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Mooncop h/c (£12-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Tom Gauld…
I think that may well be about 5% of the entire text in this most laconic of pithy odes to a future that’s been and gone, much like practically all the lunar population! To be honest, it never really happened.
Britain’s doyen of deadpan comic humour returns with this existential examination of the isolation of a lonely lunar plod, patrolling his meteor-pitted manor in the vain hope of finding anything remotely amiss.
It’s a rather solitary existence, punctuated primarily by his daily trip to the doughnut and coffee dispenser. A lost robo-dog provides a brief burst of, well, excitement would probably be taking it too far, but at least it provides the chance for some momentary interaction with the rapidly dwindling inhabitants. For those that still remain are rapidly upping sticks and heading back to the hustle and bustle of mother Earth.
Our trusty bobby would love to join them, but his request for a transfer is denied, on the grounds of his impressive, 100% successful crime solution rate! Given that no crimes are ever committed in the rarefied confines up there, it’s looking somewhat unlikely it’s ever going to dip far enough to warrant his own collar being felt and get recalled back home for poor performance. Oh dear.
This is a wonderfully wistful, melancholic musing on how the future might not bring us quite what we want or expect, particularly if technology is involved somehow. It’s good to see computers haven’t got any more reliable years from now! It’s very low-key, meditative stuff from Tom this work, especially given some of the satirical bite he’s more famous for in his strips, of which there is a fantastical selection of online at the Guardian HERE, and in the excellent print collection YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK.
Like Gauld’s GOLIATH, there is a tremendously impressive sense of space here, enhanced and extended by the overwhelming silence. There are very few landmarks. It’s mostly just blue, blue vacuum although, hilariously, there is the odd, single palm tree isolated in its own bell jar.
Snow White: A Graphic Novel h/c (£17-99, Candlewick Press) by Matt Phelan.
Ominous, much? If looks could kill…
Camille Rose Garcia’s rendition of SNOW WHITE has proved a monumentally popular book here, its traditional prose illustrated with real relish.
The marked departure of Matt Phelan’s new graphic novel is immediately apparent for it opens with Snow White lying “in state” in the winter wonderland window display of a major New York department store circa 1930.
What Phelan has so cleverly done is use the past as a fantasy world of its own. And it is, when you think about it, for much is not as we now know it.
Here the seven dwarves are still small but are street urchins, almost Dickensian in aspect, self-reliant, thick as thieves and initially not half so welcoming as their progenitors of this seemingly affluent heiress. But although this iteration’s wicked step-mother is, as ever, raging with jealousy at her step-daughter’s beauty, it’s her inheritance she truly covets after doing away with her Dad.
This is the Great Depression, and it is all about money.
The widowed father is the King of Wall Street, one of the few whose wealth has successfully survived the market crash through studious attention and wise investment. Once an anonymous chorus girl, she is now Queen of Broadway, glamour personified, and her stage entrance atop a multi-tiered crystalline marvel is spellbinding.
The old man is awe-struck, dumb-struck, smitten, bewitched. Her own painted face is pure, chic and serene… until she opens her eyes. Her mouth twitches at the corner and her eyebrows arch in the very picture of predatory guile.
It is the book’s greatest flourish and it is faultless.
There are pages, I own, where more contrast in light would have made elements clearer, but the predominantly washed-out aspects enhance the ethereal atmosphere and so fantastical element. The greys and sepias reflect the photography of the time and in that way our sense of it, colour being reserved for… well, you know the key components of the story yourself. Some things never change.
As to the step-mother’s chosen assassin, this is a world without huntsmen so where could he possibly come from? That’s cleverly calculated in the context of this setting, as is his motivation for betraying his Mistress – in a single foreshadowing panel. That’s a moment which would stick long in the craw of any woman or man.
The story is told in the form of short scenes, sparse in dialogue, picture-driven instead. That lends emphasis both to what little is said and to the only extended conversations – between those who are honest with each other.
Throughout, of course and almost inevitably, the step-mother remains the star. Her eventual fate is once again entirely apposite both in this relatively modern setting and her own source of vanity, but before we get there her eyes, full of seething hatred, will burn deep into your own just as they did in Walt Disney’s animation classic.
”Snow will fall,” pronounced the youtube trailer. And she does.
Cat Rackham h/c (£17-99, Koyama Press) by Steve Wolfhard.
Sometimes he’s Too Sad To Sleep. He lies on his side, tears streaming down his face, matting his fur, until a gentle duck soothes him with a “Shhhh…”
“Shhhh…” she or he sings, patting Cat Rackham’s poor, tired head. Then the duck sits on his face – nests on his noggin – and Cat Rackham falls sound asleep.
Eight panels, simple but affecting, and thoroughly cute.
In a three-page episode Cat Rackham Tosses And Turns late into the night by a camp fire and pulls off his jumper. A spider descends, disappearing into its folds. Gradually the fire burns low, then out and it grows very cold. Cat Rackham reaches for his jumper. The final, single, daylight morning panel is hilarious. Superb timing.
The strip I have for you here is Cat Rackham Gets Depression. Initially enchanted by the fluttering-by of a bright, white butterfly, once all alone he is seized by inertia. His body lists, leans over until he lies on the ground, open-eyed, motionless, quite, quite paralysed by depression. Night falls. Morning breaks. Spring arrives, autumn falls, then winter comes too, as time accelerates in ROBOT DREAMS fashion and Cat Rackham is buried under a thick blanket of snow.
When the snow melts Cat Rackham awakens to the tiny sound of two love bugs making out.
This pleases Cat Rackham enormously.
Now, everything so far is ever so gentle and cute. He even has his ear licked by a deer.
But if you read the interview with Steve Wolfhard conducted by his wife, it will colour each one of those strips ever so slightly and perhaps make them even more affecting for you.
And the colours are delightful. Fresh as a daisy.
None of this, however, prepared me for the central, extended story when Cat Rackham is sent in search of coffee by exuberant Jeremy The Squirrel and finds himself adopted by a little old lady. Except she’s not very little. Her dressing gown bulges as if under pressure from tumours. They are not tumours. And suddenly we’re in transgressive, Fantagraphics territory.
Velvet vol 3: The Man Who Stole The World s/c (£13-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting with Elizabeth Breitweiser.
In which the period-perfect espionage thriller concludes its first story arc, and it will finally be revealed exactly who has been using whom, and why. Just not here.
What I’ve never done is tell you how I sell this series on our shop floor, with aid of Epting and Breitweiser’s exceptionally sleek and thrilling interior art. So let’s do that thing.
1973. There is an international espionage agency called ARC-7 so secret that most other ops don’t even know it exists. Its agents are so effective that the chances of any of them being taken out in the field are minimal. As VELVET opens, one of their very finest is taken out in the field.
Immediately an inside job is suspected and all fingers point to Frank Lancaster. But Velveteen Templeton, the Director’s secretary, has doubts. A former field agent herself, she suspects it’s a set-up.
It is. But what Templeton doesn’t realise is that she’s being set up to believe it’s a set-up and so get set up herself.
On the run from her own agency, Templeton has been desperately retracing assassinated Agent X-14’s steps and contacts across Eastern Europe while cross-referencing what she discovers with her own substantial and at times painful history in order to work out why X-14 was murdered from within. What had he stumbled upon in America that made him such a threat? Was it the same thing that her husband discovered? Because he too was set up and Templeton took the fall so far for it that she almost didn’t recover.
With only one lead left alive to follow, Templeton believes she has no choice but to take the fight back to America, even though she knows that the second she sets foot on its shores alarm bells will start ringing. She’s counting on it.
“Every move I make from now on has to be two moves.”
Sometimes you won’t see the second move coming; often you won’t have seen the first move being made.
I can’t take you any further with the story, so let’s talk about the art.
Firstly, I love that Velvet shows her age. It’s not just the thick, white streak of maturity in her sable hair, it’s in the eyes that have seen too much and the suggestion of extra flesh around her mouth which put me in mind of Terry Moore’s RACHEL RISING. There was an American TV company desperate to sign the series… if Brubaker would just agree to Templeton being in her mid-20s, thereby missing both the point and the plot.
In addition, her body language changes when undercover as a temp in Paris, her hair dyed grey to fade into the background. She holds a file modestly and meekly to her chest. When she brings a tray of tea to the investment manager’s desk, she’s slightly hunched in high heels.
As to “period perfect”, it’s not just in the fashion of fabrics, though the black bathing suit in VELVET VOL 1 during the flashback to 1950s Bermuda was a masterpiece, its white stripe anticipating the streak which will appear in Velveteen’s hair. It’s also evident in the hotel room furnishings, the bar tops, aircraft interiors, office spaces, shop windows, fly-posters and the cars with their polished chrome.
The Arab Of The Future vol 2: 1984-1985 (£18-99, Two Roads) by Riad Sattouf.
“Christians? Pfft. What’s the point in being Christian in a Muslim country? It’s just a provocation… When you live in a Muslim country, you should do as the Muslims do… It’s not complicated. Just convert to Islam and you’ll be fine…”
One of my favourite pronouncements from Riad’s Dad in THE ARAB OF THE FUTURE VOL 1, it’s typical of the man’s engagingly ridiculous reductions of complex situations to simplistic solutions in search of an easy life.
Most of the comparisons I see bandied about by the likes of the Observer / Guardian are to Spiegelman, Satrapi and Sacco, but Sattouf’s recollections are far closer in tone to Guy Delisle’s equally entertaining PYONGYANG, SHENZHEN, BURMA CHRONICLES and JERUSALEM, in that they’re more observations of individual human quirks and habits or societal customs and behaviour, all seen through the eye of a wide-eyed six-year-old growing up in Syria, but with the added reflection of a more experienced adult.
It’s by no means big bundle of laughs from start to finish. Even within his father’s extended Syrian family there will be some pretty grim encounters and if you thought your first few days at school were a nightmare, Riad’s trepidation proves completely justified. But it is overwhelmingly an entertainment, as signalled by the art with its curvaceous cartoon forms, gesticulations and expressions.
It’s those very skills which flip that first term at school from horrific to mesmerising for the book’s audience, lucky as we are to be viewing from afar, not just in the playground but in class itself, for the teacher is visually riveting. A woman of imposing stature, her face is as soft as her voice, full of love and devotion towards her country and country… until it isn’t, and the entire panel flames red. In addition her garb is a curious combination of modesty and flesh, wearing a hijab above and a very tight, very short shirt exposing her thick, muscular legs and huge, bulging calves atop pencil-thin high heels. She commands the attention of the reader as much as she undoubtedly would have the pupils. Woe betide any for whom that wasn’t the case.
Riad is shown paralysed, utterly subjugated by his situation.
There’s so much more to learn alongside the lad, for he’s new to both the world and to the country, his outsider status compounded by his startling blonde hair inherited from his French mother which is taken by one of his cousins in particular as a sure sign that Riad is Jewish. This is far from good news if you’re growing up in Syria.
As the memoir progresses we’re introduced to more affluent areas of the country, but although his father is comparatively well off, having secured a position at Damascus University, he chooses – to his credit – to set up home in the desperately impoverished village of Ter Maaleh close to the barely more affluent town of Homs in order to be close to his family. Not all of whom feel or act close to him. Both his mother and elderly half-sister whom we meet later adore him, but the men are another matter completely.
Construction is not the country’s forte: you’ll find cracks everywhere, even throughout the more lavish villas. Against all evidence, Riad’s forever daydreaming Dad enjoys the delusion that his villa will be built with superior craftsmanship – if it’s ever built at all. That would require both action and expenditure, neither of which is in his nature.
During the family’s first ever holiday by the sea, he doesn’t want to stray further than their balcony.
“Given how much it costs we should make the most of our room.”
Then there are the rare words of wisdom he issues after a gang of holiday makers rise up from a swimming pool to ransack a stall selling overpriced inflatable rings in its vendor’s absence. Riad wants one too and suggests that they must be free if everyone’s making off with them.
“We’re not thieves. And just because everyone does something, that doesn’t mean you should do it, too.”
Tellingly, however, this constitutes a dissuasive instruction, not one designed to galvanise his son into action. Confronted with stark inequalities or even serious injustices, his mantra remains “That’s life…”
It’s only after a year or so of moving to Syria and their starkly under-furnished home (with its attendant cracks, of course), that he reluctantly shells out for a washing machine and a stove, after Riad’s surprisingly stoical Mum has had to make do with cooking on a camping stove set on the floor. Paying the price for French food is an annual luxury, and when buying his son’s school uniform he opts not for one made of actual cloth with a belt, but the cheap, plastic version whose fake belt is painted on!
This he justifies with the seemingly sage observation that uniforms are a great equaliser, and in others I’d suspect the sacrifice of pride in order to appear as poor as other parents would be honest and noble. But he buys Riad a book bag with pockets which Sattouf renders in lurid green, setting him exceptionally apart from his classmates who carry their pencils around in thin carrier bags.
It’s a fascinating upbringing, full of so much which may seem alien, odd and sometimes outright awful, but we’ve all of us been children and, even if the contexts are different, you’ll find far more in common with this than you might at first imagine. Perhaps I should presume. I certainly found far more in common with these experiences that I first imagine: dreading my first days at three different schools; being proved right twice; humiliating inability to summon any coordination or sports skills (I was briefly nicknamed Sebastian un-Coe); terrifying encounters with kids outside my social experience; bewildering, wrong-headed, paternal epithets; the thrill of early holidays; leaning to draw, and a love of new languages, partly through TINTIN.
Jerusalem h/c and Jerusalem s/c (3 volume Slipcase Edition) (£25-00 each, Knockabout) by Alan Moore.
Alan Moore’s VOICE OF THE FIRE was one of the most imaginative prose books I’ve ever read, with a real love of language, exposing the temporal strata of a single geographical location (Northampton) and mapping their interconnections through a series of first-person narratives with vastly different perspectives.
This too is prose, set in Northampton and deals with time.
Quite how I won’t know for some weeks or months for this is nearly 1,200 pages long and I am an excruciatingly slow reader.
We will have a review for you eventually but, in lieu of that for the moment, we’ve three interviews for you, the first of which is by David Marchese discussing JERUSALEM, the working class, Donald Trump, Brexit and Athenian Democracy.
It begins, hilariously, with this.
“You’ve said in the past that an artist’s job is to give audiences what they need, not what they want. What audience need is being filled by a thousand-plus-page modernist novel built on the idea that all time is happening at the same time?”
“That’s easy. One of the needs it’s filling is for an alternative way of looking at life and death. I have a lot of very dear rationalist, atheist friends who accept that having a higher belief system is good for you — you probably live longer if you have one. You’re probably happier. So I wanted to come up with a secular theory of the afterlife. As far as I can see, and as far as Einstein could see, what I describe in the book looks like a fairly safe option in terms of its actual possibility.”
“Which is that everything that can happen has already happened?”
“So we’ve already had this conversation?”
“It’s probably more accurate to say we’re always having this conversation. We relive it over and over again, and it’s always the same.”
“Then let me retroactively and pre-emptively apologize for that.”
“It does feel like the conversation’s gone on a bit, doesn’t it?”
Both editions appearing to be selling in equal quantities at the moment here, but I personally am plumping for the slipcased softcover set on account of the portability of its component parts and their swoonaway covers as seen above.
The rest of that interview, you’ll find here: http://www.vulture.com/2016/09/alan-moore-jerusalem-comics-writer.html
Power Man And Iron Fist vol 1: The Boys Are Back In Town s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by David Walker & Sanford Greene, Flaviano…
“Are you and him back together again?”
“No, baby. We are not back together. Just gotta take care of this thing.”
“A thing? Okay. Just remember… you’re the one who keeps saying you don’t want to get the band back together.”
“And I don’t. This is just me and him doing what we gotta do.”
“Then go do it. I just don’t want to see any tiara pics. I love you.”
“Love you, too, baby.”
Some people are just destined to end up together, for better or for worse. No matter how times they break up, they are inexorably end up drawn back into each other’s orbit. No, not Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, even though they’ve had their fair share of ups and downs amidst the hustle and bustle of capes, tights and nappies, but Power Man and Iron Fist! Yes, Luke and Danny are back doing their ‘thing’ once more, and that thing is busting heads and wisecracks at the same time. Oh, and trying to retrieve their former Heroes For Hire secretary’s family heirloom. Which just so happens to have ended up in the possession of irascible, rock-hard supervillain Tombstone…
Even though Luke keeps trying to reassure himself this is a one-time ‘thing’, both he and Danny, and indeed a mildly exasperated yet most definitely amused Jessica, know full well the dysfunctional duo ride again once more. At least until poor sales ensure the inevitable cancellation…
Which would be a shame because this is a very funny comic. As funny, dare I say it, as HAWKEYE. It’s the relentless dialogue between the boys, Jessica, and the various bad guys getting a four-handed beatdown that makes it.
Pretty sure I haven’t read anything else this particular writer has done, but so far, the witty repartee wouldn’t look out of place in a Bendis-penned comic. In particular, there is an extremely funny running joke regarding Luke not swearing in front of his and Jessica’s baby where he has to substitute various words instead of cursing. Only to make it stick, he’s doing it all the time, much to Danny’s immense glee…
“Wow, Jessica keeps you on a short leash.”
“We’re not talking ‘bout my relationship with my wife. We’re talking ‘bout the fiddle-faddle favour you committed us to doing.”
“Bet you can’t say fiddle-faddle favour five times fast.”
“Could you stop annoying the fiddle-faddle out of me? Could you do that? Can’t believe we’re doing this.”
“You already said that. Jennie is family.”
“And you said that. Just let me do all the talking. Okay? This guy is a bad knick-knack-paddy-whack.”
Ha, indeed he is. But even the villains like Tombstone get some great lines…
“S’up, Luke. Been a minute. Didn’t know you was back together with Iron Man.”
“Fist. Iron Fist. And we ain’t back together, per se. Just two friends kickin’ it. Good to see you , Lonnie. I like that suit.”
Jump on board the fun train and enjoy the runaway ride before it hits the leaf-encrusted buffers. Very nice art from Sanford Greene too, who I suspect has to be a massive Paul Pope fan.
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.
A Distant Neighbourhood h/c (£19-99, Fanfare / Ponent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi
From Under Mountains s/c (£13-99, Image) by Claire Gibson, Marian Churchland & Sloane Leong
Light (£17-99, Magnetic Press) by Rob Cham
Becoming Andy Warhol (£15-99, Abrams Comic Arts) by Nick Bertozzi & Pierce Hargan
Dali (£12-99, SelfMadeHero) by Baudoin
An Unreliable History Of Tattoos (£14-99, Nobrow) by Paul Thomas
Blame! Vol 1 (Master Edition) (£26-99, Biz) by Tsutomu Nihei
Odd And The Frost Giants h/c (£14-99, Bloomsbury) by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell
Picnoleptic Inertia (£12-99, Breakdown Press) by Tsemberlidis
Nicolas (£9-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Pascal Girard
Batman Beyond vol 2: City Of Yesterday s/c (£13-99, DC) by Dan Jurgens & Bernard Chang
Superman vol 1: Before Truth s/c (£14-99, DC) by Gene Luen Yang & John Romita, Klaus Janson
Wonder Woman: The True Amazon h/c (£20-99, DC) by Jill Thompson
All New, All Different Avengers vol 2: Family Business s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Adam Kubert, Alan Davis, Mahmud Asrar
Captain America: Sam Wilson vol 2: Standoff s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & various
Silver Surfer vol 4: Citizen Of Earth s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Mike Allred
Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga Show vol 1 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by various
Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 40-42 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama
Happiness vol 1 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Shuzo Oshimi
Seraph Of The End, Vampire Reign vol 10 (£6-99, Viz) by Takaya Kagami & Yamato Yamamoto
2000AD Prog 2000 Chris Burnham cover (£3-99, Rebellion) by Earthlets
2000AD Prog 2000 Glenn Fabry cover (£3-99, Rebellion) by the same Perps.
Bryan Lee O’Malley,
and the magnificent Avery Hill Publishing…
… ALL OF WHOM ARE SIGNING WITH US FOR FREE!
ITEM! In additional news, however, the following limited merchandise exclusive to LICAF will be on sale in Page 45’s Georgian Room upstairs in the Kendal Clock Tower, with 20% of the proceeds going to OCD Action, the rest to help fund LICAF itself.
Prints at £25 each:
30 x Charlie Adlard Beatrix Potter
30 x Luke McGarry Beatrix Potter
30 x Duncan Fegredo Beatrix Potter
20 x Dave McKean Black Dog signed
20 x Gilbert Shelton festival giclee
20 x Jordi Bernet festival giclee
20 x Ken Niimura festival giclee
Festival lapel badges £2.50 each
Sets of 4 Beatrix Potter Re-Imagined postcards featuring Hannah Berry, Charlie Adlard, Luke McGarry and Duncan Fegredo £2 each
And, wait for it…
25 x Sean Phillips Kill or Be Killed screenprint (50×70) festival variant £50 each
For more of those images, please see page 43 of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2016 Programme.
We’ll have another surprise – a graphic novel – for you next week!