Includes FOUR all-ages books from historical education to historical action-adventure and historical hysteria!
Also: Corey Lewis, Alan Moore does Lovecraft and brrrrr….
Mordawwa #666 one-shot (£3-00, ScaryGoRound) by John Allison.
She does have a point. Also: an expansive vocabulary and a waspish tongue with which to dispense it.
From the creator of GIANT DAYS, BAD MACHINERY and EXPECTING TO FLY, welcome to something equally mysterious but a little less institution-of-education-orientated. Allison has for once abandoned the small towns of Great Britain and dug deep – infernally deep – to come up with Mordawwa, Queen of Hell, resplendent in red-lined cape, pin-stripe troos, twin, twisted horns and a tie that disappears ‘neath her bodice.
All is not well as we join the story 666 issues in, for Mordawwa is throwing a party and the only thing she’s pleased with is the sound of her own voice.
Her greatest friend, ally and guest of honour – the black-winged shadow that’s The Sheriff – is running late and a metatronic call comes in from envious info-entity Ba’Al about a blockage in the River Styx. It’s causing Lucifer to run dry of souls, both pre-tormented and to-be-tormented, and to-be-continued is what he’s counting on.
“Lucifer considers restoration of flow to be mission critical.”
“By mission critical, does he mean “important”?”
It’s an odd assortment she consorts with. The most intelligent amongst them is a sentient blue horse called Scientist whose assistance is impeded by the unfortunate shortcoming of being slightly unable to speak. Barbed Amanita is far from impressed at Scientist’s intricate scuffing of hooves:
“What are you doing, pony? Drawing a map of your favourite places to drop piles of ordure? It must be hard to draw a map that encompasses “everywhere”.”
“Oh Scientist. That is a beautiful solution. There is poetry in your use of compound gears.”
“I’ve trod in Scientist’s “poetry”. Not actually all that great.”
Love, love, love Scientist’s frowny brow, furious at Amanita’s ingratitude and belittling torment.
So what’s the problem to which Scientist’s solution is so poetic?
“Well,” as Vvvvvvvvvvvvvvv observes, “this isn’t going to be popular.”
Prepare to enter… The Age of Endless Grief!
The subterranean setting gives John an opportunity to have fun with both body forms and architecture uncommon around towns like Tackleford, but you can even see him relishing the full-on curves of his two suited and booted vamps. There’s an exquisite panel in which Amanita drop-kicks her yellow pet at demonic rock throwers who are really going to regret it. Her long, thin legs – muscles in all the right places – are like a black beetle’s body.
Also amusing: how the shadows thrown totally fail to match those throwing them. Or are there others throwing them, unseen?
I suspect John was the most enormous fan of Marvel’s NEW MUTANTS (Mordawwa’s Illyana; the Sheriff is Lockheed the dragon), and I’m reasonably sure Archduke Horns’ teeth is a Maxx reference. But these are mere fancies, irrelevant to your enjoyment of this underworld absurdity which, like EXPECTING TO FLY, comes with a pastiche of 1980s Marvel Comics’ Checklists, Hype Boxes and Pro Files along with a mail order offer cheap enough to make any bricks-and-mortar comic shop weep.
I might subscribe to Marvel’s SCOTT WALKER, and read it on Mordawwa’s Bone Throne.
Providence vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows…
“Say, weren’t you planning on writing a book, I heard?”
“Huh. Lot of planning, no writing. Don’t even have a subject yet, to be truthful.
“I want something big, something that cuts to the heart of this country and these times.
“That talks about things nobody’s dared talk about before.
“You know? Not just another slice of life in the city of bachelors.”
If you Google providence, the two definitions you are offered are “timely preparation for future eventualities” and “the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power”. However, I suspect no amount of preparation, nor indeed the care of God, is likely to provide much protection for what is to come for some of the characters in Alan’s return to the Lovecraft mythos in conjunction with artist Jaden Burrows after their grisly but gripping NEONOMICON…
It’s initially set in Providence, Rhode Island, which itself has interesting origins, founded in 1636 by a man called Roger Williams, recently exiled from Massachusetts, to provide a refuge for religious minorities. The year is 1919 and the world, emerging from the carnage of WW1, has undoubtedly changed, yet also much has not. There are people still living double lives due to their sexuality, of which of our main character Robert Black is one.
Now, apparently there is an irony here, as I have read that Alan likes the idea of having a gay character in a period Lovecraftian yarn given that H.P. Lovecraft was, apparently, immensely homophobic.
Whatever the reason it immediately helps creates a state of suspense as he sets about establishing Robert’s back story, his reasons for being in Providence, and the ongoing emotional anguish he endures in trying to maintain a covert relationship, all the whilst endeavouring to appear to his co-workers at the Tribune newspaper as just another everyday Joe.
With the journos all desperate to fill half a page in the next edition at short notice with something a trifle titillating, Robert mentions a French book, Sous Le Monde, which apparently sent people mad if they read it. It is the scandal surrounding this which Robert Chambers apparently based THE KING IN YELLOW on.
Being a bookish sort of cove, Robert knows of a professor nearby who wrote an article on Sous Le Monde, and so is dispatched to interview him. Which is where events start to creep into more Lovecraftian, paranormal territory, as the good doctor has an exceptionally powerful air conditioning system in his apartment, a medical requirement due to an, as yet, unspecified illness… I’m pretty sure, however, it won’t be a malaise covered in any great detail at medical school, not even at Miskatonic University…
There’s much to admire in Alan’s writing in this volume. I certainly suspect it’s a project he’s greatly enjoying. I like the subtle little points of connection which he weaves in, almost as asides, including one a character makes to Tannhäuser which proves particularly apposite indeed. One of the biggest nods to THE KING IN YELLOW comes in the form of the Exit Gardens, which in truth are state-sponsored suicide chambers, dressed up in art deco buildings in beautiful, floral surroundings. Where, once you check in, you are gently put to sleep forever whilst listening to the music of your choice. A posh version of Dignitas, basically. But because you don’t need to jump through myriad bureaucratic hoops first, anyone can simply walk in, sit down and rest in peace forevermore.
I’m intrigued to see how Robert picks up the pieces emotionally after an early heartbreak and precisely where his investigations lead him. I found myself engaged completely, connected emotionally with the characters, and left wanting more, my curiosity piqued up to piquant levels! Plus having read several issues ahead of the four in this volume I can assure you the horror factor is going to be ramped up gradually until readers’ states of mental wellbeing are in tatters too.
This limited edition hardcover, of a print run of 6666, will apparently not be reprinted, nor will any soft covers be released until all twelve issues of the series are out and the two further hardcovers released. In any event, both the hardcovers and softcovers will collect all the extensive prose material that follows each individual issue. It’s ostensibly Robert’s journal and it does further and flesh-out the already comprehensive plot substantially. I certainly cannot fault Alan for giving value for money with this series. To my mind, it’s the best thing he has written for several years.
[Editor’s note: for, umm, alternative art which I didn’t feel we could run in the blog, please here click here…]
I Am A Hero Omnibus vol 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kengo Hanazawa…
If I had to sum this up in one sentence it would be… “Mentally ill, second-rate manga creator prone to hallucinations finds himself caught up in the zombie apocalypse.’
If I had to sum it up in two sentences, my second would be… “I loved it.”
Hideo Suzuki is many things, but a hero he is not. Yet, at least. As he neatly observes as his life starts sliding even further out of control than he believed possible… “How can I be a hero when I’m not even the main character in my own life?”
It’s just such a lack of characterisation that various editors and sub-editors and sub-sub-editors in the cut-throat world of manga publishing have accused him of, whilst endlessly turning down his latest pitch. Even his one brief hit floundered spectacularly after the second meandering volume for precisely those reasons. He had his fans, including his girlfriend Tetsuko, who works as a manga assistant. Sadly, being a studio assistant is all the manga work Hideo can get now too.
Poor old Hideo’s tormented to sanity-testing levels by a number of things on a near-continuous basis, but not least these: his lack of success, his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend (an up-and-coming superhot manga creator who ironically is the one person who thinks Hideo’s work is utterly brilliant), whether his girlfriend and said superhot creator might still be having a little something on the side, plus his hallucinations of various odd characters who pop up and start conversations with him at seemingly random moments.
So when the decaying faeces really starts hitting the proverbial fan and his newly zombiefied girlfriend attacks Hideo whilst he’s letting himself into her apartment, he’s actually convinced he’s merely having a serious mental meltdown! Eventually it becomes apparent even to him, if not to the rest of the manga studio holed up frantically trying to make the next ridiculous deadline, that that the end of the world is nigh. Cue a comedy chase across town (comedy value for viewers only) that’s ended by possibly one of the finest zombie decapitations I have ever seen, caused by the undercarriage of a crashing jumbo jet!
Oh, I think Hideo might just have unwittingly become the lead character in something. Just not any sort of story you would ever want to star in…
This is such a peculiarly brilliant mash-up mix taking, as it does, the complete piss out of the whole frenetic manga industry treadmill and all its attendant emotionally maladjusted and downright antisocial members, and scaring the bejeebers, or whatever the equivalent Japanese colloquialism is, out of us all while it is at it. For make no mistake, these zombies are horrific, far more akin to Junji Ito-style distorted, bloated, twisted terrors than shambling WALKING DEAD.
The Nameless City vol 1 (£10-99, First Second) by Faith Erin Hicks with Jordie Bellaire on colour art.
Sprawled out at the base of a vast mountain range, and surrounded on all sides by enemies with eyes set on conquest, The Nameless City straddles the River of Lives at the bottom of an unnatural gorge.
The Northern People who first built the city also carved that improbable passage through those enormous mountains, but no one knows how for their language is lost. However, in joining the river to the sea they ensured that the city through which all commerce now passes controls the flow of wealth.
It is a city of a thousand names for everyone envies its strategic position and it has been conquered and re-conquered, named and re-named except by its native inhabitants to whom it is Nameless. Instead they watch silently, resentfully – and hungrily – as wave after wave of invaders steal their natural resources.
All of this is set out succinctly in the first five pages, Hicks and Bellaire establishing both an epic tone and landscape, emphasising what is at stake. Now they begin to make it personal…
Young Kaidu has travelled from the provinces to meet his father, General Andren, for the very first time. First, however, he must begin training in combat under Erzi, son of the General Of All Blades who conquered the city for the Dao three decades ago. Erzi is determined to ensure that the Dao don’t go soft and sets the fifteen cadets up against his bodyguard Mura, a native from the city below.
They don’t fare at all well but behind Erzi’s back they disparage Mura sneeringly as “skral” (think “pleb”, “scum” or any outsider you like to look down on and dehumanise). That Kaidu won’t stand for such small-mindedness impresses Erzi (Mura, not so much – not much impresses Mura – I think you’ll like her!) but don’t be deceived: Erzi’s in an odd place mentally and his affinity for the native inhabitants who have begun to call themselves The Named only stretches so far.
“When I was your age, if I went into the city, the children I met there would throw rocks at me. I was born here, but to them I was a Dao invader. When my father began bringing Dao children from the homelands to the city, they thought I was strange. They avoided me.
“The city is my home, and the Dao are my people. I belong to both, and because of that it’s hard for either to truly accept me. “Maybe it will always be this way for me. But when I become the General Of All Blades after my father, it will be the first time the city is ruled by someone who was born here.”
Hmm. By “here” he means within the safety of the fortress, not in the city below. I think he’s missing the point somewhat, especially with Mura standing right behind him!
The cadets are forbidden from exploring the city on their own but Kaidu’s Dad is far from the regimented soldier Erzi aspires to be and the first thing he does is take his son on a field trip to sample the street life and delicious cooked meats outside the walled confines above. They bond easily, swiftly, Kaidu’s father emanating a kindly warmth which fails only on a girl Andren calls out to on a rooftop, offering her some of their food.
“I see her at the market sometimes. She always looks hungry.”
Seen with fresh eyes, everyone around them looks hungry.
Kaidu’s Dad offers to take him back to the city the next night but in the end trade negotiations keep him away. It is then that Mura steps in, perhaps seeing some hope in the boy after all:
“You should go on your own. You don’t need your father to hold your hand.”
“I thought we weren’t supposed to go into the city alone.”
“Everyone should go alone into the city once in their life. To see how it truly is.”
What I hope I’m establishing is that no one here is a two-dimensional cipher with singular loyalties or intransigent dogma because that never ends well. Come to think of it that doesn’t begin well, either, and the bit in the middle’s a bore. Everyone can see that the situation is untenable – no one has held onto the city for long; you might as well invade Afghanistan – but no one agrees on the proposed solutions.
While that discussion evolves and generals are summoned for a meeting, Kaidu does sneak out of the fortress but quickly becomes lost and his reception is bordering on hostile. No one will speak to this Dao except rooftop-racing Rat, the girl from yesterday, and even she’s not going to easy to win over.
What it really needs is someone to reach out: an act of friendship; an act of trust.
A leap of faith, as it were, right over the River of Lives!
And that is one arresting spread, isn’t it?
From the creator of FRIENDS WITH BOYS and the colourist of INJECTION etc, I am convinced that this will prove massive for fans of AMULET, DELILAH DIRK, PORCELAIN, COURTNEY CRUMRIN and all those Doug TenNapel graphic novels constantly erupting from our shelves.
It’s so well crafted with elements which later prove pivotal presaged well ahead in the game. I don’t think I’ve turned the final forty pages of any book so fast – and then gone back for re-gawp, obv. Love what both Bellaire and Hicks did with the Festival of Ruins at night. It’s not easy upping the exotic on a city already established as so spectacular, but when I first clapped eyes on the festival I thought immediately of Venice.
I like all the design elements which are convincingly coherent and must have taken some time to coalesce. There are early explorations of Rat’s possible garb in the back and, although I enjoyed them all, some were less “indigenous” and a great deal more contemporary than others. What was settled on was perfect for a poverty-stricken child for whom jewellery of any sort would be out of the question.
Not only that, but if you stripped out all the speech bubbles and were compelled to read this “silently”, you’d still understand the import of every sequence and enjoy the actors’ priceless expressions in doing do.
Round of applause for the most unexpected yet very well judged piece of slapstick on page 112.
Julius Zebra – Bundle With The Britons h/c (£9-99, Walker Books) by Gary Northfield.
Hot on the hooves of JULIUS ZEBRA – RUMBLE WITH THE ROMANS clops another instant classic of cack-handed combat and bog-eyed buffoonery as Julius Zebra attempts to win over the hearts and minds of a cruel Britannia.
Yes, not content with becoming a gladiatorial superstar at the Colosseum, Julius Zebra (don’t call him Debra) is hoping to repeat his Roman success while being sent off on his jolly holibobs by Hadrian himself!
Not only that, but all his equally inept friends will be coming with him. Bang that bucket! Spank that spade! Pack your favourite pebble collection!
1) It is no holibob
2) It is to Britain
3) So it will be cold and it will be wet, for there will be rain.
There will be so much rain that artist Gary Northfield will need to buy himself an extra pot of ink.
And it’s not as if central heating had been invented.
[Editor’s Note: Errr, it had, by the Romans and they exported it to Britain.]
Well it’s not as if our chums are going to benefit. They’re all still slaves so the only stars of their accommodation will be the ones they can see through the gigantic hole in its leaking roof, they’ll have to swab the ship’s deck on their way over and these animal crackers couldn’t survive in the wild, let alone in a deadly arena.
“I hate running!” spluttered Felix. “I’ve got flat hooves.”
Felix is an antelope.
Why has Hadrian really bundled these bozos off to Britain? Which bad-ass beasties will be breathing down the numpties’ necks? What lurks in the spooky old shack and why did she spit in the cauldron? (“Needs more salt.”)
As the clots trot up the gangplank at the start of their voyage they have idea of the traumas in store on our shore. Let’s hope they learn to tut loudly while queuing.
I love this hybrid of comics and prose which slip in and out of each other effortlessly. I couldn’t bear to part with Julius all dubious about the bowl of broth he’s been offered (see “Needs more salt”!)…
… and the former often delivers a punchline to the latter which could not be replicated with words alone. So integral are the illustrations that if you attempted to remove these visual and verbal gags you’d be left wondering which pages were missing.
Like GARY’S GARDEN and THE TERRIBLE TALES OF THE TEENYTINYSAURS this is in part about animals attempting to make sense of the world around them – which, when we’ve constructed it, rarely has their best interests at heart – specifically animals with barely a brain cell between them.
It’s essentially CCLXXV pages of mad-eyed, exuberant high camp. Gary Northfield has turned gormless into an art form and a hugely enjoyable spectator sport – just like gladiatorial combat. The two probably shouldn’t be mixed…
Back at the gate Julius put his head in his hooves.
“This isn’t going to end well.”
You sense that, don’t you?
Discover… The Ancient Egyptians / Discover… The Roman Empire (£8-99 each, Frances Lincoln) by Imogen Greenberg & Isabel Greenberg.
First two fabulous and – important, this! – fun books in what I hope will be a sprawling series of history lessons, excitedly received by those who love works which wink. All education should be entertainment and this balanced both so beautifully that at the end of each I was holding out my begging bowl for more.
Instead of feeling like illustrated prose, the Mediterranean-coloured, image-orientated pages read like info-splattered illustration into which is injected the illusion of comics. The illusion of comics! So clever!
The illusion’s achieved by assigning mischievous môts and satirical side-swipes in speech balloons to the guides, guest-stars and bystanders commentating on the institutions, inventions and initiatives being explored.
I particularly enjoyed the third and fourth page instructing us on Egyptian gods: Osiris of the underworld, Isis (both his sister and wife – don’t try that at home, kids!), their son Horus of the sky and… oh, there’s always one in every family, isn’t there?
“This is Seth. He’s Osiris’ brother, and he was the god of chaos… He’s trouble!”
“Heh heh heh,”
… Pants jackal-headed Seth, a barely suppressed smile playing across his mouth. I suspect he knows what’s coming next, and I fear “trouble” might be understating it slightly.
“Seth brutally murdered his brother Osiris….”
What I did I tell you?
Fortunately Isis resurrected Osiris long enough to have that child Horus so that this could all this symbolically represent the death and regrowth of crops which is nice.
“Heh heh heh” smirks once Seth again but Horus won’t let it lie:
“I declare you shall be banished, Uncle Seth!”
If all this seems so very Lizz Lunney it’s actually the result of the Greenberg sisters, Isabel of course being responsible for the enormously playful ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH which was my favourite graphic novel of its year. It was Epic and Awesome, a story about Stories, but brilliantly it poked fun at itself, the Epic and the Awesome.
As to the other tome, did you know that as well as their own gods the Romans were such big-hearted / open-minded / conquest-crazy fickle thieves that they worshipped gods from other countries and religions as well? See Isis above, but also Pan, the Greek god of mountains it says here but also field-friendly discos.
Books like these should always surprise and this certainly throws in a few googlies down its timeline. You’d get a Q.I. alarm bell, for example, if you buzzed in with “Emperor Julius Caesar” for he was nothing of the sort. Caesar was a genius general who declared himself dictator only to be ousted before so very long by his adopted son Augustus who did become the first Emperor of Rome. “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth” etcetera.
Before we return to Ancient Egypt, here’s another one: not only did Emperor Constantine (pronounced ‘wine’, just like the star of HELLBLAZER – they are related!) convert to Christianity, taking much of the empire with him, but he built a new capital to rule from which he called Constantinople. Which was just as well because – believe it or not – the Roman Empire kind of lost Rome in 410 AD to the Visigoths and, umm, never recaptured it!
Coming back to how well visual aspects like the River Nile are incorporated and utilised within the page, I loved how the Egyptians’ pyramid-shaped, feudal society, is explained within a pyramid. Apposite in every way.
Surprises from thereabouts come in the form of our 365-day calendar which they invented (although it fell to the Romans to add the twelve months and seven-day weeks), a three-season year revolving around the condition of the Nile (and therefore the crops), and the surprising news that Upper Egypt was down south and Lower Egypt was oop north because the Nile ran south to north and the Egyptians rulers were all a bunch of elitist Tory bastards.
Lastly, the Ankh…? It’s a hieroglyph meaning life, not DEATH, which was Neil Gaiman’s point all along. So I imagine that’s sent a whiplash round what’s left of the gothic community.
Heh heh heh.
Take Me Back To Manchester (£12-00, self-published) by Oliver East.
Why? Entertainingly, it depends on who you believe, but here are some facts:
On April 9th,1872, an auction was being held at Waverly Market in Edinburgh to dispose of the animal assets of Wombwell’s Menagerie – some at such knock-down prices one might suspect the knackers yard was their next destination. Many including Maharajah were scooped up by one James Jennison, co-owner of Belle Vue Zoological Gardens (as they were all called then) back in Manchesterland.
As the animals were being loaded onto wagons at Waverley Street Station two days later the normally placid Maharajah, quite used to being transported, threw a strop, thrust his head through the front of the horse box then backed through its rear, causing quite a commotion as he did so. Wombwell Menagerie’s resident lion tamer, one Lorenzo Lawrence, bravely stepped in to quell the bellicose beast’s ire… almost immediately after which it resumed its regular, docile demeanour.
It was then that Lorenzo offered to lead Maharajah to Manchester, thereby neatly postponing his penury by prolonging his employment. I don’t want to sound cynical – though I wouldn’t be the first – so instead I will congratulate Lorenzo on yet another sterling performance: in agitating the elephant in the first place!
As the graphic novel proceeds we follow Lorenzo – as loquacious as The Good Old Days’ Leonard Sachs – as he barters his way down south, earning extra money by giving rides and seeking what lodgings he can for himself and a steaming elephant. It’s quite the pantomime and no trick is lost in maximising publicity including an increasingly exaggerated account of Maharajah’s dismissive disdain for the route’s multiple toll gates.
Very clever, that: these seemingly ubiquitous toll gates must have been as unpopular with a poor public as the Poll Tax, and the pachyderm’s trash-and-dash reputation must have made it a people’s champion.
What do I love about this graphic novel?
The story itself, the colours and its forms!
I’ve not seen magnolia and walnut brown dominate a comic so boldly as here and it works so well in a scene, for example, framing the elephant sleeping in peace outside an inn, the courtyard viewed from inside a stable which almost certainly failed to accommodate the animal.
I also adored the corrugated aspect of the beast’s furrowed forehead and trunk – viewed both in profile and face-on – demarked by a brush or nib (virtual or otherwise) which doesn’t once leave the page. The ridges are so deep you can almost fit your fingers in and maybe use them as handholds to scale onto the beast’s back.
Again I would return to the brown and the cream and their sheen on glossy white paper. I’ve stared at some of those pages for ages.
There’s another couple opposite each other which deploy a tempestuous purple along with cream which to me streams from the heavens like sunbeams through thunderous clouds – possibly the most dramatic of any weather conditions – the left-hand page emphasising the wide-open space of the British countryside as well as the distance travelled each day, the right at rest and under shelter being positively cosy by comparison!
Set pieces like those genuinely took my breath away but this isn’t a gallery of images, it’s a comic. It’s a sequence of images supposed to tell a story and I have to tell you that there were so many instances – quite important ones– during which I did not have the first clue as to what was going on, such was the lack of defined or precise visual information.
It may sound as if I did, but I had to do research. Flashbacks were unheralded and that’s fine if you’re Greg Ruth or Hwei Lim and at least giving clues for the reader to latch onto. Here I was utterly lost. Sometimes I felt as if I was trying to peer through a dense, form-eroding mist for the slightest hint of context.
Also, I hate to sound like a martinet but there’s organic lettering and then there is scrappy and scruffy. This was in places unnecessarily scruffy.
Nevertheless I’m convinced that the images reproduced here will impress you enough to embrace once again an old favourite – your travelling companion on TRAINS ARE… MINT and PROPER WELL GO HIGH etc – who himself undertook the arduous walk from Edinburgh to Manchester to get a proper feel for the trek. Whether he talked to himself in the same affectionate manner Lorenzo chatted with Maharajah (as we do with pets, supplying each purported reply in our head), I don’t know; but I suspect so, don’t you?
This is Lorenzo at the start of his journey but you just know that it’s Oliver East all the way.
“What did you buy?”
“Um, maps. I bought maps.”
“Maps? But it’s just two roads. South to Carlisle then the old Roman Road to Manchester.”
“What can I say? I like to know where I’m walking. Might as well learn while I’m on the road.”
Sun Bakery #1 (£4-50, Press Gang) by Corey Lewis.
From the creator of SHARKNIFE comes exactly the sort of comic I wanted to produce aged 12: quick-fire, episodic, multi-saga, idea-driven with bat-shit crazy energy and visuals.
You know, as opposed to long-form, pensive, self-contained, streamlined, narrative-conscious, photo-realistic and world-changing.
And although I began with zero technical skills, between the ages of 10 and 12 I did produce some 15 issues of just such a comic containing superheroes, sci-fi, comedy and even a little politics – school politics, anyway. The comedy, as I recall, centred around the search for the singular of ‘sheep’. (It’s a ‘shoop’, since you ask. I WAS TEN!)
Mine was multi-story and episodic because I’d been brought up on black and white Marvel reprints; in Corey’s case it’s been inspired by Japan’s SHONEN JUMP weekly manga anthology which brought us the likes of DRAGON BALL, NARUTO and DEATH NOTE.
And let us be perfectly clear: this is the comic a 12- to 15-year-old would produce if he had Corey Lewis (Reyyy)’s keen adult technical skills. The key is that Lewis hasn’t let those skills inhibit the storytelling.
What’s it all abaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!
‘Bat Rider’ is a thrilling, maximum-contrast, shadow-heavy, skyscraper-silhouette-strewn, black and white, urban challenge starring a chick with a cape, a chap with a Mercury-winged biker’s helmet and his seemingly sentient skateboard. Next!
‘Arem’ appears to be riffing off ‘Beyond Good And Evil’ in that the female protagonist dashes about an alien planet identifying local fauna that occasionally fights back by snapping its photo then loading it onto social media for critical approval, like. Oh yes, she does so in a big, bio-hazard, heavily armoured exo-skeletal fight-suit.
Huge exterior shots of primordial landscapes, the orbiting spaceship and maximum mecha fanfare use up the world’s entire supply of mauve, lilac and indigo for the next fortnight. Also, I loved the structure of one page in particular of our protagonist 1) liking NextiGrams while licking pizza 2) thundering down a treadmill 3) kicking a sack in the same direction before 4) standing before her mighty mech in solemn preparation.
‘Dream Skills is Fruit Salad flavoured (Fruit Salad as in the chews) and follows two female friends, one of whom introduces the other to the sacred art of the sword following the discovery of protective “aura circles” owned by everyone. These have suddenly been triggered (we know not how nor why) rendering lead non-lethal and guns therefore redundant. Besides, blades are flashier (discuss). That one looks like it may contain the most mystery, legend and lore and at this early stage, who knows?
Contains 730% of your recommended daily sugar allowance.
Star Wars: Vader Down s/c (£9-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen & Mike Deodato, Salvador Larroca…
“Or from me.”
It’s time for a STAR WARS / DARTH VADER crossover party, as Daddy Darth indulges in some hide and seek with Luke, whilst Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen play pass the writing parcel and Mike Deodata and Salvador Larroca swat the goodie-filled pictorial piñata to and fro. Technically this is volume three of both series, though Marvel will no doubt number the next individual volume of each as the third, being the party poopers they are…
Anyway, Darth is hot on the hyperspace heels of Death Star destroyer Skywalker, and he’s tracked his wayward progeny down to the planet Vrogas Vas, where Luke is visiting the remains of an old Jedi temple searching for some answers of his own. Cue one unfortunate encounter with a Rebel Squadron later and we’re crash-landing our way into a little father son tête-a-… errr… helmet… on the surface.
But, it’s not all about father / son time! Rest assured Princess Leia plus C3P0, Han and Chewie are soon en route to the knees-up, despite not being invited. Plus everyone’s favourite new characters Professor Aphra and her psychotic robotic entertainers Triple-Zero and BeeTee are gate-crashing too. That trio alone are guaranteed to make sure any party goes with a bang, and the guests with a blood-curdling scream… In fact, I’ll leave it to them to explain precisely what mayhem is going to ensue during the course of this particular reunion celebration…
“This is officially not good. I’ve intercepted Rebel communications that say Vader was definitely shot down over Vrogas Vas. No word yet if he’s alive or dead. At this point… I’m not sure if which would be worse. But either way, we’ve got to go after him. And if he’s dead…”
“We could always simply murder everyone we encounter. No matter the problem, I usually find that to be the most elegant solution. BeeTee rather excitedly agrees.”
“ We’re flying right into a nest of Rebel troops, Triple-Zero. I expect you’ll get your wish.”
“How splendid! Did you hear that, BeeTee? We get to torture and exterminate indiscriminately!”
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.
Panther h/c (£19-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Brecht Evens
At War With Yourself (£7-99, Singing Dragon) by Samuel C. Williams
Black Magick vol 1: Awakening (£7-50, Image) by Greg Rucka & Nicola Scott
Brodys Ghost: Collected Edition (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Mark Crilley
The Facts In The Case Of The Departure Of Miss Finch h/c (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli
The Last Dragon (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Jane Yolen & Rebecca Guay
Octopus Pie vol 3 (£10-99, Image) by Meredith Gran
Rumble vol 2: A Woe That Is Madness s/c (£12-99, Image) by John Arcudi & James Harren
Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol 6 (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai
Wet Moon vol 1: Feeble Wanderings (New Edition) (£14-99, Oni) by Sophie Campbell
Wood: The Of Art Of Tomorrow Kings h/c (£39-99, IDW) by Ashley Wood
Adventure Time vol 8 (UK Edition) s/c (£9-99, Titan) by Ryan North, Christopher Hastings & Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb, Zachary Sterling
Adventure Time: Fist-Bump Cavalcade (£9-99, Titan) by various
Tiny Titans: Welcome To The Treehouse s/c (£9-99, DC) by Franco Baltazar & Art Baltazar
Astonishing Ant-Man vol 1: Everybody Loves Team-Ups s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Ramon Rosanas
Carnage vol 1: The One That Got Away s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Gerry Conway & Mike Perkins
Doctor Strange vol 1: The Way Of The Weird h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo
Extraordinary X-Men vol 1: X-Haven s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Humberto Ramos
Spider-Man 2099 vol 1: Smack To The Future s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Peter David & Will Sliney
X-Men: The Age Of Apocalypse vol 4 – Twilight s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by various
Assassination Classroom vol 9 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui
Goodnight Punpun vol 1 (£16-99, Viz) by Inio Asano
Shuriken And Pleats vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Matsuri Hino
Sword Art Online: Phantom Bullet vol 2 (£9-99, Yen) by Reki Kawahara & Koutarou Yamada
How fabulous to find Page 45 on a billboard! An Etherington Bros billboard with a pull quote from 5,000-STAR review of VON DOOGAN AND THE GREAT AIR RACE which you’ll find with all our other PHOENIX WEEKLY COMIC favourites!
Other than that you’ll have to wait till next week, I ran out of time! Reviews! Life! Etc!