Clip ’em and collect ’em all,” as Marvel once exhorted of the postage stamps printed within their very own comics. And readers did! They did clip ’em and collect ’em, thereby reducing the second-hand sales value of their 1970s’ Marvel Comics from $220,372 a pop to three dimes and a cent.

I have no idea about American currency at all.

If it sounds like your bag then you can perhaps consider the slimmer SPIDER-VERSE UK edition the Christian Dior of comics and cheap at just £14-99! This version will set you back oh so much more for a considerably higher, more comprehensive page count encompassing AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2014) #7-15, SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #32-33, SPIDER-VERSE (2015) #1-2, SPIDER-VERSE TEAM-UP #1-3, SCARLET SPIDERS #1-3, SPIDER-WOMAN (2014) #1-4, SPIDER-MAN 2099 (2014) #5-8 and material from FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2014.

I guess that makes it more of a Gucci suitcase for Spider-spotters.

I don’t know, my Fashion-Sense tingles at the mere sight of me in the mirror.

SLH

Buy Amazing Spider-Man: Complete Spider-Verse 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.

Hubert (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Ben Gijsemans

In Search of Lost Time: Swann’s Way – A Graphic Novel (£19-99, Gallic) by Marcel Proust, Arthur Goldhammer & Stephane Heuet

Katzine: The Eagle Issue (£5-50) by Katriona Chapman

The Talion Maker Part 2 (£3-50, self-published) by Neal Curtis

Things I Think About Sometimes (£3-00, self-published) by Stanley Miller

Miracleman Book 4: The Golden Age vol 1 h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Neil Gaiman & Mark Buckingham

Sky Doll: Decade 00 > 10 h/c (£25-99, Titan) by Alessandro Barbucci & Barbara Canepa

Thief Of Thieves: Take Me (£10-99, Image) by Andy Diggle & Shawn Martinbrough

Black Canary vol 1: Kicking And Screaming s/c (£10-99, DC) by Brendan Fletcher & Amy Chu, Pia Guerra

DC Comics: Bombshells vol 1: Enlisted s/c (£12-99, DC) by Marguerite Bennett & Marguerite Sauvage, various

Harley Quinn And Power Girl s/c (£10-99, DC) by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray & Stephane Roux, others

Injustice Gods Among Us: Year One Complete Collection s/c (£18-99, DC) by Tom Taylor & various

Superman Unchained s/c (£18-99, DC) by Scott Synder & Jim Lee, Dustin Nguyen, various

Civil War: New Avengers s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Howard Chaykin, Leinil Yu, Oliver Coipel, Pasqual Ferry, Jim Cheung

Assassination Classroom vol 7 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui

The Flowers Of Evil vol 6 (£7-99, Vertical) by Shuzo Oshimi

The Flowers Of Evil vol 7 (£7-99, Vertical) by Shuzo Oshimi

The Flowers Of Evil vol 8 (£7-99, Vertical) by Shuzo Oshimi

Kiss Him, Not Me! vol 2 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Junko

Kiss Him, Not Me! vol 3 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Junko

The Seven Deadly Sins vol 6 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Nakaba Suzuki

News!

Mirror 3

ITEM! Extensive, in-depth interview with Emma Rios & Hwei Lim about their collaborative process on their glorious, oh so lambent MIRROR comic.

Page 45 reviews MIRROR #1 by Emma Rios & Hwei Lim, with interior art, still in stock at the time of typing! Please scroll down!

Mirror 1

ITEM! Lynda Barry’s new interactive art exhibition.

You have no idea how fervently I worship Lynda Barry! Perhaps the most inspirational comicbook creator of all time, her gorgeous graphic novels actively and practically encourage you to create too!What It Is 2

Please pop Lynda into our search engine, beginning with WHAT IT IS which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month way back when it was first published. I think that may be the best review I’ve ever written, which I put down entirely to Lynda’s own exuberant excellence.

What It Is

ITEM! What a beautiful book shop: Libreria! Lots of photos there. I think it’s this one, pictured.

Bookshop design

ITEM! Speaking of brilliant book shops, Nottingham’s Five Leaves – fiercely independent and run by Ross of the much lamented Mushroom Bookshop – is up for this year’s Booksellers Award. Finges crossed for the win!

ITEM! SANDMAN’s Neil Gaiman to release The View From The Cheap Seats non-fiction prose collection.

ITEM! “I want more comics!”

Boundless

Understood! Read this for free: BOUNDLESS by Jillian Tamaki, co-creator with her cousin Mariko of THIS ONE SUMMER.

ITEM! Coming this November: ALEISTER & ADOLF by Douglas Rushkoff & Michael Oeming. That’s Aleister Crowley and Adolf Hitler, yes.

Aleister & Adolf cover

ITEM! If you see this painting by Bill Sienkiewicz (STRAY TOASTERS, SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS, DAREDEVIL: END OF DAYS etc) for sale anywhere – on ebay, other websites, in a shop or at a convention – it is STOLEN. It was ripped from a package heading to a private collector in France. Please report it immediately via Bill Sienkiewicz’s glorious website. Bill is also on Twitter as @sinKEVitch. If you’re the thief, please send it back to Bill, and you’ll make one of comics’ greatest artists very happy indeed.

Bill Sienkiewicz stolen art

Update: @SalAbbinanti, Bill’s art dealer, is offering a $5,000 reward for its return. You can contact him via his website: http://www.samabbinanti.com

That was the news.

– Stephen

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