Includes Fight Club 2 h/c by Chuck Palahniuk & Cameron Stewart, Mythic by Phil Hester & John McCrea, Northlanders repackaged, Paul Dini & Eduardo Risso, two Dan Berry comics and News of Cerebus’ return underneath!
The Three Rooms In Valerie’s Head (Signed & Sketched In) (£15-00) by David Gaffney & Dan Berry.
“You can discover everything about your boyfriend by tossing a breakable object at him.”
That’s such a lovely line, lobbed in as effortlessly and unexpectedly as everything else, taking the reader – and Valerie’s boyfriend – completely by surprise. It’s not done in anger but out of calm curiosity, and the trajectory of that particular sequence will prove even more startling and funny than you think.
We will return to that anon.
Dan Berry’s exceptionally expressive cartooning you may already know from THE END, CARRY ME, THROW YOUR KEYS AWAY, the Eisner-Award-nominated 24 BY 7 or THE SUITCASE, a former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, and far, far more. The singularly dextrous David Gaffney will now be shooting to the top of your attention and the forefront of your radar, once the wit in this read has been savoured. It is ever so carefully constructed.
There are three rooms in Valerie’s mind: a front, a back, and a cellar. But if you think that the front room’s a living room, you are very much mistaken. All she does there is obsess.
What should perhaps command her attention is studiously buried and ignored by banishing it into the back room.
What Valerie takes out to play instead are the ghosts of her former boyfriends, resurrected from the cellar, positioned like a trad-jazz band and articulated by herself. It is they whom she converses with throughout, wondering where it all went wrong.
“The drawback was having no space in the front room for anything else.”
Before you leap to too many conclusions, I promised you surprises and I don’t break my promises. There may well be a very good reason why Valerie is so retrospective. And before you go blaming Valerie for being so unlucky in love, the individuals who’ll be paraded in front of you will prove to have looked through odd prisms of their own. Ever such odd prisms. One, for example, invents a car windscreen to compensate for his myopia so that he doesn’t have to wear his glasses or corrective lenses while driving. Which is fine for him and it’s a genius foil against car thieves. Unless they possess the same prescription as he does, they won’t be able to see what’s in front of them. On the other hand, it’s a wee bit rubbish for any passengers he’s carrying and his own rear-view mirror may prove something of a blur.
There’s a lot of allusion and metaphor in this comic, but I swear that it’s sweet and not half as heavy-handed as my own. “Symbols should not be cymbals,” as Edward Albee once wrote.
Music is one of the big ones, specifically Mahler’s 2nd Symphony plus Valerie’s love of accordions and other bellow-based instruments. Don’t think you have to be an all-knowing clever clogs because I’m certainly not. Listen to Gaffney about music instead:
“It’s pure. Music doesn’t imitate, it doesn’t explain, it doesn’t try to be like other things.”
I’d not thought of that before. Most drawings, paintings, prose, poetry and comics all seek to create, recreate, imitate or elucidate on that which they are not: life, real or imagined. Words convey thoughts, actions or occasions as best they can and I adore them for that, leaving me with the freedom to let my imagination roam. Images imply or are otherwise representational. Music may elicit or imply, but otherwise it is its own beast. In the hands of the Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser even songs’ lyrics are left to be similarly ethereal because she left her voice free to be a musical instrument – no real words at all…
But this is a comic with images which do imitate ever so subtly well, and one of its best is the page in which Valerie responds to a former boyfriend’s recollection of their shared, supposedly idyllic past which doesn’t chime favourably enough with her own. The colouring aside, which is mood-specific throughout and beyond this specific page, it’s the body language and expressions which delight. Jake’s finger and closed eyes turn a contradiction – bad enough in Valerie’s eyes – into something close to a rebuke. As to those eyes, narrowed in the fourth panel as she leads challengingly forward, they really do seethe and spit daggers.
“Valerie,” we learn later, “kept a ball of tissue under her armpit and dropped shreds of it into his food to keep him loyal.”
This is an observational gem, more fanciful and energetic than Tomine’s but no less perceptive and far more engaging in that the reader is enticed into the recollections as an active observer on the spot rather than a witness at a distance. Dan has gone to great lengths to make this so, including a sequence which – I was told in complete confidence – he drew with his left hand in order to accentuate the giddiness which worked all too well on myself, giving me an immediate sense of vertigo while lying flat on my back in bed. That’s no mean feat.
So we return to the where we came in with the opening quotation and its reprise of the vase on the very second page which Valerie’s so intent on remaining oblivious to. I showed you that vase earlier on. Like so many other visual refrains repeated unexpectedly throughout, it’s a fab piece of foreshadowing whose exceptional choreography by Dan Berry is surpassed here as Valerie throws caution to the wind and a bouquet at her boyf. in an act of abandonment which is – to her – delightful spontaneity.
“You can discover everything about your boyfriend by tossing a breakable object at him.”
As the shining white and blue china hurtles towards him, Brett freeze, recoils and cowers in terror, and the leaves and flowers begin to tumble from their fragile, spinning vessel.
“Is he poised?
“Confident in his judgements?
“Does he seem willing to take responsibility for someone else’s actions?”
David Gaffney has a way with words which dance around and right off the pages to stick with you forever. There’s nothing extraneous or laden. Instead they trill so brightly and lightly like a musical movement that’s subtle and always heading somewhere. As often as not, they’re headed somewhere far from expected.
“You learn the most if the object belongs to someone else.”
Sent/Not Sent (Signed & Sketched In) (£5-00) by Dan Berry.
So that’s The Business of Illustration, your career as a creator, and our lives mapped out ahead of us. It all sounds very familiar to me, and I will sleep infinitely easier tonight.
But then there’s the title, isn’t there?
This is a day in the life of Dan Berry, written and illustrated hourly as it unfolded: what could possibly go wrong?
Over the centuries the human race has strived to leave itself decreasingly at risk from the weather. We’ve built houses, bought umbrellas and even erected orange and yellow striped wind-breaks on beaches. (Is that still a thing?) Some days, however, that just doesn’t cut the mustard.
Over the last few decades, the human race has also strived with all its considerable, intellectual and inventive might to leave itself increasingly at the mercy of machines. There’s barely an institution that can function any longer if its computer systems crash, apart from Mrs Apiary’s Homemade Honey Pot stall in South Swithernshire. They don’t need to rise up en masse and enslave the human race in a post-apocalyptic wasteland to be a cause of never-ending grief. As every one of us knows it is enough for them to sit there in our homes and offices, wilful and recalcitrant on a daily basis.
SENT / NOT SENT. SAVED / NOT SAVED.
These things were sent to thwart us.
We’ve even brought them alive by imbuing them in our heads with exactly these mean-spirited motivations and emotions. Don’t make them angry; you wouldn’t like them when they’re angry.
Berry brings all this to the fore early on, along with his role as a Dad to both his children and his cat (“I’m not your Dad”) on the very first page. For something so seemingly spontaneous and extemporised there’s an awful lot of serendipitous stage-setting for a killer drive-home dovetailing and an infuriated admonishment most parents will recognise with a grin.
I’ve approached reviews of Berry’s comics in different ways, be they THE END, THE THREE ROOMS IN VALERIE’S HEAD, CARRY ME, the Eisner-Award-nominated 24 BY 7 or THE SUITCASE, a former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, but it is THROW YOUR KEYS AWAY which inspired me to write about the sheer energy and infectiousness of the man’s cartooning and its wild gesticulations. There will be a great deal more flailing and wailing before his day’s done, but since I’ve singled out machines let’s end with another of my favourite pages for its second-panel evocation of recoiling, venomous, looks-could-kill fury.
“It isn’t going to be one of those days, is it?”
Yes, Dan. Yes, it is.
Fight Club 2 h/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Chuck Palahniuk & Cameron Stewart…
I swear on my psychotherapy couch that you do not need to have read the original prose novel to relish this original comic actually written – not suggested – by Chuck Palahnuik himself. I read the book many moons ago but can barely remember a word.
I seem to recall it was at least partially about smashing the system: rising in up in rebellion against corporate conditioning, financial finagling, governmental authoritarianism and the pervasive mediocrity we can obliviously settle for during our everyday, oh-so-short lives. About waking up from the ubiquitous mass hypnotism of messed-up humanity… whilst enthusiastically submitting to someone else’s indoctrination. If it wasn’t, it should have been.
“Terrorism. Communication. Authorative anti-authoritarianism. One man’s enlightenment is the same man’s indoctrination. Stop being a sheep, and be part of my flock instead!”
The cult of personality, eh? Unless it’s mine, I’m always suspicious.
As I said, however, Fight Club could have been about something else entirely, like hitting people. I imagine that’s why many went to see the film.
Fight Club 2 begins with a similarly iconoclastic personal survey in which you can discover, “Are You Space Monkey Material?” It poses 12 questions with mirth-inducing optional answers. Let’s try a few.
“MY GREATEST REGRET IS…
- The adverse effect my carbon footprint has on the intricate web of sensate life forms.
- My past insensitivity to others whose cultural milieu and genetic makeup vary from my own.
- My unexamined participation in the context of an entrenched capitalistic power hierarchy.
- Nothing. Sir.”
We’ll leave aside “DO YOU GET OUT OF THE SHOWER TO TAKE A LEAK?” – it is funny, though – and skip straight past the increasingly angry activism of no-nonsense D to question number 12:
“THE GREATEST THREAT FACING OUR CURRENT GOVERNMENT IS…
- Failure to recognise and reign in the scourge of white privilege.
- The impending collapse of world oil reserves.
- Dwindling honeybee populations.
As you may have gathered — whoops, I was about to tell you what to conclude! Someone really should shoot my autopilot.
Okay, so the graphic novel itself kicks off with the narrator addressing the audience directly.
“Look at him. He calls himself Sebastian these days. Ten years ago he was destined to be another Alexander the Great. A new Genghis Khan. But Sebastian… he calls himself happy.”
Well, with the aid of some tranks, anyway.
Back home his son is being nannied by a woman wielding a carving knife. But then his young son is having a time-out after being caught synthesising explosive compounds from local debris like dog poo.
His wife Marla is unsatisfying and so dissatisfied, calling for a certain, so-far off-stage Tyler to “deliver me from this bland, boring life”. (First-time readers: you’ll see, you’ll see.) “Please, rescue me from my loving husband…”
By the end of the first issue-worth of material Tyler may just have done that, but in the meantime Marla’s begun to take evasive manoeuvres of her own and Sebastian is swallowing them whole. Chic and suited, she’s quite the self-obsessed piece of work, invading a counselling session for those with Hutchinson Gilford Progeria Syndrome (such rapid aging that 10-year-olds appear to be 60) while complaining about her wrinkles – “They’re all on the inside!”
Chain-smoking throughout, she’s drawn by Cameron Stewart with a superb sense of insouciance that puts me in mind of Mrs Quinn, the rich bitch in Nabiel Kanan’s THE DROWNERS, though there’s more than a touch of Sean Murphy in her angular face.
My favourite pages are those on which pills or petals – rendered to striking contrast with three-dimensional modelling complete with shadows which fall over the panels beneath them – are imposed over what is being said by the narrator or the narrative’s participants. Whereas the dog’s barking merely drowns thoughts out like ASTERIOS POLYP talking over his girlfriend, the effect here is different because you can discern what lies below – with the romantic rose petals at least – suggesting that the bunch of flowers Sebastian has bought his missus is merely a smoke screen hiding the lie of their messed-up marriage.
“Happy Annive –“
“I lo – you –“
“Take your pill.”
There’s no hiding that last line.
Sebastian, meanwhile, is the epitome not so much of exhausted but sedated. Everyone’s more got more life in them than he has. Even his neighbour.
“Studies conducted by the United States Military prove that what women fear most is physical pain… What men fear most is being humiliated, losing social status, public ridicule.”
Sebastian used to be a fighter once, but he’s fallen asleep. Now it’s time to wake up.
I think I can hear alarm bells ringing.
What you should now be asking yourself, is just who set off said alarm…?
Aficionados of Fight Club, the prose work that is, will absolutely devour this. It does everything they will have ever craved for in a sequel, which they probably never actually expected to happen, and so much more besides. They will learn who Tyler Durden truly is. Chuck Palahniuk will speak to them, and his characters, directly. No really, and their worlds will crumble into dust and ashes around their ears. Okay, maybe not that last bit, at least not for the readers, but I genuinely didn’t see where this was going until the big reveal and even then, armed with that particular piece of knowledge, I couldn’t see precisely how it would all end.
As exquisitely complex and tortuously dark as the original, I sincerely hope this encourages more prose literary figures to try their hand at comics writing (as William Gibson has just done with the excellent ARCHANGEL #1). I’m not sure I want a sudden raft of sequels to prose works in comics form, I think there are more than enough sequels generally already thank you, but given the original work was such a distinctive, vicious piece of satire regarding the culture of consumerism and the decay of Western civilisation, that has been proven so acutely accurate in the interim since its release, I think Chuck deserved his opportunity to play Tyler’s story out to its ultimate, nasty unavoidable end-game. In other words: FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT! The nagging question though, is what exactly is Tyler fighting for?
SLH & JR
Mythic vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Image) by Phil Hester & John McCrea.
I do love Cassandra, chic yet louche, with a boyish blonde haircut, sunglasses even after dark, consistently smoking and sipping from a glass. McCrea’s art is dainty and deliriously lithe here, quite the sharp contrast to what you might be used to in HITMAN etc.
It’s also thunderously epic for a giant along the craggy Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland. Hints of Walt Simonson there, and if that evokes fond memories of Norse mythology then you’re in for a treat for MYTHIC delivers that and far, far more in abundance.
Phil Hester is positively bursting with ideas: there’s zero let-up as Mythic Lore Services dash across the globe. In addition to Cassandra (yes, that Cassandra but now she is listened to) their members boast Venus (yes, that Venus, even more beautiful and infinitely more approachable than ever), and a two-eyed Cyclops called Anatol.
“He’s very sensitive about that second eye, Waterson. It’s a birth defect. Don’t bring it up.”
Plus I’m positive this will prove your first experience of ghost candy.
But let’s pull back to the beginning which had me from the very first page which reminded me of Alan Moore & Steve Parkhouse’s hilariously grotesque and grotesquely hilarious BOJEFFRIES SAGA.
On it we’re introduced to a poor young man trapped at a clapped out till in a run-down phone shop who is confronted by a hideously warty old woman whom I swear I last saw cleaning a lavatory sloppier than a cowshed in a Parisian hotel which haunts me to this day. Some of its wooden stairs were missing and our room wouldn’t lock. I don’t want to talk about the lavatory in any more detail. I’m not sure what I saw could have actually existed.
Anyway, our innocent young salesman Nate is in for a similarly nasty surprise when the harridan plops her mobile phone on his counter with the words “Phone dead”. Then he makes the mistake of touching it. To his fingers sticks a thread attached via the phone to one of the woman’s larger, thumb-sized facial pustules and he probably shouldn’t have pulled on it because what pops out…
You will never squeeze a zit again.
The entire sequence is choreographed by McCrea with such exceptional physicality than I can feel the tension in that thread myself and feel it pulling on a pustule of my own which I haven’t known in over three decades.
You’re probably wondering what this book is actually about. So is the clerk once those demons are down.
“Nate, I’m not just here to spew cryptic exposition about your newfound destiny. Though I have to admit, I am pretty goddam great at it. I’m her to offer you a job.”
The card says “Mythic Lore Services.”.
Here’s Cassandra confounding a scientist with a much merrier account of the world than the one he once thought he knew, her eyes glowing with the colours of the universe:
“We are told the sun tracking through the sky above is a mass of incandescent gas, our earthly home a randomly formed satellite.
“Of course. A kindergartner knows as much.”
“These facts let you sleep at night, let you pretend to know what the world is all about. When actually the sun is pulled across the heavens by a flaming chariot piloted by a god clad in the dust of comets. Earthquakes are not the shifting of tectonic plates, but the wrestling of massive twin lizard-demons fighting for control of the underworld. The tides themselves rise and fall with the weeping of an immortal princess who sleeps beneath the shore awaiting her drowned lover’s return. In other words, magic makes the world go round. And when it breaks, we fix it.”
“Cass, you’re not really supposed to just come out and say it like that.”
“But I love the look on their faces.”
They begin by curing a persistent valley drought in America which has nothing to do with global warming and everything to do with a sexual standoff between the mountains and the sky. They simply haven’t fucked lately. It’s up to one of them to seduce the mountains and cause a raging romantic jealousy, reigniting their elemental ardour. I’m not even kidding you.
That’s their last easy mission as the various global teams become picked off one by one in a long-planned assault, leaving whoever’s left to regroup and follow whatever legendary leads they can.
Oh, the surprises for Nate especially have only just begun.
Hester is on very rude form in both senses, upending all your expectations including that of the Midgard Serpent, so vast that it will one day encircle the Earth, thereby bringing about the end of the world.
“That’s the Midgard Serpent? I expected… more.”
“I’m a grower, not a shower, baby.”
It’s currently imprisoned close to the snow-swept South Pole. Now, why do you think that is the stupidest place on the planet to imprison the Midgard Serpent?
You’ll find out. And so will they.
“Someone’s trying to Ragnarok us.”
Northlanders Book 1: The Anglo-Saxon Saga (£22-50, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Marian Churchland, Ryan Kelly, Dean Ormston, Daniel Zezelj, Davide Gianfelice.
A radical repackaging of what was our fastest selling series of Vertigo collections half a dozen years ago, the stories are presented in a completely different order. Jonathan preferred ‘Sven The Returned’, I ‘The Cross + the Hammer, then also ‘Lindisfarne’ and ‘The Shield Maidens’. What this means is that even though the basic theme is Vikings, Brian Wood is bursting with wildly different and totally unexpected takes on the times, from the role of women in the Viking world and Christianity in a Saxon society. In fact if there is a theme running throughout these disparate stories it is the various different beliefs of the day whether religious, secular or societal:
“Sometimes the Fates favour you. But you never take it for granted, never get complacent, because with a flick of their wrist they can sever the thread that is your life. Fate is relentless.”
That quote comes from the narrator of ‘The Shield Maidens’, one of three women who take a stand which surprises even them against the Saxons re-taking Mercia from the Danes. After slaughtering a Saxon scout they take shelter from the other fifty-odd warriors in an old Roman fort, abandoned by all because no one understood the craft of masonry enough in order to repair the stonework let alone build another. Surrounded by water, they are protected at high tide, only some are more resolute than others. Yet still they make preparations for the inevitable attack because they’ve just realised something vital about the numbers involved and it may just give them a fighting chance.
That one’s drawn by Zezelj, by the way, and its mists and silhouettes are as haunting as you’d expect, whereas Dean Ormston has gone for something completely different but no less striking in ‘Lindisfarne’ as crows circle and snow falls over the Holy Church. It’s a life made all the bleaker for young boy Edwin by both his father and older brother whose ‘cruel to be kind’ philosophy in showing him how to defend himself with a sword he can barely lift manifests itself in a way we’d term abusive. It does, however, stiffen his resolve. Just not in the way that they’d hoped.
The Cross + The Hammer
Outrageously clever and like nothing else I’ve read set in the early 11th Century, this is more like an episode of Cracker with bows, beards and bramble than some feuding families riddled with lice. And no, you don’t have to have read the first book: it’s set far from there in the rolling wilds of Ireland, magnificently rendered by Ryan Kelly, Brian’s travelling companion in LOCAL.
Ragnar Ragnarsson, Lord of lands, Dublin, is heading the chase of a one-man death squad, the seed of an insurgency against King Sigtrygg. For months now Magnus has been slaughtering Ireland’s occupiers and it’s up to Ragnarsson to use all his formidable tracking skills and newfangled theories of human psychology in service to the King to bring the man down. There’s only one problem: he’s wrong.
The man is not alone: he’s travelling with his daughter, sometimes carrying her piggy-back to leave but one set of tracks, and intent only in fleeing those in pursuit to keep her from harm. But Magnus is worried that his impulse towards violence in his daughter’s defence is beginning to overwhelm him. He has rages and blackouts which Ragnar may, if cunning enough, be able to use against him.
It’s swift, bloody and beautiful, with quite the revelation. Just remember my first line, is all I’m saying.
Sven the Returned
“At least give me a sword.”
“You think you deserve a warrior’s afterlife? I have spent most of my life doubting the existence of Odin’s hall, of the Norse afterlife, and I confess I still do not believe it exists. But do I dare take that chance, that one day when my life comes to an end and it turns out I was wrong… that, after all, I find myself walking through the great doors of that feasting hall… to find you sitting there?”
I guess that’ll be a no, then!
Sven, our eponymous hero, is a deeply troubled man on a personal mission, even if he doesn’t really know what that mission is, at least yet. He just knows he needs to do something having heard the shocking news that his father has been killed by his uncle Gorm to take control of the family wealth and the title of tribal leader. Having left his tribe and family behind on the Orkney isles as a young lad to seek adventure and visit far flung places such as the ‘Great City’ Constantinople which was widely regarded as the centre of the civilised world circa 980 A.D., he now feels the inexorable urge to return. Although the reasons behind that emotional pull back to his homeland seem to have far more to do with the manner of his leaving than any immediate need for revenge.
Wood makes it easy to imagine that this is exactly what life must have been like in Viking times, full of hardships and privation, fears and superstitions, with loyalty to tribe and fealty to a strong leader paramount for survival. His story telling is perfectly paced, the dialogue suitably blunt and strident without ever resorting to Viking cliché. And we are carried along by Sven’s emotional journey, which ultimately is about someone finding their own place in a changing world, not merely fulfilling the role they are born into. Throw in a couple of unexpected and gruesome plot twists, a rather inconveniently timed mini-invasion by a Saxon expeditionary force and we have a great story.
I really have to congratulate Davide Gianfelice on his artwork too. He demonstrates a fastidious eye for detail throughout and a wonderful sense of spacing and perspective, frequently using a slightly elevated position to great effect, which becomes particularly apparent in his landscapes and especially his battle scenes which flow from panel to panel seamlessly like cinematic pieces, never seeming cluttered or confused as lesser artists often do. His facial expressions are masterful with appropriate emotion rendered into every illustration from merest hints of deception and guile to full-on mouth-foaming berserker rage. And if that were not enough the colouring really brings everything off the page and almost into the third dimension, from choppy, rolling, slate-grey seas capped with white-tipped breakers, and blood-red spattered carnage overlaying a pristine white snowfall, to glimpses of the gaudy hues of Constantinople itself, it is gorgeous stuff.
SLH & JR
Dark Night: A True Batman Story h/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Paul Dini & Eduardo Risso…
“Get up. Go back to work.”
“Your bedside manner is lousy.”
“Your attitude is worse. Calling in sick. Moping and feeling sorry for yourself. Wasting your time with this trash. You’ve accomplished nothing.”
“I’ve been having a hard time.”
“And doing nothing to rise above it. Make a new choice.”
“Mitigate the chance of being attacked again. For a start. Be alert. Be smart. Drop some weight. Tone up. The exercise will nourish both your body and your mind. Soon you’ll be walking with pride and authority. It will take a few months of hard work, but if you want to heal and restore your confidence, there really is no other way.”
“I want to buy a gun.”
That’s Batman, there, dispensing the tough love to the battered Paul Dini. Back in the 1990s, whilst on the up and up and writing for Batman: The Animated Series in Hollywood, Dini was very badly beaten during a mugging. In addition to shattering his face, the assailants shattered his confidence, resulting in a long and difficult recovery process that was as tough, if not considerably tougher, in mental terms, than the physical.
During that period, having withdrawn nearly completely within himself emotionally, Dini would frequently find himself talking to the Batman, and a whole host of Bat-villains, all the while oscillating between despair and self-loathing. From blaming himself for walking blindly into the situation, to not being able to fend off his attackers, to repeatedly choosing to avoid putting it behind him and moving on with his life, Dini’s internal dialogues with the cast of characters that it had long been second nature writing, would form his psychological crutch whilst simultaneously also being the barrier preventing him regaining his mental health.
Much like Steven T. Seagle’s (annoyingly out of print) IT’S A BIRD with art by Teddy Kristiansen, about his mental travails around working on Superman (also on Vertigo), this is not your normal Batman book. There are some fascinating little Bat nuggets thrown in here, including a Sandman and Death guest appearance (blessed by Neil himself) whilst Batman was hovering between life and death that Dini pitched for the animated series and sadly never happened, but ultimately this is simply a very painful, very tragic, true crime story. It is all the more excruciating to read when you are watching the blows rain down and enduring Dini’s protracted, emotionally suffocating recovery process, because you know it really happened.
He certainly picked the right artist to work with him in Eduardo 100 BULLETS Risso too because as soon as I saw the two hoodlums sauntering towards Dini, him having petulantly refused a lift home from his hot actress date for the evening in a vain attempt to induce jealousy, well, any sort of interest in him from her, and him then thinking I don’t want to be that white asshole who crosses over the road just to avoid two black guys, who are probably simply well-to-do Hollywood creative types, I knew just how viscerally brutally the beat down was going to be illustrated. And it was. It’s one thing revelling in that sort of thing whilst enjoying crime fiction like 100 BULLETS, it’s another thing reading it, knowing it was a man’s life on the line.
I admire his honesty in writing this. There was undoubtedly some degree of catharsis in doing so, indeed there’s a little sequence between Dini and The Joker berating him for exactly that, but he certainly doesn’t spare himself, or attempt to portray himself as some sort of martyr. Quite the opposite really, Dini lays bare the relentless hard time he, directly, and through the proxies of the entire cast of Bat-villains, plus Batman too, gave himself. For events during, after, and indeed before the mugging. Nowhere near as painful to read as what he went through I’m sure, but he does a very good job of giving us a glimpse of what a punishing period of his life it must have been emotionally.
Clean Room vol 1: Immaculate Conception (£10-99, Vertigo) by Gail Simone & Jon Davis-Hunt…
It would be fair to say Astrid Muller is not journalist Chloe Pierce’s favourite person. But then when your fiancé has blown his brains out shortly after reading Ms. Muller’s self help book you can possibly understand why. When you then suspect she might have something to do with why his gruesome half-exploded head keeps popping up out of nowhere and talking to you, well, it’s not the best start to a beautiful friendship, now is it? Some relationships, though, particularly those that get off to such a shocking start, can take a little time to warm up.
And stories too. I read the first issue of this when it came out and was somewhat surprised to find it left me rather cold, unlike some of the other recent Vertigo output such as UNFOLLOW that grabbed me immediately. I like Gail Simone, I think she’s an excellent writer so I’m pleased I persisted because this is an elegantly dark and twisted bit of parapsychological horror that I think would appeal to people enjoying the likes of Scott Snyder’s WYTCHES, Robert Kirkman’s OUTCAST and also given how well Gail writes strong female protagonists, Terry Moore’s RACHEL RISING.
For something strange and deeply unpleasant also happened to Astrid Muller herself. A long time ago as an innocent child, she was the victim of a particularly nasty hit and run incident. Which seemingly left her with a rather unusual brain injury resulting in extremely horrific hallucinations. If indeed that’s what they were. Fast forward to the present day and it would seem that Astrid Muller is convinced that in fact she developed the ability to be aware of, and commune with, creatures from another reality or dimension.
A realm that perhaps humans might colloquially consider to be, shall we say, of a rather hotter temperature and brimstone whiff than our earthly plane… She might be right, though in Chloe Pierce’s eyes Astrid Muller is simply a deluded megalomaniac. However, taking the last line of Chloe’s exhortation from the opening pull quote, well, she might just end up getting exactly what she wants if she’s not careful, metaphorically or otherwise.
What is certain is that Astrid and her cult-like team of associates have a highly secretive agenda that certainly brooks them no favours in the more serious parts of the media. Chloe’s one lead from someone who seems to have escaped Muller’s svengali-like influence, albeit far from unscathed, is regarding something called the Clean Room and in the best traditions of gung-ho investigative journalism she’s barged straight into Muller’s HQ demanding an interview. One very unsettling discussion with Ms. Muller later, and Chloe’s none the wiser as to what the <ahem> heck is going on.
There’s raw action aplenty in this first volume too which nicely sets up all the various characters and leaves us with much to chew over regarding the ambiguous nature of Astrid. Very crisp clean art from Jon Davis-Hunt that has slight hints of Frank Quitely and Steve Dillon in places and will certainly have you squirming uncomfortably at the terrifying psychic torments visited upon various unfortunates in this opener.
I will be continuing reading, from behind the sofa!
NYX: Complete Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Joe Quesada, Marjorie M. Liu & Joshua Middleton, Robert Teranishi, Sara Pichelli, Kalman Andrasofszky.
The first sequential work from Josh Middleton since the frustratingly brief SKY BETWEEN BRANCHES preview, and those who immersed themselves in that ethereal, IKO-like beauty will be delighted to hear that he’s colouring this himself. If, of course, you care for the subject matter which is a long way from the bucolic fantasy which promised so much and delivered… complete silence.
You might be surprised, however, because wherever it’s going it’s taking its leisurely time establishing the fatherless family of a pretty young, pill-popping, trance-dancing people-user called Kiden. And I for one very much enjoyed its pace, the dialogue, and the strikingly different body language Josh is employing during the urban schoolground confrontations, right up until and including the obligatory “coming out” of the latent superpower. It was unusually eerie, surprisingly brutal, and the first time I found myself sympathising with the consistently obnoxious lead.
Joe Quesada can write.
It’s not often you can say that about an editor, still less an editor-in-chief. Moreover, he displays a different voice from anyone else in his stable, and if foul-mouthed banter is most definitely “in” these days, Joe is far more convincing at it than most.
It doesn’t hurt that he has Josh on board, who – for those unfamiliar with this most distinctive of UK artists [whom I suspect went on to influence FREAKANGELS‘ Paul Duffield] – is in possession of a whole new vocabulary on “pretty” involving delicate lines, bit lips, and a complete command of the juvenile face, arm, wrist and hand.
Any clichés – and there are a good half a dozen stock plot-points on display – are entirely forgiven on account of the breath of fresh air breezing right through them. Typically ignored by the superhero fanboys, I think you’ll be perfectly safe in assuming that’s a good sign, and – forgive me if I’m wrong – I wouldn’t expect spandex any time soon. More like nightclubs, street life and homelessness.
As soon as I’d finished typing that, of course, X-23, otherwise known as the current ALL-NEW WOLVERINE, was introduced. Yup, first appearance, hence the cover.
James Bond vol 1: Vargr h/c (£14-99, Dynamite) by Warren Ellis & Jason Masters…
I don’t know what I expected from this really. I’m a huge James Bond fan, though like many people I have eventually come to feel rather weary with the character. There are after all, only so many retreads of the same adventure yarn you can sit through on the big screen or over a nut roast on Christmas Day. I thought perhaps an outing for James in comics, particularly penned by Warren Ellis, whom I am finding on top form with his outstanding TREES and INJECTION recently, might provide me with something fresh, but unfortunately it didn’t. Maybe there’s only so much even Warren can do with a character weighted down by such extensive cinematic baggage.
It’s slickly written for sure, make no mistake, and I did enjoy reading it tucked up in bed late at night as a quick and easy read before lights out, but it could just be another script treatment for a possible film. It’s all-action, absolutely nothing in the way of character development, with the typical interactions you’ve come to expect between Bond and M, Q, Moneypenny, the love interest, the bad guys etc. from the films. I can’t find anything to particularly complain about, but there wasn’t anything to really get excited about either.
I will compliment Warren on the dialogue, which did feel completely in keeping with Bond, and there are some amusing pithy asides, plus I did enjoy the bad guy’s dying monologue but if this is going to capture peoples’ imagination and continue as an ongoing series, it really needs to do something different, quickly. I also found the art from Jason Masters somewhat stilted. Possibly it’s the colour treatment rather than the pencils themselves, just failing to bring the illustrations to life, I’m not sure, it just rather flat and thin. Overall, certainly no Octopussy but decidedly more of a View To A Kill than a Thunderball. For a rather different take on the entire Bond film canon, check out young Stanley Miller’s THINGS I THINK ABOUT SOMETIMES.
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.
Static (£4-00) by John Cei Douglas
Beirut 1990: Snapshots Of A Civil War (£22-50, Humanoids) by Sylvain Ricard, Bruno Ricard & Christophe Gaultier
Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein h/c (£25-99, Dark Horse) by Mary Shelley & Bernie Wrightson
Compass South h/c (£13-50, Farrar Straus Giroux) by Hope Larson & Rebecca Mock
Copperhead vol 1 (£7-50, Image) by Jay Farber & Scott Godlewski
Jupiter’s Circle vol 2 s/c (£12-99, Image) by Mark Millar & Wilfredo Torres, Chris Sprouse
Larsen Around – Niche (£5-00) by Ian Larsen
Pope Francis Goes To The Dentist (£2-60) by Paul B. Rainey
Ringside vol 1: Kayfabe (£7-50, Image) by Joe Keatinge & Nick Barber
Saga vol 6 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
White Sand vol 1 h/c (£18-99, Dynamite) by Brandon Sanderson, Rik Hoskin & Julius Gopez
Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor vol 1: A Matter Of Life And Death (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by George Mann & Emma Vieceli
Fables: The Wolf Among Us vol 2 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Matthew Sturges, Dave Justus & various
Batman And Robin Eternal vol 2 s/c (£25-99, DC) by James Tynion IV, Scott Snyder & various
Supergirl vol 1: The Girl Of Steel s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeph Loeb, Greg Rucka, Joe Kelly & Ian Churchill, others
Angela: Queen Of Hel vol 1 – Journey To The Funderworld s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Marguerite Bennett & Kim Jacinto, Stephanie Hans
Avengers Standoff h/c (£37-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer, Mark Waid, Al Ewing, others & various
Infinity Entity s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin & Alan Davis, Ron Lim
Ms. Marvel vol 5: Super Famous s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by C. Willow Wilson & Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, Nico Leon
Ultimates: Omniversal vol 1 – Start With Impossible s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Kenneth Rocafort, Christian Ward
Uncanny X-Men vol 1: Superior – Survival Of The Fittest s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Greg Land
Venom: Space Knight vol 1 – Agent Of Cosmos s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Robbie Thompson & Ariel Olivetti
Vision vol 1: Little Worse Than A Man s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Tom King & Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Assassination Classroom vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Yusei Matsui
Black Clover vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Yuki Tabata
Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 37-39 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama
My Hero Academia vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi
My Hero Academia vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi
My Hero Academia vol 3 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi
My Hero Academia vol 4 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi
Tokyo Ghoul vol 7 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida
Vinland Saga Book 7 h/c (£17-99, Kodansha) by Makoto Yukimura
ITEM! It’s bolt out of the blue time! CEREBUS IN HELL?
I never saw this coming, but CEREBUS will be back later this year, just before Halloween 2016 with CEREBUS IN HELL? #0. I’d make note of that question mark. This will be followed in 2017 with a four-part CEREBUS IN HELL? mini-series to mark CEREBUS’ 40th Anniversary.
Written and drawn by Dave Sim from 1977-2004 and joined by one of comics’ greatest landscape artists Gerhard for over two-thirds of the 300 monthly issues, CEREBUS was one of the most innovative comics the world has ever seen from its creator commitment to its visual storytelling inventiveness, its lettering, and its defiantly independent publishing status, inspiring hundreds of creators to follow suit and push themselves into new creative territories.
Dave Sim also virtually invented the collected edition / trade paperback in the US / UK without which you’d still be scurrying to find individual back issues of your favourite series at exorbitant prices to fill gaps in your collection and so read those works as a whole.
So there’s a thing.
(Scroll down, you’ll see.)
If CEREBUS wasn’t so important I wouldn’t have ensured that the Page 45 website contained reviews for every single volume before it launched, even though most of those books had been published long before Page 45 began writing reviews. And, oh look, Dave’s customised a page especially for us.
Co-creator Sandeep Atwal writes:
“Even though Dave Sim hasn’t been able to draw since Feb 2015, we’re not letting that stop us from getting a jump on CEREBUS’ 40th ANNIVERSARY (2017) with CEREBUS IN HELL? #0.
“CEREBUS IN HELL #0 [will be] in the July PREVIEWS for items shipping in October – Diamond Order Code: JUL161105.
“There will be a new CEREBUS IN HELL? strip every day at cerebusdownloads.com after the July PREVIEWS street date (starting June 25) and CEREBUS IN HELL #0 shipping near Halloween. Please feel free to post any of the strips on your website and in your social media. Every Friday, all of the previous week’s strips will be posted at amomentofcerebus.com.”
A lot of them are already there. Please make with the clicky then scroll down if necessary.
“None of the online strips will appear in CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 or in the 4-issue CEREBUS IN HELL? mini-series in 2017: they’re strictly to help generate sales (although they will be collected some day!)”
Once CEREBUS IN HELL? #0 is up on our website in the next fortnight, we’ll encourage you to order it there for Worldwide Shipping, but in the meantime you can add it to your Page 45 Standing Order – or, if you don’t have one you can start one up now – by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or asking on the shop floor.
That’s from CEREBUS: JAKA’S STORY, by the way, a perfect place to start as the review will explain. And yes, that’s Thatcher. See what I mean about the lettering?