Featuring Ethan Hawke & Greg Ruth, Alexis Deacon, Jiro Taniguchi, Frédéric Brrémaud & Federico Bertolucci. Darryl Cunningham, Simon Roy, Michael DeForge and more!
Guardians of the Louvre (£17-99, Fanfare / Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi.
This gasp is elicited by the sight of the glass Pyramid with its astonishing steel struts which rises within the vast courtyard of the Louvre, not so much taking up space but informing it, redefining it, refining it.
It made me laugh, for my eyes had been wide in similar, awe-struck astonishment for each of the nine previous pages, wondering how Taniguchi could make so much even of railings, diverging with precision from a vanishing point on the Parisian skyline without looking at all clinical but tactile and pocked with pits.
We’ve been admiring Taniguchi’s elegant lines every since the original publication of THE WALKING MAN, but this is the first time the English-speaking world has been blessed with a fully distributed commercial graphic novel of his in full colour. And oh, the colour!
You could spend hours looking at the opening page alone, mesmerised not just by Jiro’s panorama, but what he’s done with the folds of the faun-coloured jacket and the drains of the metal slats beneath the protagonist’s feet and the shadow those legs and feet cast over that walkway.
When our lone Japanese artist visits Auvers-sur-Oise for a day’s pilgrimage to the final resting place of Vincent Van Gogh we will see what Taniguchi can do with vast, verdant fields transected by dry, sunlit tracks, then big bushy trees, clipped lawns and cornfields. But it is the architecture that amazes the most both there and while wandering both inside and outside the Louvre in Paris.
There are so many panels of delicate detail gazing up or looking down over the rooftops which capture the semi-relief I adore so much in window ledges and eves, casting just so much shadow over the creamy stone. Window boxes boast a dappling of foliage and trees dangle leaves over walls along the banks of the Seine.
Paris is a city designed so that wherever you are you can see over, under and through it ever since Haussmann raised and rebuilt it in the mid-19th Century, giving any pedestrian a very real sense of where they are, wherever they are. Taniguchi so evidently relishes that sense of space and conveys it so successfully one feels as if one’s wondering a couple of steps behind him, beside him, luxuriating in the early summer light.
Once the cultural traveller’s inside the museum, that space is no less in evidence. The Baroque majesty of some of the grand arches and Corinthian columns towering above white stone steps and organic, wrought iron banisters is evoked with perfectly chosen perspective. So many galleries are drawn in meticulous detail including each individual painting housed within, and without his fellow tourists to block our view, it is enough to make the heart and soul soar. How has Taniguchi contrived that we – and our protagonist – might see it so?
Well, it’s all a little fanciful, to say the least, but that made me smile too.
A Japanese artist arrives in Paris following an international comics festival in Barcelona – since he’d come all that way. But the stress of the festival combined with an inability to get over the initial jetlag has played havoc with his immune system and for a whole day he lies shivering, bed-ridden.
“I come to feel somehow light-headed and strange. Suddenly alarming thoughts go through my head, like maybe I’ll just die here like this.”
He awakes the next morning dripping in sweat but, determined to make the most of even a minor recovery, he saunters out onto the streets. One omelette later and invigorated by caffeine, the man makes his way down narrow streets and broad boulevards to spend the first of three days in the Louvre. It is, of course, pullulating with fellow sight-seers which make him dizzy so, once down the escalators, he decides to split off from the hordes and heads towards the antiquities of Ancient Greece and Rome – the Denon Wing on the lower ground floor – only to suffer a relapse. His head swimming, he falls to the floor, the world around him exploding with colour as the statues dissolve into amorphous, floating shapes…
When he comes to, the museum is deserted save for a woman dressed in the palest of pinks, her hair tied back into an elaborate bundle of buns. She will be his guide through the Louvre, as the artist experiences some extraordinary visions and even more remarkable encounters along with an unexpected moment of personal closure.
Everything else redacted!
Yes, this is an English-language graphic novel. I just needed to glean some images from France!
Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars h/c (£18-99, Grand Central Publishing) by Ethan Hawke & Greg Ruth.
So there’s a sentence to dwell on.
This is a beautiful book.
Its crisp white, satin-sheen pages boast the most fluent storytelling through the most fluid choreography, and the tightest figure work rendered with loose, sweeping brush strokes from the creator of THE LOST BOY.
Horses’ limbs become a blur of motion when galloping. Yet when at rest they have all the weight, along with their flanks, which could carry a man for miles. Their eyes scream with a not-knowing terror as bullets blast into their skulls. When they fail to skitter up vertical hard-rock or scree-slopes which only Apaches and their ponies could conquer, you instinctively understand the skill, momentum and grip required and the gravitational insanity of any such attempt.
These giant mountains rise from the dusty plains like ancient, implacable, geological gods. A testament to time, ‘awe’ is the word we are looking for.
Faces stare out at you with hardened anger as eyes – which speak volumes and seem older than those who possess them – reflect on what has been seen, what has been done and that which is yet to come. What will be wrought their own hands; and by the White Eyes’.
The fists are very physical, clutching a burning branch to set fire to a pyre, and the hand which reaches out to lift a young girl’s wrist from the palm of her mother’s is unmistakably both flesh and bone. Such is Ruth’s craft that you can feel not only the softness of skin and the tenderness of its touch, but also the emotion behind such a separation.
In a juxtaposition which drives the cruelty and gaping loss home, Goyahkla’s daughter – alive and well and on the verge of becoming a woman – appears in a ghostly, fleeting flashback, her transition celebrated with due ceremony. Oh, it may delay the Apache in pursuit of their prey, but equally important to them is this: it means that the antelope they are hunting purely for sustenance will enjoy another day of life.
The balance of life and nature is brought home to you on the very first pages, in a tranquil, pure-water pond in private. It is a private moment, part ceremony, part presentiment, part passing of lore.
Contrast all that – as both Hawke and Ruth do – with the public, knee-jerk, incendiary actions and reactions of a Bluecoat Colonel whose ego gets the better of him in defending a lie he barely believes in himself, and whose pricked pride then ignites an unnecessary war all in the name of saving face, maintaining authority and his own personal power.
Contrast all that – as both Hawke and Ruth do – with the unnatural, seedy and duplicitous assignations of a prospector called Bruce who boasts of his sexual conquests before throwing them away like Kleenex into an alley of actual excrement. The White Man was always ever so very fond of declaring that his “Civilisation” surpassed the “Savagery” of those whose lands he successively invaded then stole for his own, but which one here stuck scalps up on stakes and boiled heads up in pots?
This is the crux of the matter: the appropriation of life-giving land, freely roamed by the Apache in harmony with nature, by the White Eyes in order to colonise it, dig out its gold and make money.
“Who are the Bluecoats to give us part of a thing which Usen gave us as whole? It is all our land.”
“Not anymore. None of it is yours but what the White Eyes give you. Understand this.”
“A Bedonkohe does not wait to be given back what was stolen from him!”
There is so much control, vital for a tale this terrible, and it is all too true. It’s just not the one which have been telling in nearly a century of cinema. It is a story of betrayal.
Over and over again, individual trust is rewarded by betrayal.
This is no hagiography whitewashing the extent of the Apaches’ revenge taken in anger. Indeed it begins with the wholesale slaughter of Mexicans including women and children in retribution for the same done to them. But it does redress the balance after years of careless or deliberate, propagandist fiction depicting the Apache people at the time as aggressively and gratuitously vicious, and it does so by presenting the multiple, successive provocations. And I emphatically do not mean provocation by confrontational word; I mean by murderous deed.
Actions and reactions are very different beasts.
This is in its truest sense a tragedy, for we know what will happen both to individuals like the legendary Geronimo and to the Apache people long after this graphic novel concludes. That is set in all-too-bloodied stone. But Hawke and Ruth compel us – with such passion, compassion and skill – to watch the wretched, hateful and inhuman events unfold before our eyes that we cannot look away. We are simply left to mourn their occurrence.
It’s that historically inevitability which demands I leave you to witness the shameful specifics for yourselves without giving even a hint as to who does what to whom, when and why. At so many junctures so much could have been averted by individuals credited here for their more honourable interventions which are so blithely ignored or thwarted by gang-mentality hatred and flagrant insubordination.
Man’s inhumanity to man. And so it very much goes.
Love vol 3: The Lion h/c (£13-50, Magnetic Press) by Frédéric Brrémaud & Federico Bertolucci.
Not so much the Circle Of Life as the constantly turning tides of food-chain fortune and the constant threat of being stalked, surrounded, flattened, clawed, mauled, mangled and otherwise shredded by crocodiles, vultures, spotted hyenas and even other lions.
Circle of Death, then. I’ve never seen so many carcasses.
No wonder the scorpion crawls back under its rock.
Brrémaud and Bertolucci’s LOVE: THE TIGER and LOVE: THE FOX have already claimed more than enough tiny victims as young souls’ eyes widen with recognition and delight at their covers, eagerly anticipating bright Disney doings, but come away streaming with tears at the ferocity they encounter within.
“Errrrm, probably not…” I’ve warned parents in advance on several occasions, but children can be tenacious once they’ve set their sights on things, can’t they?
Set on the Serengetti, this is on another level of brutality than either of the other two, genuinely upsetting as the lead lion here enjoys little respite during its solitary roaming even if others do. Briefly. For him it’s one long territorial ostracism.
Even for the others it’s death – death everywhere – and often dragged out. Painful, really.
Also exceedingly beautiful, obviously. Bertolucci’s animals are exquisitely drawn, their habitats radiant with light or drenched in torrential rain. Other Serengetti animals on offer include baboons, armadillos, a particularly petulant cobra, blue wildebeest, black rhinos, gazelles and assorted flying things.
As for the comet that appears from the sky towards the end, well you’re in for a bit of a surprise as are those lying below. Seriously? After everything else, they deserved that?
P.S. It isn’t a comet.
Psychiatric Tales (US Edition) h/c (£13-50, Bloomsbury) by Darryl Cunningham.
From the creator of SCIENCE TALES and SUPERCRASH, this is the Bloomsbury edition of his first, vitally important graphic novel which blazed the way for what is now a burgeoning array of comics and graphic novels on mental health issues, currently on our counter for maximum exposure, which have been snapped up because people care. Well, some people.
In some parts of this country Talking Therapy can take up to a year’s wait. And if only you knew the hoops that a friend of mine had to jump through – hours and hours of phone calls being tossed from one department to another and then weeks of waiting for an appointment – when she was seriously and immediately at risk: suicidal.
A book like this, then, is absolutely vital. We made the original volume Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month back in October 2010. This is the Bloomsbury edition of the revised, expanded UK edition which contained two brand-new chapters on different dementias and psychosis.
It’s by no means a common experience, but there are some books one starts bursting to write about a mere twenty pages in. PSYCHIATRIC TALES is one of those: a book of such instinctive, level-headed compassion, communication and education which nearly never saw completion on account of the creator’s own deteriorating mental health. A childhood riddled with self-loathing only grew worse in adulthood as Cunningham withdrew at the very time he most craved connection. It was his artistic talent that finally gave him a sense of belonging, whilst his desire to understand his own condition and his natural empathy for others (so clearly evidenced here) led him into work as a health care assistant before training as a student to qualify as a mental health nurse.
“And this is when I overreached myself. This is when I broke.”
After reading the book you can comprehend why. It’s no easy job for the sturdiest of individuals but for someone as vulnerable and sympathetic as Darryl, well, it was going to get to him eventually.
The book isn’t about Darryl, though: the preceding pages detail his experiences on the ward and what he learned about various debilitating mental conditions as a result. The very opposite of sensationalist, its measured contents will undoubtedly still prove affecting for there can be few of us who haven’t come suffered from some degree of depression or come into contact with other mental illnesses: schizophrenia with its attendant paranoia and hallucinations; bipolar disorder with its peaks and troughs and compulsion to communicate everything at once; violent anti-social personality disorders; the dementia of Alzheimer’s, the disorientation and delusion and reversion to an earlier period in life; suicidal imperatives; self-harming from anger, self-loathing and a desperation to assert any sort of control even if it involves physical pain as a distraction from the mental anguish.
Each condition is explained through personal observation and with an education that enables Cunningham to detail current treatments, rebalancing the brain’s chemicals whilst providing the most efficacious environment wherever possible. And without meaning to alarm you, Darryl correctly places an emphasis on one particular truth: it can happen to anyone at any time.
At school the brother of my best friend suddenly started pronouncing himself to be the Second Coming and appointed disciples. I’ve met several self-harmers and known them for years. I know at least one bi-polar, my grandmother slid away from us under Alzheimer’s, someone very close to me is suffering with acute depression and, I guess, most disturbingly of all, a young man I thought brilliant and charming abruptly became barely coherent, violent (he tried to kill his mother and girlfriend) and – because he’d already been misdiagnosed as having a behavioural disorder instead – it took his parents a whole year of research and fighting to get the man properly diagnosed with Cannabis Psychosis and therefore properly treated. The jury is out on whether they succeeded in time. I recognise everything I read here. It’s spot-on, including the patient’s delusion, post-recovery, that sustained medication is no longer necessary.
As to the artwork, it’s deceptively simple just like Satrapi’s in PERSEPOLIS for maximum empathy, black shadows casting faces into silhouette, a warning of potential bleak, black moods. It’s the perfect balance between word and picture, so as sequential art it reads like a dream. Or a nightmare.
“The effects of suicide ripple outward. Damaging family, friends and strangers alike. A suicide will leave an average of six people immediately affected by the death. A parent, a significant other, a sibling, or a child of the deceased person. The people are referred to as the survivors. These are the ones left to suffer. Never knowing why, always wondering if he could have done more.”
War Stories vol 4 (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis & Tomas Aira…
“He’s on a destroyer, H.M.S. Harrier.
“He told me he’s spent the last five years escortin’ convoys from America an’ Canada. Food an’ fuel. Supplies for industry.
“It all goes to Britain, but enough of it ends up in Dublin or Rosslare.
“That’s why we’ve not gone hungry, just in case yeh were wonderin’.
“He said the Royal Navy’s lost a lot o’ships to U-Boats. A lot o lads’ve gone down with them.
“He told me that… an’ I didn’t feel very neutral.”
I wasn’t intending to review this volume of WAR STORIES, figuring readers know what they’re getting by now, but exactly as with WAR STORIES VOL 3, I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to. As always with Ennis, in addition to giving us a brilliantly well written piece of action, we get tales that educate as much as inform. They’re always as heavily grounded in reality as a bogged-down infantry patrol taking heavy fire in the muddy lanes and densely packed trees of the Reichwald, the Imperial Forest, a historic woodland since the time of the Holy Roman Empire in the heart of Germany.
Which not-so-coincidentally, is the backdrop for this story of a rather personal moral conflict amongst two members of the remnants of the 3rd platoon of the Irish Rifles. Having already enjoyed the delights of the bocage in France, life wasn’t getting any easier for the Allied footsoldiers as they headed into the Fatherland itself en route to Berlin. I was well aware that a number of brave men from the Irish Republic, many with long family traditions of fighting for British regiments, had joined up in WW2, despite initially facing arrest from their own government if even they tried to leave the country, including several thousand who deserted from the Irish Defence Forces.
I wasn’t aware, however, that there was no conscription from Northern Ireland, a decision taken by the British government due to the heated political situation at the time, as was the case at the time of WW1 as well, though in both conflicts that didn’t stop a great number of volunteers signing up, around 38,000 Northern Irishmen in the case of WW2. I won’t give you any more information about the tête-à-tête in question here, but suffice to say this particular platoon has some soldiers with, shall we say, rather differing political views…
Then, as with WAR STORIES VOL 3, this volume is also a double header, and here the second tale features the fighter pilots of a US air squadron stationed on Iwo Jima, escorting bombers on their 660-mile trip to Tokyo. Plus, of course, the equally daunting return over a vast stretch of ocean, where weather conditions and mechanical failures were just as likely to prove fatal as a dogfight with the enemy.
There’s much food for moral thought again here, this time on the absolute opposite statistical end of the scale to the first story. But even so, whilst this is partly a tale about the sheer numbers involved in the war of Pacific attrition as the Americans attempted to sap the Japanese will to fight to the death for their Emperor, for those on the front line, it was still a very personal affair.
Here we see matters through the eyes of the grizzled, war-weary veterans and also the very raw fresh-out-of-flying school recruits. Still, combat in the skies seems a much more survivable option than being a Jarhead tasked with hand-to-hand fighting fervent fanatics intent on defending their divine leader and blessed nation to the very last man…
“What’s your opinion, Captain? I mean the marines are pretty obviously going to be the first ashore…”
“I think it’s going to be the usual bloodbath, Doctor. Or worse than usual: if you look at how hard they fought for this little pimple, you can imagine what Japan itself will be like. I just hope it’ll be worth it this time.”
“Well… of course it’ll be worth it…”
“I think what the Captain means is Iwo Jima wasn’t.”
“You know, I’m a guest here, Major. I should probably shut up, I don’t mean to repay your hospitality by saying anything out of line…”
“Not a bit of it. We’re all grown-ups here.”
“Well… we lost nearly seven thousand marines taking this place. That’s lost as in killed, not including wounded. My company took eighty-eight percent casualties, and, well, what is it you boys do here again…?”
“What do we do? We escort the bombers knocking hell out of the Japs… which’ll make it a lot easier when you go up on those beaches…”
“I’ve heard that one before, Captain. But say Iwo Jima didn’t exist, or we’d failed to take it: those bombers wouldn’t be sent to Tokyo anyway?”
“Because I happen to know they’ve been sending them out since last summer. We only hit this place in February.”
“They took losses operating without us, don’t forget.”
“Heavy losses? How many men in one of those things?”
“So how many aircraft do you have to save to justify the men we left behind on Iwo?”
“I’m not sure it’s quite as simple as that.”
“Forgive me, Doctor. When I said my company, I meant the one I was in charge of. To me it’s twice as simple as that.”
Set against the prospect of a protracted campaign to take the Japanese home islands – with the firebombing of cities with houses made from wood and paper being the targets of choice (due to poor accuracy making well defended industrial targets like refineries nearly impossible to hit) seemingly having little or no effect on Japanese morale or desire to continue to wage war – you can perhaps understand why the US government took the decision to drop two atomic bombs. It undoubtedly greatly shortened the war in the Pacific by forcing the Japanese to capitulate, despite incurring huge civilian casualties in the process. They probably weren’t using the term collateral damage at that point in time, but it’s certainly the most spectacular examples of it still. This, then, is a little glimpse into what was happening at the sharp end of the Pacific theatre that undoubtedly factored heavily into that stark choice.
It’s a shame BAREFOOT GEN is currently out of print, because as anti-war stories go, Keiji Nakazawa’s loosely auto-biographical opus is a tough, emotionally bruising, but essential read. For more WW2 material from a Japanese point of view in general I can’t recommend highly enough Shigeru Mizuki’s autobiographical inspired ONWARDS TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS about the defence of the Pacific islands. Also his SHOWA material, SHOWA VOL 2 1939-1944 and SHOWA VOL 3: 1944-1953, detailing the modern history of Japan, again spiced with a dash of autobiography, particularly if you are interested in what was going on in Japan itself during WW2, and its aftermath on the Japanese psyche. If you’re also interested in finding out about just how Japan suddenly started focusing outwards and rose in global prominence to become such a fascistic, military dominated regional powerhouse, I’d suggest starting with SHOWA VOL 1: 1926-1939.
Island #8 (£5-99, Image) by Simon Roy, Xulia Vicente, Ben Sears, Michael DeForge…
“This probably seems like a big decision.
“I’m certainly thankful it’s not my decision to make.
“But if it’s helpful, try thinking of it this way instead.
“It’s not a big decision.
“It’s just one decision.
“In a lifetime of others.”
I’m not still going on about the US decision to deploy the atomic bomb in my WAR STORIES VOL 3 review, I promise. (Check me out, getting all meta and mixing my reviews in together like a demented disk jockey!) But, this is the US Vice President, who has been given an impossible conundrum to crack by Michael DeForge. Yes! That Michael DeForge, personal Rigby fave, and he of DRESSING, LOSE, BIG KIDS, FIRST YEAR HEALTHY (and much more besides) fame! I hadn’t realised he was going to be contributing, but it’s just another huge reason for me to continue reading this, to-date excellent, Brandon Graham led anthology.
I note Michael is also slated to contribute to ISLAND #10 as well. Along with Malachi FROM NOW ON Ward, who will be cropping up in ISLAND #9 (which I’m excited about) and considering the other luminaries like Emma PRETTY DEADLY / MIRROR (review of #1 here) Rios and Marian BEAST / FROM UNDER MOUNTAINS (review of #1 here) Churchland who’ve penned and drawn material to date, Brandon’s clearly able to pull in the veritable gamut of heavy hitters in terms of talent, which is why this title has maintained its impetus right from the get go (review of ISLAND #1 here).
Well, that was quite the exordium wasn’t it?! I better get on with the actual review now. So, in this extended self-contained yarn, titled ‘Mostly Saturn’, whenever an American citizen dies they are reincarnated as an alien in a Utopian colony on Saturn. Why? No one knows. Just like no one has any idea why these new arrivals reincorporate at the exact age they were at the time of their death before they gradually begin de-ageing, Benjamin Button-fashion, to nothingness. What happens to them then? You’ve guessed it, no one knows. It’s not surprising therefore that more than a few Americans have decided to take matters into their own hands and head off for this brave new world, the President included, leaving the VP up to his neck in it. Where will it all end? Fortunately for us, Michael DeForge does know and if you read this, you will too!
The other major contribution to this issue which forms just over half of the 70 pages is the chunky conclusion to Simon Roy’s brilliant sci-fi ‘Habitat’ story which is material very akin to PROPHET that he contributed to. I suspect, much like Emma Rios’ forthcoming trade of ID, which was in a couple of the earlier issues of ISLAND, it will get collected separately at some point in the near future.
Filling out the issue are two weird and wonderful silent shorts from Xulia Vicente and Ben Sears of the titillating eye-candy flavour we’ve come to expect from this series. Xulia’s in particular tickled me because I made the fatal error of thinking that her characters looked a bit like Tony Millionaires’ DRINKY CROW (minus the beak, it must be said), and then I couldn’t stop seeing it, which only added to the fun and games!! Keep it up Brandon, keep it up, sir!
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.
Njalla (£8-00) by Rozi Hathaway
Abe Sapien vol 7: The Secret Fire (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie & Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara
Clean Room vol 1: Immaculate Conception (£10-99, Vertigo) by Gail Simone & Jon Davis-Hunt
Dark Night: A True Batman Story h/c (£16-99, Vertigo) by Paul Dini & Eduardo Risso
Fight Club 2 h/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Chuck Palahniuk & Cameron Stewart
Hot Dog Taste Test h/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lisa Hanawalt
Outcast vol 3: This Little Light s/c (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta
Rachel Rising vol 7: Dust To Dust (£12-99, Abstract Studio) by Terry Moore
Sandman Mystery Theatre Book 1 (£22-50, Vertigo) by Matt Wagner & Guy Davis, John Watkiss, R.G. Taylor
Sex Criminals vol 3: Three The Hard Way (£10-99, Image) by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
Batman: Earth One vol 2 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank
Hawkeye vol 6: Hawkeyes s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Ramon K. Perez
Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat vol 1: Hooked On A Feline s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kate Leth & Brittney Williams, Natasha Allegri
If you’re selected, you can then splurge your £50 prize on absinthe.
ITEM! Okay, well in lieu of anything else, Page 45 broke its June website sales record on Saturday 11th June… with 19 days to go! So thank you for that. You do blow my brains out, you lot.
You’re ridiculously kind.
But aren’t our books beautiful? Behold, above! They really are.
P.S. Illustration above by Bernie Wrightson. I do believe I’ve found a few more copies of his jaw-droppingly detailed FRANKENSTEIN so we’ll add that back to the system once they come in.