Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2016 week one

News, as ever, below including Dave McKean’s BLACK DOG shipping info!

Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash (Signed Limited Edition) (£30-00 or £45-00, LICAF/Hourglass) by Dave McKean.

“Art is an empathy machine. Art allows one to look through a fellow human’s eyes.”

Art – when derived from studious and subtle observation – can not only allow one to look through another individual’s eyes but to communicate what you see there, to pass on those perspectives.

In that endeavour as in so many more, BLACK DOG is a clever, profound and eloquent beast.

With sympathetic skill Dave McKean has succeeded not only in communicating to a new audience and a new generation Paul Nash’s vision and visions but, in doing so, furthered Nash’s goal to “bring back words and bitter truths” to remind us of the horrors and insanities of war which show no sign of stopping, and to counter those who would perpetuate them.

“I hope my ochres and umbers and oxides will burn their bitter souls.”

Good luck with that one, the pair of you. But they can instil in the rest of us, prone to forgetfulness, a renewed revulsion in order to speak out against these repugnant warmongers and their godawful obliteration of lives, of individuals, they leave in their wake.

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That was the vocation discovered by Paul Nash, and the whole raison d’être of the commission by 14-18 NOW, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and On a Marché sur la Bulle: to blast back into our consciousness the very real, specific horrors of World War I during its centenary years.

McKean has delivered on every front, but he has done so in ways that are far from obvious. For a start, it is not just through the queasy deployment of “ochres and umbers and oxides”, much in evidence during the gruelling sequence setting sail from Southampton Docks along with its sea-slick of blood…

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… but in contrasting them with the most spectacular colour: with that which is other and bright and beautiful; with that which is natural and which should be instead.

One of the most vivid chapters is Nash’s dream, whilst convalescing, of a viciously sharp, scarlet-thorned briar which impedes his progress towards the shimmering blue light of a kingfisher, thence its elusive clutch of tiny, fragile, life-giving eggs.

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“How can this delicate perfection exist in the same world as a 14-ton howitzer firing 1,000 kg shells that propel hot metal shrapnel into soft human tissue, into minds protected by perfectly proportioned, frangible shells?”

Three shells, then: the brain’s, the bird’s and the bombs’. It is in gently compelling us to compare this absurd contrast in our own minds that the truth seeps out: the first’s content is creative, the second’s procreative, while the third’s sole goal is destruction and death.

It is the power of the mind – as well as its vulnerability, to be sure – which is evoked as much as anything during this intense graphic novel. Nash sees colour in the unexpected green shoots amidst trenches when few could see through their desolate, limb-numbing, mind-flattening, seemingly never-ending nightmare to any form of future at all. I wouldn’t be able to without McKeans’ help here.

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But once again, it proves part of what Nash wanted for the future: a tsunami, a revolution of thought “breaking over our ossified society, tabula rasa, wiping the cant and lies from English life.” Sure enough, following the juxtaposition of life-giving green and bleak brown trenches bursting with a spray of white butterflies, there rises an almighty tidal wave that is thunderous.

There will be more time spent in the trenches – with Nash’s brother, just once, when they discuss the distraction and abstraction of the artistic process which may go some way to explain Nash’s later, problematic detachment – but this narrative stretches far further thematically, both backwards and forwards, to what else might have made this man, including the “sadistic discipline” of a school “which was ideal training for an infantryman’s life in the trenches.” He continues:

“It taught me nothing worth speaking of, it answered none of my questions, it required only a kind of desperate obedience, and a stoic acceptance of the constant threat of sudden and terrible violence.”

The grotesque, gap-toothed giant of a martinet towers over young Nash, barking out garbled, mathematical commands as nonsensical as those which would follow, and as impossible to answer with any sane response.

The person who does teach him something worth learning is his grandfather who is by contrast “a man of infinite calm and discretion”, nurturing Nash’s love of art. It’s a scene played out against a chessboard, another battle arena around which Nash and his perpetually distant father keep their distance from each other like any pawn and opposing king lest their contact prove fatal.

“The kings checks his position
“As the pawn moves towards promotion
“Hoping not to be seen
“And neither of them comment on the absence of the queen.”

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The first page consists of four square panels; the second of nine; the third expands into that fully fledged chessboard of similarly black and white squares. Across this are drawn multiple, fractured images of Nash’s distressed mother, oscillating between the darkness and light, representing her turbulent, chequered present. Something extraordinary occurs.

“The dog didn’t return to my dreams
“For a very long time.”

Up until this point we’ve said nothing of the titular black dog, as I think is right. But its shadow has haunted him from the beginning and it will hound the painter almost until the end in a very telling sequence. At times it is ferocious, at others a bounding spirit he pursues. But its presence is pervasive and it goes by another name which is just as revealing.

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You need know nothing of Nash before embarking upon this, but his paintings are referenced throughout both in the language and images (‘We Are Making a New World’,’’The Shore (at Dymchurch)’, and I see ‘Wood on the Dawn’ in the boy’s early trees). Often I find engaging in a work like this without prior knowledge a boon. It will surely prompt a wave of its audience to embark on research afterwards and subsequent readings will then spark satisfying flashes of recognition.

Visually the storytelling displays a complete command of dream logic and that “hypnagogic” or indeed hypnopompic state wherein you’re not quite sure what is real and what is imagined. It is in constant flux, morphing from one medium to the next, from light to dark, with subtle sheens, bleeds or explosions of colour. “The fog of war” which drifts over St. Martin-in-the-Fields church to overshadow Nash’s wedding day is terrible to behold, casting a pall over the proceedings: “A confetti of embers and ash approaching the church ahead of the leviathan.” And wait until you see that coelacanth monstrosity.

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But it’s this lyrical deftness I came away admiring the most. McKean manages to find exactly the right word, time after time again, to pair one thought with another, to throw a startling new light on our expectations or twist the natural order of things, as when Nash is advised to “fight to live another day”.

For it’s not just the battles with bayonets and barbed wire and bombs that one fights on the field, but also hunger and disease and madness and memory, both then and thereafter. Nash sought to evoke this in his art and so McKean too seeks to peel back the layers, to get beneath the skin and comprehend the complexities which lie beneath. To examine not just a life but what is ‘lived’ – which is something altogether different.

SLH

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This graphic novel will be released in two editions – this limited edition in May 2016 then a full publication launched in October 2016 at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival (14-16 October 2016).

This is that limited edition of 300 copies, now available worldwide exclusively from  Page 45.

For more Dave McKean graphic novels (MR PUNCH etc) please pop him in our search engine.

Page 45 is a proud Patron of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

Page 45 joins LICAF every year, exclusively, with hand-picked creators signing and sketching for free, and the most glorious graphic novels for sale in our Georgian Room within Kendal’s Clock Tower. Entry is free.

Buy Black Dog: The Dreams Of Paul Nash (Signed Limited Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

Watching (£13-99, Soaring Penguin) by Winston Rowntree.

“On weekends
“We walk out to where the past used to be
“And where its stories remain.”

As opening sentences ago, that one’s a belter.

It’s set aside footprints in the snow, and implies so much so succinctly.

There’s nothing more to be found on that page and that’s as it should be.

It encourages you to pause and to dwell, which is precisely what the narrator will be doing throughout this graphic novella. There will be a great many pauses and a good deal of dwelling.

“On weekends” implies that, wherever or whenever the Watcher comes from, what they will be doing is a pastime. It’s not a scientific endeavour, a studious obligation, but a matter of voluntary, pure fascination. It is the most popular pastime and, if one could look into the past and witness it happening all around you, then but of course it would be.

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The more narcissistic among us might pop back to gaze on ourselves, but we can’t interfere because this isn’t time travel per se. You’re not going anywhere or any when. A window is being opened instead on that which once was, in exactly the spot it occurred.

Do you wonder why someone is physically climbing up into a window on the second page, being pulled up by a friend, so that she or he can sit and wonder at giant, flying reptiles by the sea? It’s because landmasses have since shifted considerably during the intervening eons. What is now snow down below was once buried by just such a landmass which has since been eroded or shifted by massive tectonic movements. I imagine for other such recces you would have to dig deep instead.

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“We are all watching at one point or another
“And the reasons are many
“But they are really only one.
“We watch to understand.”

Understanding is a great deal more worthy than blasting seven shades of shit out of an alien online. I cite bathing my eyes in beauty as motivation for my videogame pursuits – but I’m far from averse to locking and loading, either.

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One can infer from this desire to understand that something has been lost from this future, however much more it has gained: some area of knowledge. The passage of time does that to any society.

“And I am watching the sick girl,”

… our narrator continues…

“And I do not understand.”

There are two refrains throughout the work with variations on their theme. Both work beautifully well.

Re-designed from its original if equally impressive website by Woodrow Phoenix (RUMBLE STRIP, NELSON, SUGAR BUZZ et al), this is quite the immaculate composition and I can only apologise for a couple of our wonky scans made necessary by the virtual absence of any usable interior art online. Please stop being so protective, publishers: it is an own goal.

Both the words and the images are so artfully arranged on the page with a crisp sparseness which is compelling. The pauses are, most of them, beat-perfect, and the vast expanses of silence are eerie but also this: indicative of the Watcher’s tenacity and patience and genuine desire to understand. The light will prove part of its timing.

A panel from Watching, by Winston Rowntree.

A panel from Watching, by Winston Rowntree.

Scenes will repeat themselves. You can always go back and look again. But this particular Watcher at least is mindful that she or he is looking in on a very real life and treats it with the due deference and respect it deserves, sitting outside the sick girl’s room without intruding, for it has many visitors.

It’s a ward in a hospital which is no longer there. It wasn’t on the ground floor which is why the scenes are suspended in space.

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When it was there its walls and its floors and its ceilings come dented or occasionally cracked but more strikingly with thin, broken lines just inside of their boundaries denoting a physical crumbliness with isn’t some clinical futuristic cleanliness, but a reflection in their imperfection of what we can currently do for deteriorations of the flesh as well.

What the Watcher doesn’t understand I will leave for you to discover, but it isn’t as obvious as you might think. I can promise that you too, however, will be doing a great deal of pondering afterwards, lest you do not understand.

SLH

Buy Watching and read the Page 45 review here

The Red Virgin And The Vision Of Utopia h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Mary M. Talbot & Bryan Talbot…

It seemed rather appropriate to me that this work is dedicated to Iain M. Banks who, as the dedication itself rightly states, was a ‘creator of socialist utopias’.

Bryan did very kindly offer to introduce me to Iain when I told him that Banks was one of my favourite ever authors. I gratefully declined because sometimes, I think, it’s better to know one’s heroes through their legacies, be that literary, cultural or social.

Which is in some ways what makes this such a fascinating work, because the titular Red Virgin, Louise Michel, is an unfamiliar figure, to most of us in the UK at least (excluding Jimmy Somerville presumably, who was obviously aware of the 19th century French political scene), but one whose legacy to the causes of equality and feminism, and indeed anarchism, is just as powerful and just as  important from a global perspective, as the rather more familiar to British readers Pankhursts whose contributions Mary and Bryan obliquely touched upon in their SALLY HEATHCOTE SUFFRAGETTE with co-collaborator Kate Charlesworth.

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This, then, could rightly be seen as a companion piece to that work, where they employed the device of looking at the suffrage movement through the eyes of a fictitious working class northerner, and Bryan has indeed employed the same art style to great effect once more.

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This time, we are engaged in a discussion between the American writer and feminist reformer (and speculative fiction aficionado!) Charlotte Perkins Gilman and our primary narrator Monique. Upon her arrival in Paris in January 1905 Miss Gilman is shocked to find that Louise Michel has passed away, and thus over dinner, the two, later joined by Monique’s mother, herself a former revolutionary comrade in the Montmarte region of the Commune of Paris, begin a posthumous dissection of Louise Michel’s life and works.

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I found it personally engaging, as I’m sure many will, to be so entertainingly educated about such an important figure that I knew practically nothing about. Works like this are extremely important in ensuring future generations don’t forget the vital contributions of those who have come before, at such great personal cost. In helping to pave at least a few further steps on the tortuous route towards that socialist utopia we will finally, hopefully, reach one day. Thus Bryan and Mary rightly deserve their due plaudits for undertaking such a herculean task of research and exemplary execution of another sterling piece of biography.

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JR

Buy The Red Virgin And The Vision Of Utopia h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Disquiet s/c (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by Noah Van Sciver…

“Why’d you run away, Dad?”
“Huh?”
“From Mom and me. How could you do that? How could you be so selfish? We needed you.”
“Hold on a minute.”
“Not having you around really fucked me up. Mum had to work at an art store. We were poor. Where were you?”
“Is this what you found me for? To confront me?”
“I’m trying to understand you.”
“If I could go back in time there’s a lot of things I would do differently.”
“You wouldn’t have run out on us? You would’ve stayed with mom?”
“I wouldn’t have married your mom.”
“And where does that leave me? In the same spot?”
“You’re a grown man now, Nathan. I’m sorry for any problems you have, but part of being an adult is to stop blaming your parents for whatever shortcomings you have. That’s pretty basic.”

The Archduke of downbeat returns with a collection of 14 shorts that range from the darkly comedic to just plain dark.

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This selection of historical material showcases both Noah’s prodigious writing talent and evolving artistic capabilities, covering tales such as the black and white ‘Dive Into The Black River’ and also ‘Down In A Hole’ that have that bittersweet impending car crash feel, and look, of his longer form SAINT COLE.

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Then there are the more overtly humorous pieces such as the colour ‘Untitled’ that minded me of the brutally farcical FANTE BUKOWSKI. The second volume of FANTE I am delighted to report is well underway, and I did chuckle to see the not-so-great man of literature himself sat on a bench, note pad in hand, bottle at his feet, as a bonus extra between two stories. Plus Noah also revisits his love of the  yarn a couple of times (as in the sadly out of print THE HYPO: THE MELANCHOLIC YOUNG LINCOLN) with particular period linguistic vigour in ‘The Death Of Elijah Lovejoy’ about a Presbyterian newspaper editor who had dared to take a stand against the lynching of an escaped slave.

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I only see Noah on an upward trajectory, I have a feeling there’s much, much more to come from him. He seems such an unassuming chap as well, even down his recent assertion that he only has the 4th best moustache in comics! It’s a real bushy belter of an ‘80s Tom Selleck Magnum PI number which I suspect and sincerely hope has been grown for entirely comedic effect. I am also intrigued as to who he ranks as 1, 2 and 3! He seems like a real sweetie, he must be because he’s even managed to get his ex-girlfriend to write a very endearing and only mildly revealing foreword for him. Why am I not surprised he’s a Belle and Sebastian fan?

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JR

Buy Disquiet s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Highbone Theater h/c (£25-99, Fantagraphics) by Joe Daly…

“Before there is order there will be more chaos… and there ain’t a thing you can do about it.”

I knew without a shadow of a doubt it would be, but this is easily the weirdest thing I have read so far this year, and I absolutely bloody loved it.

Following on from the hilariously brilliant but currently between-printings DUNGEON QUEST series and the subtly mind-bending THE RED MONKEY DOUBLE HAPPINESS BOOK – which I read with increasing bemusement in the somehow mistaken preconception it was autobiographical before it became really apparent it just couldn’t possibly be – comes a weighty 572-page tome of complete bonkers.

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As the book opens we find ourselves watching the protagonist Palmer performing a reverse Reggie Perrin, striding out of the sea stark bollock naked – be warned, there are a lot of willies in this work – before twirling his beard and slapping a towel around it, then sparking up a big joint. There is also a lot of doobage going on here too.

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Parker is a muscle-bound slacker with a heart of gold who seems to be surrounded by odious, steroid-jacked ‘friends’ with physiques akin to THRUD THE BARBARIAN and insane, conspiracy theory-obsessed work colleagues at the paper mill where he labours away his days. All his spare time is spent caning weed, practising one of the strangest stringed instruments I’ve ever seen, enduring excruciating attempts to chat to the ladies and musing about the Universe whilst getting mildly paranoid about the mysterious hidden forces apparently controlling everything. He might well have some justified concerns on the last point, mind you.

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As Parker ploughs his own unique furrow with his mojo bag of roots to hand at all times to calm his ever-fluctuating emotional state, he’s going to be taken on a very strange journey of shamanic magic, subterranean realms, secret societies and psyops. Oh, and self-discovery. Above all, self-discovery. But let me tell you, before there is any semblance of order there is indeed going to be a whole lot of chaos going on…

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I think anyone who has enjoyed Charles Burns’ X’ED OUT, THE HIVE, SUGAR SKULL trilogy would get a real kick out of this. The main difference is whilst both are as utterly insane the focus here is far more on the humour rather than horror. But in terms of taking the reader on a surreal journey, they are both right out there.

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JR

Buy Highbone Theater h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Harrow County vol 2: Twice Told s/c (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Cullen Bunn & Tyler Crook.

The worst horror lies not in squelching shadows – though you will have plenty of that – but in being deceived and disbelieved.

It lies in someone who spreads lies and bile about you.

The very worst horror lies in someone who spreads hatred in your own name.

Imagine how much worse that would be if they looked like you and they talked like you and everyone believed that it was you – yes, you – who was slurring and slandering those whom you loved, and awakening in others a terrible antipathy you’d long held at bay.

Horror comes in many forms, but never is it so vile and terrifying then when it comes from within.

Bucolic horror set in the American South starring a seventeen-year-old girl called Emmy, raised alone on a farm by her father, Isaac.

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Many moons ago the good folk of Harrow hanged a Healing Woman called Hester from an old oak tree. Then, for good measure, they set fire to her gasoline-soaked corpse. Except it wasn’t a corpse and, as the flesh of her face bubbled away in the conflagration, she hissed out a promise:

“Not the end… never the end for me… I’ll be back…”

Can Emmy, with her strange gifts, persuade the locals that she is not Hester reincarnated or will they add fuel to the fire and perpetuate their crimes? And who is that rich young lady now come to town, so strikingly similar to Emmy that she could be her twin?

Sun-soaked or rain-drenched, the countryside is so rich in colour and texture and detail – you can feel the clammy mud as it is smeared on a petticoat – while the creatures which lurk in the depths of the forest are many, varied and terrifying.

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For more, please see HARROW COUNTY VOL 1 or I will send you additional homework.

SLH

Buy Harrow County vol 2: Twice Told s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Civil War II #0 of 7 (£3-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Olivier Coipel.

Elegantly drawn by Olivier Coipel and deliciously coloured by Justin Ponsor, Bendis really needed to surprise on the script if he was going to shed doubts that this would follow the law of diminishing returns following the original CIVIL WAR and accusations of being a mere cash-in on film.

Mission accomplished.

I have no idea where this is going. Okay, I do have the general gist because we have to order these comics two months in advance and there’s usually some solicitation copy. More accurately, then, I have no idea where two strands have come from, and what impact they’re likely to have on what will ensue.

Bravely, until the final four pages, this is a refreshingly quiet prologue culminating in the mini-series’ catalyst. In that moment a young man and woman – whom he’s been fond of from afar – are transformed by a cloud of Terrigen Mist into something other than they were. Neither transmogrification works well for them and the boy finds himself seeing something he shouldn’t. Or should he?

I’m now quite delighted with myself that I’ve managed to deliver the crux of the series without giving the game away: half of Marvel’s superheroes will come to believe he shouldn’t have seen it; the other half will be bloody delighted that he’s answered their prayers. In what way precisely…? We do not do spoilers around here.

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Thread one: Jennifer Walters, a defence attorney (who is, by the by, preternaturally tall and a gamma shade of green), commands attention in her closing statement not by her appearance but by her eloquence. Her client, a former supervillain, has been slightly stitched up by the local constabulary (NYPD) through entrapment. Worse still, it’s not as if they found anything worth charging him with but, seeking to justify their man-hour expenditure, they threw the book at him anyway and took him to court. For speculating, idly – that’s all he did. He mused about the “good old days”, wondering what he might have done differently when he once wore a mask. Which he hasn’t – for yonks – and didn’t again. He did nothing wrong, this time at least. And yet he was convicted. Jennifer Walters failed and the individual in question is banged up to wrongs.

Later, high up in the sky aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, Maria Hill speculates that he would have done it again:

“They always do.”

So that’s the person in charge of the U.N. Peacekeeping Task Force, then. Which is nice. And if you think that’s got Jennifer’s goat, you wait until you discover what happened during the innocent’s intervening hours.

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I mention all this because I cannot see how this pertains to the coming storm in any way whatsoev – oh wait, now I do. Again, this is wonderfully underplayed by Coipel. There’s a look in Walter’s eyes which is almost an ellipsis. But it has nothing to do with the individual’s identity – only his conviction and Hill’s supposition.

Thread two: Colonel James Rhodes is summoned to the White House. Specifically, he is summoned to its Situation Room. There isn’t a situation. As War Machine (a sort of Iron Man knock-off / stand-in) Colonel James Rhodes has just diffused the most recent situation in Latveria. No, he’s been called to the Situation Room because it’s far more private than the Oval Office, for a one-on-one private consultation with the President who makes Colonel Rhodes a most unexpected offer… as well as a future trajectory Rhodes could never have seen coming.

Ooh, I’m doing rather well in my crypticism, aren’t I? This time I really do not have a clue as to how this might impact on what looks likely to follow. Except… do you know who James’ best friend is? Ah, you won’t need to. Bendis is ever so brilliant and all will be laid clear within.

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Thread three: Carol Danvers AKA Captain Marvel is back on deck, the deck belonging to The Triskelion, headquarters and home of the Ultimates. She receives a visitor, an old friend who wonders how she’s doing on zero-hours sleep. The thing is, you see, Carol has taken command of three separate superhero entities, co-ordinating them to avoid the disaster she sees as inevitable – the ‘situation’ which the metahumans will finally fail to react to in time.

So many of these so-called near-disasters are only narrowly averted every year in the Marvel Universe lest the company begins to publish one long picnic and Peter Parker porks-out something chronic. Even then, when I type “near-disasters” I mean complete catastrophes. During the recent SECRET WARS, for example, the Marvel Universe ceased to exist. Bit of a lose, really.

“The illusion of control. It’ll eat you alive.”

I know exactly where that one’s going.

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So in addition to its relative tranquillity and the space it has afforded Coipel to turn in a truly nuanced performance with slow, subtle reactions and the thoughts lingering behind the eyes of those in conversation, what I liked was this: relatively minor characters coming to the fore and providing their own current perspectives on their present circumstances and what they infer from them for the future.

Unfortunately as the legendary Leonard Cohen once growled:

“I’ve seen the future, brother: it is murder.”

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SLH

Buy Civil War II # 0 and read the Page 45 review here

Okay, this one has ALL the SPOILERS. ALL of them!

But Jonathan’s right: you can’t seriously have missed them online already.

If you have, just read the pull-quote, know that it’s heartily endorsed, then skip to the pre-ordering instructions for second print beneath the review. The first print at £2-25 is long-gone.

DC Universe: Rebirth #1 2nd Ptg (£4-50, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ethan Van Sciver, Gary Frank, Phil Jimenez and Ivan Reis…

“There’s going to be a war between hope and despair.
“Love and apathy.
“Faith and disbelief.
“When I was outside of time I felt their presence.
“I tried to see who it was.
“I couldn’t, but I know they’re out there.
“And they’re waiting to attack again for some reason.
“I can feel it.
“Even now, Barry…
“… we’re being watched.”

If you’re the one remaining person on Earth-33 (New 52 Multiverse designation) who doesn’t know the twist at the end of this one-shot which, rather neatly to be honest, explains why the entire New 52 Multiverse was a… fabrication… I’m not sure I can actually review this without spoiling it for you so I’m not even going to try. The implication is that Dr. Manhattan, yes he of WATCHMEN fame, was unbeknownst to anyone, responsible for hijacking events during the resolution of FLASHPOINT, and ensuring that reality took a different turn resulting in the creation of the New 52 Multiverse.

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It’s a ballsy move by Geoff Johns, which is sure to antagonise as many people as it delights, but given he’s now moving on to take up the position of co-overlord of the DC Film division it’s up to everyone else to step into his sizeable scribe shoes and follow the blazing path he’s set with this revelatory one-shot. It think that’ll be tricky given this is easily his best bit of writing (possibly his best full stop) since his exemplary extended run on GREEN LANTERN which perhaps co-incidentally, or perhaps not, began with a mini-series entitled GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH…

Interestingly that particular rebirth brought back someone the fans had long been clamouring for the return of but which seemed impossible for reasons I really don’t need to elaborate on, in the form of Hal Jordan. And here, Johns performs the same trick again, as the Scarlet, well ginger, speedster Wally West, last seen during Johns’ BLACKEST NIGHT before apparently ceasing to exist when the New 52 came into being post-FLASHPOINT (also penned by Johns), is trying to break back into the DCU. Where has he been for the last several years? Well, Johns’ makes good use of the Flash fact that unlike all the other myriad speedsters Wally couldn’t be separated from the Speed Force, so has merely been lost there for ten years due to the mysterious meddlings of who we now assume to be Doctor Manhattan.

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Wally therefore is the thread quite literally running through this entire issue as he tries desperately to find one of his friends, even one of his enemies, who might, despite their minds – indeed entire reality – being altered, somehow remember him and bring him back. His problem is that to all intents and purposes everyone he has ever known has absolutely no idea he even existed. As he zooms from locale to locale, allowing us readers glimpses of what is to come for all the major characters shortly getting their own rebirth, (see the APRIL DC PREVIEWS and MAY DC PREVIEWS solicitations for more details on what’s coming out each month) his connection to the real world becomes ever more tenuous as he faces the prospect of physical disincorporation and completely merging with the Speed Force to become nothing but fuel for other speedsters to tap into.

Even his beloved Linda, ten years younger than he remembers (as everyone is, again due to the mysterious meddling, conveniently explaining how all the heroes had their ages reset when the New 52 started) simply has no recollection of who he is. That only leaves Uncle Barry, the original Flash. Wally knows not even Barry will be able to rescue him, but he feels he needs to say his thanks to his inspiration and mentor then say goodbye before he disappears forever.

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Which is the point at which I had to reach for my hankie… or to paraphrase a certain well known DC tagline, you will believe a man can cry… Forget the hyperbole of the Watchmen connection, the real heart-wrenching gooey emotional centre of this yarn is Wally, plus the promise of what’s to come for the characters themselves. Even John Constantine, cheerfully calling Swamp Thing a turnip makes a cheeky cameo promising, we hope, a return to HELLBLAZER proper. I came into this Rebirth one-shot full of cynicism and a heavy heart, my DC reading over the last few years having tailed off to simply Scott Snyder’s BATMAN and nothing else, but you know what, I’m actually now rather inspired to give the new slate of titles a try!

JR

To pre-order DC Universe: Rebirth #1 2nd Printing please email page45@page45.com or use your phonicular device pressing 0115 9508045 or that speed-dial facility we are so clearly on.

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.

Art Ops vol 1: How To Start A Riot (£10-99, Vertigo) by Shaun Simon & Michael Allred, Matt Brundage

Birth Of Kitaro (£9-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Shigeru Mizuki

Hole In The Heart: Bringing Up Beth (£16-99, Myriad) by Henny Beaumont

Peplum (£15-99, New York Review Comics) by Blutch

Psychiatric Tales (US Edition) h/c (£13-50, Bloomsbury) by Darrryl Cunningham

Hippoptamister (£13-50, FirstSecond) by John Patrick Green

War Stories vol 4 (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Tomas Aria

The Goon vol 15: Once Upon A Hard Time (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Eric Powell

There’s No Time Like The Present (£18-99, Escape Books) by Paul B. Rainey

Buffy: The High School Years – Freaks & Geeks s/c (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Faith Erin Hicks & Yishan Li

Bunny vs. Monkey Book Three (£7-99, David Fickling Books) by Jamie Smart

Back To The Future vol 1: Untold Tales And Alternate Timelines (£14-99, IDW) by various

Doctor Who: Four Doctors (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Paul Cornell & Neil Edwards

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor vol 4: The Then And The Now (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Titan) by Si Spurrier, Rob Williams & Simon Fraser, Warren Pleece

The Mighty Thor vol 1: Thunder In Her Veins h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman

A Silent Voice vol 7 (£8-99, Kodansha) by Yoshitoki Oima

News!

Kill Or Be Killed promo

ITEM! Promo teaser for KILL OR BE KILLED by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips with Elizabeth Breitweiser fresh from the Ed Brubaker newsletter which you can sign up to!

From the creators of THE FADE OUT, FATALE and CRIMINAL, I love the way Sean Phillips has expanded the pages with full bleeds to the edges yet, even with inset panels, has kept the clear three-tier grid which, along with his lettering composition, has made the comics and graphic novels so accessible to newcomers.

Fade Out vol 3 1

ITEM! Podcast interview with Scott McCloud about comics, composition and the signals we send out. May make you think again not just about comics, but the ways you communicate in real life too.

Highly recommended, Scott’s comics to make you think:

THE SCULPTOR
UNDERSTANDING COMICS
MAKING COMICS
ZOT!

All in stock, reviewed. That last one may be my longest review ever!

Sculptor Kiss

ITEM! Thanks so much for your weekend support for Dave McKean’s live performance of BLACK DOG: THE DREAMS OF PAUL NASH in Kendal – about which I have rarely heard so much gushing from his fellow creators who attended – then on Bank Holiday for the BLACK DOG graphic novel, reviewed above, and distributed worldwide exclusively by Page 45.

We’d sold out of the £45 version by Tuesday morning and for all I know as this goes to press we may have also now sold out of the £30 edition which still has the die-cut dustjacket signed by Dave McKean. If it doesn’t say sold out, it isn’t – we’re very precise about these things. If it does… well, aren’t you amazing?

Black Dog cover image photo

Our copies of the graphic novel – nearly half its entire print run – are all here and will start being dispatched on Friday. Not a bad turn-around given that the books were all still in Kendal on Monday morning! Thanks to LICAF’s Aileen and her husband (Roger? Please let it be Roger!) for driving them down in person so ensuring timely dispatch and perfect condition.

Thanks also to our Jonathan whose birthday it is today!

There wouldn’t even be a Page 45 website without Jonathan. There wouldn’t even be a Page 45 these days without Jonathan as I hope I made clear during Page 45’s 20th Anniversary Blog!

Jonathan Nottm Independents Award 2013MSC_4064

But, just so you know, Jonathan also gave up a great deal of his family weekend to make sure the BLACK DOG product pages were prepped and ready for action the second I hit ‘publish’ and Tweeted.

Thanks for all your retweets, your orders and your tireless support on this – especially you, Sean Phillips.

Happy Birthday, Jonathan! We all love you soooooo much!

– Stephen

 

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