Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews February 2017 week three

Featuring Gael Bertrand, Jess Fink, Gabrielle Bell, Box Brown, Brecht Evens, Sean Ford, Antony Johnston, Justin Greenwood, Mark Millar, Stuart Immonen, Grant Morrison, Steve Yeowell, more!

Vastly extended News underneath!

The Fuse vol 4: Constant Orbital Revolutions s/c (£13-99, Image) by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood.

And, lo, you shall have answers.

They won’t be the ones you’re expecting.

There will be no spoilers here for even the first three books of THE FUSE, for I am determined you should all leap on board for this, comics’ most compelling crime-precinct procedure, homicide division. The big difference is that this particular precinct lies within an underfunded, patched-up, makeshift steel city on an energy platform orbiting 22,000 miles above terra firma.

There are no aliens here, only human anarchists, separatists, the disillusioned, the disowned, the overworked, the mentally fragile and those desperately seeking answers. It’s packed with political power players and family fall-outs and each episode to date has contained several self-contained crimes for Russian Captain Klem Ristovych and new partner Detective Ralph Dietrich to solve through behavioural observation, forensic detail, systematic deduction, and re-evaluation when conflicting evidence comes unexpectedly to light.

All the while, however, another conflict – a potential conflict of interests – has lurked in the side-lines for do you remember where we came in on THE FUSE VOL 1?

“Only two kinds of police volunteer for The Fuse. Guys who are fucked back on Earth and guys who are fucked back on Earth!”

Do you think Detective Ralph Dietrich is fucked back on Earth?

On paper Klem’s new partner was a catch. Aged 28 with a 75% case clearance rate over three years in Munich, Detective Ralph Dietrich would be shooting up the ranks back on Earth. So why was he the first cop ever to volunteer for this deeply undesirable gig?

Clue: he wasn’t fucked back on Earth. But now he’s probably fucked on The Fuse.

From the writer of THE COLDEST WINTER, WASTELAND and UMBRAL and the artist of Greg Rucka’s STUMPTOWN, I guarantee you total immersion within a mere page or two in spite of its unusual location. As I’ve detailed in depth in all my reviews of THE FUSE, one of Johnston’s great strengths here is a refusal to invent for its own sake. The neologisms are scant as are the technological upgrades wherever unnecessary. Why would the interior of an interplanetary passenger ship be significantly different to the current aisles of its aircraft equivalent when we’ve already mastered vacuum-sealed flight and a balance between comfort and space? Greenwood too keeps it familiar or – as the kids used to say – “real” for the shopping streets lined with pavement and the cafe-strewn, leafy parks which look like any other until you look up at the next deck above.

This leaves the writer, line artist and colour artist Shari Chankhamma (see CODENAME: BABOUSHKA) free to concentrate on where the real splashes should occur, like Level 44’s Earthlight experience where citizens can float together in zero-gravity while lying back and bathing in the shared beauty that is planet Earth when seen from space.

Oh dear God, that celestial lighting! I don’t know about you, but I would spend every waking, non-working moment there!

This is where Ralph finds Klem at the beginning of this book, contemplating her well earned retirement on Mars. It won’t come without family complications, but it will finally relieve Klem of the day-in, day-out, non-stop pressures of policing a place which can be an all-too trapped-in tinderbox of exasperation, desperation and detonation. No wonder her hair has gone white.

Now, I promised you no spoilers, but I’m resolved all the same to highlight Johnston’s forethought when it comes to this instalment’s tensions. Because detonation is once more determined to be a real, present and urgent danger, but then it has been before when it turned out to be a hoax. Johnston set that up way back then in order to wrong-foot some of his protagonists now. Specifically – without naming names – individuals’ reactions to prior crises might either inform their current actions or shine a culpable-looking light on their motivations, proclamations or practices.

There is so much more which I want to impress upon you (please see prior reviews), but I’m hoping you can infer from that paragraph alone that your creators have made this all far from obvious. It’s so easy, isn’t it, to make the newcomer Ralph fallible and so the butt of his more mature, resident, all-knowing, no-nonsense Captain? But what if she’s made a mistake? If she read him wrong about being fucked back on Earth, then who knows what other presumptuous miscalculations she’s made, both perilously closer to her familial home and abroad?

I’m afraid this isn’t going to end well for anyone.

SLH

Buy The Fuse vol 4: Constant Orbital Revolutions s/c and read the Page 45 review here

A Land Called Tarot h/c (£17-99, Image) by Gael Bertrand…

Yet another beautiful offspring gestated from the wondrous womb of the ISLAND anthology series, following in the footsteps of paper siblings Emma Rioss I.D., Simon Roy’s HABITAT and Matt Shean & Malachi Ward’s ANCESTOR. This wordless flight of fantasy was collected in 3 parts, beginning in ISLAND #4, concluding in #10, and I think part 2 was in #6. Not that it particularly matters, I suppose, now it has been put together with a handful of extra pages at the beginning and end for good measure.

The extra pages, all full-page spreads, don’t particularly add anything to the story, just bookend it. Also, as Gael Bertrand has commented, it isn’t really about the story as such, more of a meandering journey of a quest that passes by several spectacular locations with a theme of physical and spiritual transformation running through it. (It’s very INCAL in that sense, actually.)

No, this is just more of a relaxing visual engine to pull your train of consciousness along on a ride through exquisite scenery. In that sense it feels a little bit like some of the slower sequences in Miyazaki films. The lack of narration only adds to the magical charm as the Knight of Swords traverses Tarot either confronting or consorting with the inhabitants as he purposefully pursues his goal.

Visually it has the Euro-feel of a Humanoids publication, and the closest work that springs to mind as a whole, artistically and in tone, is THE RING OF THE SEVEN WORLDS, just re-released in softcover. Fans of PORCELAIN will enjoy this too as well I reckon. I think these sensibilities explain why this, relatively unusually for an Image work, has had an initial hardcover release.

 

On that point, I find the cover design itself a rather interesting, if mildly perverse choice. It’s grey and white, with a fairly plain display of four icon-like animal heads, which does practically nothing to indicate the riot of colour and artistic complexity you’ll find inside. I think perhaps it is designed to look like a pack of cards with four suits. Though I can’t deny it is an extremely visual striking image, which, combined with the title, will undoubtedly get people to pick it up and have a peek betwixt its covers, revealing the luminous, dazzling brilliance within.

JR

Buy A Land Called Tarot h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Empress vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Millarworld) by Mark Millar & Stuart Immonen.

Ive Svrocina produces some lovely lambent colours for Immonen’s art which in the first of these fast-paced chapters alone delivers dinosaurs, space ships, dogfights with ‘dactyls, a vast arena of death and many an exploding flight deck.

It is sleek, it is slick, it is sexy.

An artist whose cap carries many feathers, Immonen here is in shiny ALL-NEW X-MEN mode rather than the cartoon bomb of NEXTWAVE, SECRET IDENTITY’s neo-classicism or RUSSIAN OLIVE TO RED KING’s quiet if colourful restraint. He’s basically delivering your epic STAR WARS space opera. He is quite the visual chameleon.

It’s a very quick comic which accelerates from nought to warp in under a dozen pages then continues on much the same flight path and at spectacular speed, as our Empress and her entourage attempt to escape then stay out of the iron-fisted clutches of merciless King Morax.

 

At-a-glance menu, then we’ll get to the meaty bits:

Implacable tyrant: big, burly and thriving on fear; a right old grumpy-chops with a sadistic smile.

Disillusioned Missus: miffed that life with said implacable tyrant hasn’t turned out to be as exotic or erotic as it looked like from the other side of the bar she once served him in, although she has endured her love life long enough to sire…

Children, sundry: allegiances varied until fired upon by Daddy’s Doberman Punchers. Even then, although younger Adam knows he’d have been butchered by his father sooner or later for being soft, his older sister Aine resents her mother’s potential love-interest, one…

Captain Dane Havelok: loyal to miffed Missus, who effects swift departure from Terminal 5 (inter-planetary, non-domestic) before there’s a domestic.

Result: much spluttering in soup etc.

Do you trust Mark Millar? You should by now.

This is the man responsible for KINGSMAN, JUPITER’S LEGACY, JUPITER’S CIRCLE, ULTIMATES, NEMEMIS, MPH, SUPERIOR, CIVIL WAR, AMERICAN JESUS, CHRONONAUTS, MARVEL 1985, SUPERCROOKS and so much more but, hey, that’s what our search engine is for.

In our escapees’ way he throws multiple obstacles including if not kith, then kin, and carnivorous monsters; stop-over planets whose weather conditions prove ill-conducive to their journey’s resumption, an alien race called the Quez who are so money-minded they are prepared to lease out their own bodies to those gluttonous enough to want to go on an all-you-can-scoff, calorie-uncontrolled riot while the Quez keep their original bodies loose and limber; and King Morax’s pitiless pursuit, executing anyone who’s caught a glimpse of his family regardless of whether they attempted to impede their progress or reduce their life expectancy to milliseconds.

What Millar so cleverly does is introduce some of these elements (and more) early on so that by the time their true, fatal impact is felt, you’ve forgotten in what way they might pose a threat.

He does the same for elements which might prove the family’s salvation, including one key skill, a clue to whose hiding he lets drop in such a manner that you will never see it coming but, once that reason for its sequestration is revealed, will give you the most enormous personal satisfaction. And it is – very personal.

Immonen is no slouch with spectacle, yet he excels particularly in his characterisation of younger brother Adam and older sister Aine. Aine shows early signs of a bullish obstinacy, her jaw jutting out in a profiled one-on-one confrontation with her mother, her eyes narrowed in an I’m-not-listening or letting-you-in defiance.

Technologically gifted Adam, meanwhile, shows unexpected resilience in the wake of adversity and spies opportunity where others would see junk, but when – in spite of their combined best efforts – things spiral combustibly out of anyone’s control, his bitten lower lip is so taut that you can almost feel it stretched to tearing.

As to the blue-bearded Captain Havelok, every valiant gallant should be immaculately equipped, and his hair never once lets anyone down.

Have a peak under the dust jacket for an extra gold-foiled thrill.

SLH

Buy Empress h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Powerman (£5-99, Kilgore) by Box Brown…

“I had a vision up there.
“There’s more money in this city than anywhere.
“Infinite money.
“For me. My money.
“The city needs Gary Beesh.
“The world needs Gary Beesh.”

Gary Beesh, with bequiffed orange hair and ginormous ego, parachuted entirely undeservingly into the top job of real estate mogul in a company owned by his wealthy father… Does he remind you of anyone, I wonder…?

The comparison is entirely intended by Box Brown as he launches a ludicrously funny critique of a certain crass, bumptious businessman with the worst haircut a public figure has had since… errmm… forever? Though arguably you could make a case for Arthur Scargill on that whispy, whooshing front, perhaps…

I’m sure when Box was creating this mini-masterpiece not even he knew just how far The Donald was destined to ascend, with real life becoming even more preposterous than surely any writer of fiction would have been prepared to pen for fear of ridicule. Though we are, of course, all waiting for the presumably inevitable, spectacular fall from grace. How can it not end in tears? Just hopefully not radioactive ones…

Here though, taking his cue from the man himself, Box doesn’t worry about the facts and provides a frantically funny alt-biography of the tinsel-haired tyrant. As ever, it’s Box doing exactly what he does best, picking one crackpot conceit and seeing how far he can go with it. Or just one crackpot in this case, I suppose! As the writers of Saturday Night Live are finding out with glee week after week, The Donald provides more than a budget surplus worth of material to work with. Which is just as well, because his chances of providing an actual budget surplus are absolutely zero…

For more from the great man – Box obviously, not The Donald – check out TETRIS – THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAY and also AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS. Which, I will grant you sounds the like The Donald’s approach to monitoring twitter for any dissenting voices before chucking his toys out of the pram, or at least in the vague direction of the keyboard, but no, it’s a collection of Box’s finest shorts. The Donald of course, only wears Y-fronts…

JR

Buy Powerman and read the Page 45 review here

Night Animals (£6-99, Top Shelf) by Brecht Evens.

Two early silent stories, finally back on our shelves thanks to John Porcellino’s Spit And A Half in America, from the creator of THE MAKING OF, THE WRONG PLACE and PANTHER.

First a middle-aged man in a business suit zips over it a bunny suit and waits for his date in the park. Evidently stood up, he doesn’t give up but rather gathers his bouquet, takes it to a bar and jumps down its toilet. Thereafter it’s a phantasmagorical, subaquatic journey through hell and high water down to the depths where only the angler fish see. Ride A White Shark is a song which Marc Bolan never quite sang, but he might have been tempted to if he’d read this first; he did love comics, after all. Will our ardent lover’s determination pay off? I wasn’t sure if it would, but I adored the resolution.

There are hearts hidden all over the place in both stories: a nesting pair of vultures, their necks entwined; the snaking shape of a rabbit burrow, on clothes, at the bottom of a bed… Also an awful lot of anatomical holes, not so well hidden.

In the second story there are four birds perched on a branch towards the top-left of a double-page spread, who seem to be signaling in semaphore. I can save you some time and tell you they’re not – there’s a ‘U’ there but nothing else, just the Beatles’ single cover never spelled ‘Help’ (it was intended to, but the photographer didn’t like the shape they made!).

Coming to that second story, then: a young girl changing after a P.E. lesson experiences her first period and flees school to curl up in bed, pulling the covers up, tight to her neck. Small spots of red trace her path up the stairs, past her puzzled parents. The dog has a lick. At night, however, the menstrual stain spreads over the page as a horned, hairy creature of the woods (Pan, to me, not the devil – though it would depend on your thoughts on female sexuality) sits at the bottom of the bed, playing its pipes, its legs in striped leggings, its feet in red, heeled shoes. She is dragged out the window and carried away to a Bacchanal where she’s gradually transfigured (or again, some would say corrupted), growing older, more comfortable, more exuberant by the second.

There are some wonderful creatures flirting and rutting there as the red grows darker still, but the story has a far more ambiguous, sobering conclusion than the first which I enjoyed even more.

Something to make you think, then, and something to admire for all its individualistic craft.

SLH

Buy Night Animals and read the Page 45 review here

Truth Is Fragmentary (£17-99, Uncivilised Books) by Gabrielle Bell…

“For some reason I felt like a big, inert defenceless slug while everyone bantered around me. I felt spongy and porous, like any effort to contribute to the conversation would collapse in on itself, with no shell to brace myself on.”

Of Gabrielle’s THE VOYEURS I commented “Collection of mostly new material from one of comics’ self-professed mildly neurotic and slightly depressed creators. Not quite up there in the excruciating ‘I’d probably rather not have known that but I’m glad you told me’ honesty stakes of say, Joe SPENT Matt, this is still a very amusing and simultaneously enervating look into the mind of a comics creator. Gabrielle perfectly captures the gently tortured soul of the OCD-afflicted procrastinator, we’re just fortunate that keeping a journal is one of her obsessions!”

Well, nothing much has changed, which is great for us readers who enjoy dissecting said tortured souls of autobiographical comics creators. This time around, however, instead of the North American comics convention circuit (and for more of that anguished existence you really must check out Dustin Harbin’s DIARY COMICS) we get treated to Gabrielle’s overseas visits to various international conventions and festivals whilst anxiously taking in France, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and indeed even Columbia. Well, anxious at least for her, I found it hilarious to read.

‘Miss Bell’s travel companion, Mr. Restrapo, did not see the erratic flight as cause for alarm.’

“I was thinking that if the plane crashed I wouldn’t have to finish my graphic novel.”
“Why are you so tragic?”

The tragi-comedy of Gabrielle Bell. Read it and weep… tears of mirth.

JR

Buy Truth Is Fragmentary and read the Page 45 review here

Chester 5000 XYV Book 2: Isabelle & George h/c (£13-99, Top Shelf) by Jess Fink.

More erotic steampunk to get your pistols pumping and your expansion valves venting as Isabelle escapes a mean old boiler at an orphanage by marrying a man she meets down a drycleaner’s on the verge of an automated upgrade.

Almost instantly all their clothes fall off, but – as Kenny Everett’s Cupid Stunt use to wail while flinging her legs crossed in flagrantly faux modesty – “I’m telling you the plot!

Although, in this instance, no. For there are far more Machiavellian forces at work in this dawn of the machine age, most of them involving money and one of them the military, as George falls foul of an industrial accident, thence a ruthless old opportunist prepared to pay off George and Isabelle’s crippling medical costs in exchange for… But that would be telling you the plot.

Fortunately Pricilla and fellow inventor Robert from CHESTER 5000 XYV BOOK 1 are on hand, along with their loving automaton Chester, and some early drunken fumblings suggest that equal-opportunities action may not be far behind.

At 180 pages this second silent saga is far more substantial than CHESTER 5000 XYV BOOK 1 whose review is one long, lewd punathon. I’ll only end up repeating myself if I go any further, but bravo for feminist, non-discriminatory sex without shame, for more of which – and a big heart of gold – I recommend Jade Sarson’s FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MARIE!

Soft, tender but ever so certainly not safe for work.

SLH

Buy Chester 5000 XYV Book 2: Isabelle & George h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Only Skin (£19-99, Secret Acres) by Sean Ford.

“What are ghosts even made of anyway?”
“That’s immaterial, Clay.”

… says the ghost.

Both Stephen R. Bissette and Farel Dalrymple commend this book to you on the back, and I do so here but not for the same reasons. I seem to have had a slightly different experience: that of an enjoyably staged, spacious affair set in and around small-town America with the tone and timing of THIEVES AND KINGS. It’s pretty hefty; few very early works are this long these days. 

Cassie and younger brother Clay arrive back at the petrol station run by their Dad after eight years absence. Chris has been running it 24/7 ever since their Dad disappeared a fortnight ago. He’s so bushed he’s virtually narcoleptic and seems to have slept through the latest incident: severed fingers found in a pool of blood beside the petrol pump. He’s reporting it to Tracy the Sheriff just as they arrive.

Paul is dreaming of his father’s acute illness. The hospital room opens up to the woods – his father has disappeared into them. Still, at least he’s not ill himself, yet. He meets his friend Albert in the diner close to where the locals are protesting against all the people missing after venturing into the woods. The Sheriff wants to close them off while they investigate. Albert suspects ulterior motives: that she’s financially in bed with forest ranger Jonah, wanting to raise the woods to the ground for profit.

Jonah went missing a week ago. Whether or not he is financially in bed with Tracy, he’s biblically in bed with Rachel, and his wife Angie is far from best pleased. She brings their son Jordan over to play with Clay. Chris is drawing deer, Clay is drawing ghosts – specifically the sort of bed-linen ghost that floats through the air, just like the one that lured him out to the woods last night and showed a deer, slashed deep by claws. There was something else in the woods last night.

Jordan says he’s seen the ghost too, but he hasn’t. The floating bed sheet informs Clay of that in no uncertain terms, and has a little fun with Jordan to prove it. A woman falls through the diner door, exhausted.

It’s all very dreamlike and utterly charming. There is something dark in the heart of this as the mystery plays itself out, but no one seems to have picked up on the comedy. The ghost is hilarious. Although immaterial, it casts a shadow wherever it goes and when it rises from the paddling pool it drips water! It is at once demanding yet oblivious, and the piece at the party was in retrospect brilliant.

I won’t deny for one second that the blank-eyed art is slightly derivative, but hey, almost all art by this point has to be derivative and we should all choose our sources so well!

Look, I found you a little something extra, although honesty dictates that I concede that it’s not actually in this new edition.

Still, pretty neat, huh?

Click to enlarge, as with almost all our interior art!

SLH

Buy Only Skin and read the Page 45 review here

The Ring Of The Seven Worlds s/c (£17-99, Humanoids) by Gionvanni Gualdoni, Gabriele Clima & Matteo Piana.

Back at Humanoids after a sojourn at Sloth Comics, this Euro sci-fi fantasy caper was original published in four album-sized French editions.

Seven planets are linked together by a multidimensional ring teleportation system, built by long-forgotten, mysterious creators in a previous eon. One planet has been severed from the others for three centuries after they started a war against the rest of the Empire, but now, somehow, they have launched a devastating surprise attack through a different ring.

The reveal as to how this is possible, when it comes, is very clever, albeit a touch deus ex machina. Clues were dropped, in retrospect, but I didn’t guess. A highly enjoyable romp with not inconsiderable steampunk elements, and exquisitely illustrated to boot.

 

 

JR

Buy The Ring Of The Seven Worlds s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Invisibles Book 1 s/c (£22-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Steve Yeowell, Jill Thompson, Chris Weston, Duncan Fegredo, Steve Parkhouse, Dennis Cramer, John Ridgway.

Hahaha! Well, now.

Like Morrison’s DOOM PATROL – and so many more Vertigo series besides – THE INVISIBLES is being repackaged in chunkier books (as opposed to “volumes”) and this contains #1-12.

I’ve always described Morrison and Case’s DOOM PATROL as one of those high-altitude, serpentine water slides: once you’ve started you cannot get off, so you might as well lie back, prepared to get wet and enjoy the white-knuckle ride. It was deliriously fine, mind-frazzling fun and, however crazy, it never once slipped over the albeit worryingly low edges to plummet into the suicidal insanity and the crowds down below.

THE INVISIBLES managed a mere four issues of rebellious, revolutionary insight and incite – illustrated with vigour and a singularly British flair by ZENITH’s Steve Yeowell – before not just slipping but jettisoning itself over those imaginary railings.

All art by Steve Yeowell from the first four fabulous issues

Normally I would lambast myself for inadequate comprehension, for being far too stupid to understand the great Grant Morrison because on the whole, though not always, I am a fan. See WE3, KILL YOUR BOYFRIEND, ARKHAM ASYLUM, BATMAN INCORPORATED, ZENITH, DOOM PATROL (obviously) and ST. SWITHIN’S DAY (you can’t).

But our Mark independently came to the same conclusion halfway through the fifth issue and (I learned last week) so did our Jonathan.

We would, of course, all stand a much better chance of synching ourselves up to this self-indulgence if DC were prepared to level the playing fields by issuing these collections with the same recreationals which Morrison notoriously consumed in elephantine quantities while writing the scripts.

If you doubt me at all, please read Grant’s autobiographical SUPERGODS.

Your best hope is to buy two copies of each collected edition, snip out all the panels, rearrange them into something vaguely resembling chronological order, then perform a brief, drug-enhanced ritual involving a Tibetan mountain and no less than 39 missing letters of the Urdu alphabet. Even then, like the average pension scheme, we offer only the flimsiest of guarantees.

Wizard magazine for comicbook speculators whose demise was pithily greeted by MILK & CHEESE’s Evan Dorkin as “the end of an error” once published a devastatingly succinct and howl-inducingly accurate piss-take of THE INVISIBLES in the form of an April Fool’s advertisement aping cover artist (the brilliant Brian Bolland) to perfection:

“The End Of The World… Or a Cat On A Bowling Ball?”

But you are due, at the very least, an objective if rudimentary summary, so for those of you new to this provocative meander-thon (pilfered, Morrison maintains, for The Matrix), The Invisibles is a secret cell of anarchists talented in various aspects of what could loosely be described as the occult, determined to see our lives freed from the threat of a trans-temporal, inter-dimensional, pan-sexual straightjacket.

Reality, sexuality, order, chaos, language and control, it’s all here for the decryption. Join Lord Fanny, King Mob, Ragged Robin, Jack Frost, Edith Manning, Jolly Roger and the rest of these mentalists in their fight for your future’s freedom!

I leave you with a guide as to what to expect using the original volumes’ seven-volume titles:

Say You Want A Revolution: Did it really all begin here, with a young boy named Dane and a secret world which he suddenly saw lurking behind what passed for reality?

Apocalipstick: Things go from bad to worse – you can always count on that. You can also count on things not being what they seem.

Entropy In The UK: They say that everyone has their breaking point. But it’s what’s being broken that really matters – and who’s breaking it.

Bloody Hell In America: Secrets are hard to keep, unless they’re too big to be believed. The bigger the government, the bigger the secrets become.

Counting To None: Time is of the essence, it transpires. But the essence of what might surprise you.

Kissing Mr. Quimper: Learning from history is one thing, but writing the history yourself is another, particularly when it hasn’t happened yet.

The Invisible Kingdom: Who even knows?

For a far more in-depth and enlightened appraisal please see News below.

SLH

Buy Invisibles Book 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

New Avengers by Bendis Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & various.

Previously in NEW AVENGERS BB CC VOL 1:

The New Avengers learned that they have a problem with S.H.I.E.L.D. – the high-tech espionage unit that’s supposed to safe-guard America and the rest of the world it approves of against the parts of the globe that it doesn’t – in that it had been infiltrated and so corrupted. What they didn’t learn is that they also have a problem with H.Y.D.R.A., the high-tech cult which is particularly partial to just that sort of infiltration and corruption.

They’ve even managed to infiltrate the New Avengers.

Meanwhile back in SECRET WAR (about illegally invading sovereign nations in retaliation to terrorism) everyone concerned learned that they have a problem with Nick Fury – former head of said S.H.I.E.L.D. – who’s since gone underground.

Whose side is who on? Okay, but whose side is who really on? Oh, you’ll think you’ve got it figured out, but there’s reversal upon reversal ahead, and CIVIL WAR approaches.

But first: a trip to Japan to gawp blissfully the cherry blossom.

Finch delivers the first chunk of the art and does so to spectacular, muscular effect, including a chaotic fight with a hoard of ninja way up in one of Stark’s rooftop penthouses. Whoops, there goes another Ming vase.*

You may have begun to suspect that a certain degree of additional reading / homework is required. You’re not wrong, for the rest of this whopping tome heavily references both Grant Morrison’s three-volume NEW X-MEN, Bendis’s own HOUSE OF M (in which you’ll learn what became of Wanda) and relies entirely on you reading the original CIVIL WAR before this book’s final act.

There you’ll find four short stories including one with pencils by Leinil Yu in which Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and their baby are threatened, in their own home, by Iron Man. It is a blisteringly impassioned piece.

Lastly we move on to ‘The Confession’, a poignant two-part reprise in the wake of CIVIL WAR and THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA in which Iron Man addresses Captain America, and Captain America addresses Iron Man under very specific circumstances which I cannot impart for fear of spoiling the first half’s punchline or the end to CIVIL WAR itself.

All I will say is it was typical of Bendis’ instinct for unorthodox storytelling that they are presented in the order they are, and quite rightly so for hindsight is a very cruel mistress courting dramatic irony like she or he was the very last lady or gent in town.

DAREDEVIL ‘s Alex Maleev delivers it directly and you’ll note that although in the first half – the actual, honest, titular Confession –  Stark takes off his helmet, in the second sequence Iron Man keeps his mask on throughout even though the two former friends are alone. The effect is a stony silence, Captain America’s words effectively bouncing back off the intransigent, impassive metal as if unheard or at least unfelt.

King Pyrrhus is referenced with good reason.

* Yes, yes, I know my Chinese ceramics. Call it another invasion / occupation / appropriation reference. It’s far from inapposite as you’ll see further down the line when SECRET INVASION kicks in.

Lord, but you have to read a lot of other books to keep up with this series!

SLH

Buy New Avengers by Bendis Complete Collection vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

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.

Seven To Eternity vol 1: The God Of Whispers s/c (£8-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Jerome Opena

Eclipse vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Image) by Zack Kaplan & Giovanni Timpano

The Killer vol 5 h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Matz & Luc Jacamon

2000 AD’s Greatest: Celebrating Forty Years (£12-99, Rebellion) by various

Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth Uncensored s/c (£19-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & John Wagner, various

The Thrilling Adventures Of Lovelace And Babbage s/c (£12-99, Penguin) by Sydney Padua

Tom’s Midnight Garden h/c (£12-99, Oxford Press) by Philippa Pearce & Edith

Angel Catbird vol 2: To Castle Catula h/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Margaret Atwood & Johnnie Christmas

Evil Emperor Penguin Strikes Back (£8-99, David Fickling Books) by Laura Ellen Anderson

How Train Your Dragon vol 1: The Serpent’s Heir s/c (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Dean DeBlois, Richard Hamilton & Doug Wheatley

Locke & Key: Small World h/c (£13-99, IDW) by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

The Merchant Of Venice h/c (£18-99, Candlewick Press) by William Shakespeare & Gareth Hinds

Superman Action Comics vol 1: Path Of Doom s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Dan Jurgens & Patrick Zircher, Tyler Kirkham, Stephen Segovia, Art Thibert

Extraordinary X-Men vol 3: Kingdoms Fall s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Jeff Lemire & Victor Ibanez

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor vol 6: Sins Of The Father (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Titan) by Nick Abadzis & Giorgia Sposito, Eleonora Carlini

Berserk vol 4 (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Kentaro Miura

Fruits Basket Collector’s Edition vol 9 (£14-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya

News

ITEM! Jiro Taniguchi RIP. Gutted.

After an hour’s contemplation I finally managed to sum up what Taniguchi meant to me in 140 characters for Twitter:

“His works are full of quiet, considered reflection; his art mirrors & matches the beauty of the world he saw around him.”

Of course, we’ve written a great deal more about Taniguchi. A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD was an early Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, and more recently THE GUARDIANS OF THE LOUVRE wowed us with its lines, light and colours. It’s rare for Japanese comics to come in colour.

For far more, please pop ‘Jiro Taniguchi’ into our search engine.

ITEM! Every month our Jonathan AKA J45 slings together a Page 45 Mailshot dispatched over the mintyweb via email. You can sign up to the Page 45 Mailshot here.

Within he takes a gander at Page 45’s free online edition of Diamond’s PREVIEWS detailing the majority – but not all – of the comics and graphic which will be published in two to four months time.

Here’s what Jonathan wrote about February 2017 Previews on the Page 45 website for comics and graphic novels arriving April 2017 onwards:

“If you are a Jeff Lemire fan, (if not, why not?) you ought to be rather happy with a power trio of treasures. Let’s begin!

“From Fantagraphics there’s some typically diverse delights. Firstly, for really out there period manga lovers – all three of us – we have DING DONG CIRCUS collecting Sasaki Maki’s avant garde material from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. It’s… strange, trust me. Then there’s PURGATORY, which according to the blurb “For the committed outsider, adolescence can be a nightmare of constructing elaborate strategies in order to avoid the narrow paths society has paved for us.” Such as reading comics perhaps? Finally, one I am definitely interested in myself, ZANARDI features the work of Andrea Pazienza who “was part of a group of Italian cartoonists who pioneered an approach to comics comparable to Moebius and Robert Crumb. Zanardi portrays teenagers coping with family problems, school, sex, and drugs”. Sounds great.

“It has been rather a while, but I am very happy to report that the third volume of the gorgeous SIEGFRIED from Archaia is finally coming out. Nope, not a Previews two months in advance April Fool, ho ho, it really is coming out! Hopefully they will get the first two back into print as well. (Okay, that is stretching it, this is Archaia we are talking about!) Yet more Jeff Lemire with an original graphic novel ROUGHNECK about “a brother and sister who must come together after years apart to face the disturbing history that has cursed their family.”  The BOOK OF CHAOS from Humanoids sounds slightly like by the numbers Euro-fare sci-fi / fantasy fare, but you never know, they don’t do many duff ones. LOOK by Jon Nielsen about a lonely robot just sounds like a great bit of fun sci-fi that will appeal to fans of Wall-E. Guilty as charged!

“From Image we have the intriguing and also rather, okay very, puzzling A.D. AFTER DEATH from Scott Snyder & Jeff Lemire. Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Rizzo return under cover of furry night with the booze addled, gore-fest MOONSHINE VOL 1. Resurrection romp with a twist REBORN from Mark Miller & Greg Capullo is gripping me in monthly issue form. Meanwhile, break the piggy bank, here’s Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples’ SAGA DELUXE HC VOL 2 collecting volumes 4,5 & 6 with extra goodies. I know you will already have it in one form or another, or both, but don’t let that stop you!

“Finally, a rare mention for some Marvel material… There’s the second volume of Jeff Lemire’s utterly insane and indeed brilliant MOON KNIGHT run. That’ll be cancelled shortly then from total lack of interest from the fanboys… JESSICA JONES is back and up to her neck in it as usual thanks to Messers. Bendis and Gaydos. Also worth a mention is Kelly Thompson’s HAWKEYE VOL 1 now starring Kate Bishop and trying admirably to continue the Fraction themed take on The Archers.

“Can you even imagine Matt Fraction writing The Archers…? Radio 4 listeners would be choking on their rich tea biscuits!”

ITEM! Displeased by my dismissal of INVISIBLES BOOK 1 above?

In 2011 Amy Poodle expended a great deal more thought derived from a much keener intelligence than mine* on Grant Morrison’s magnum opus in two articles for The Comics Journal on ‘The Invisibles And Hauntology’:

http://www.tcj.com/bomb-light-in-faraway-windows-the-invisibles-and-hauntology/

http://www.tcj.com/hauntology-and-the-invisibles-part-ii/

ITEM! Warren Ellis is headlining at the North London Literary Festival, Middlesex University on 16 March 2017.

WILD STORM #1 by Warren Ellis & John Davis-Hunt is on sale today!

ITEM! Sarah McIntyre is announced as the BookTrust’s new Writer In Residence!

Oh, Sarah will be so galvanising there! If you watch the short film, please stick around for the aftermath, then pop ‘Sarah McIntyre’ into our search engine for reviews.

ITEM! Arcadian elegance, eloquence and joy! Look at these trees, buffeted by the breeze (2nd)! Breathtakingly beautiful Nico Delort art prints for sale:

http://www.gallerynucleus.com/detail/22222/

http://www.gallerynucleus.com/detail/22223/

 

 – Stephen

* Please note: that’s neither sarcasm nor false modesty; I am all too aware of my own limitations.

At times I can be more incite than insight.

 

 

 

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