Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews March 2017 week five

Featuring Brandon Graham & Marian Churchland, Michael DeForge, Ron Regé Jr, Ray Fawkes, Katriona Chapman, Sarah Graley, Jon Klassen and more!

“Giotto would be gurning in his grave.” – Stephen on Siberia 56

Katzine: The Factory Issue (£5-50) by Katriona Chapman.

But then, months later, the Dutch police arrive…

Would you just look at that cover!

Printed on rough-grained watercolour paper, it’s a gorgeous thing to hold in your hand. The balance of form is phenomenal, its sense of box-burdened weight is impressive and the combination of colours so surprisingly rich when you take stock of each individual component. Those have to be the warmest greys I had ever beheld in my life… until the glimpse we’ve given within of Chapman’s forthcoming graphic novel.

It cannot come quick enough.

This is the sixth self-contained KATZINE so far, each one of which I found mesmerising, but none more so than this. Chapman has that rare ability not merely to engage her readers with personal areas of interest – always judiciously chosen from her rich, well travelled life – but to entrance us almost immediately and leave us pondering long afterwards.

Here she’s taken a subject you’d least expect to rivet you – that of monotonous, assembly-line factory work for one and a half years in Amsterdam – and created an absorbing account of living, breathing individuals learning from each other. This must have been one of the most diverse gatherings of international co-workers ever and here is the key: Katriona cares. She’s profoundly interested in people, and her interest is infectious. They’re also a fascinating bunch.

Every workplace is a community, and within most communities there are both nurturers and nightmares. So it is here.

What amused me most of all, however, is what this factory was constructing: conveyor belts for other assembly-line factories! Some fit together in pre-ordained patterns from interlocking plastic modules like ridiculously long jigsaw puzzles, but others require the ramming of lubricated steel rods right through their width, and you know how when you’re running, leaping, diving and rolling around on screen during a console game and you realise you’re replicating exactly those movements while sat on your sofa…? Such is the skill in a single panel when Chapman rams the rod “through hard, with a twist of the wrist” that I caught myself almost mimicking it. I could certainly feel the force required.

Her tenure and recollection begins on 11th March 2002 when a man took eighteen people hostage at gunpoint in Amsterdam’s Rembrandt Tower. It’s a context which never quite leaves one throughout the account, so when Kat’s agency rep comes to call with a new set of contracts, however innocuous they seem, one begins to feel slightly uneasy for her. Nope, they’re fine – it must have been my imagination.

But then, months later, the Dutch police arrive…

SLH

Buy Katzine: The Factory Issue and read the Page 45 review here

Arclight s/c (£13-99, Image) by Brandon Graham & Marian Churchland.

“Arclight?”
“My lady, your body has returned.”

There are so many strains of fantasy but the most infectious by far are those that are ethereal and otherworldly, not just in aspect but in custom and cadence and the way in which their creators communicate them to us. ARCLIGHT excels at all four.

Mysteries should not be delivered to you, hand-held, but laid before you in such a way that you are required to tease them apart yourselves. There’s a difference between obscure and oblique.

We first meet Lady Kinga in the protection of her loyal knight, Sir Arclight, far out at the border-edge of the Blood House lands. She seems far more at ease amongst its vast trees than surrounded by the courtiers of her kingdom and this is as well, for she is not as she was.

Those are not matted tresses blowing in the breeze from beneath her hood, but twigs jutting out from under it. The noblewoman has become trapped in an alien body, her nature known only to Arclight. She is in possession of arcane knowledge and an instinct in touch with both the natural and unnatural world. She senses that a powerful magic has passed by, warping the wood in its wake, shaping it into tunnels of knotted and gnarled, raised roots.

It is there that they discover a newt-like creature of fire-red skin, limp and dying from its contact with that magic so, in order to preserve the beast, they must perform some of their own, transferring its essence to a goose. For this transition they require blood which, while sustaining life within the body, is always on the move and of which Lady Kinga has none. Instead she uses a portion of what she carries in flasks. All magic here requires the letting of blood, and a lot will be required; but Lady Kinga’s supply is limited.

There’s so much to recommend this, from the world-building to the world-painting. Like ZAYA, the early pages come with a restrained Arthur Rackham palette in an ancient woodland setting which Rackham admirers would feel quite at home in and populated by the two figures they would be equally comfortable keeping company with. The light at the root-tunnel entrance is very subtle.

Against these olive-browns the blood, the beast and the turquoise cloak which Sir Arclight wears over his carved-bone armour stand out a mile. Later the light – and there is so much light! – will be flecked with pale blues, purples, yellows and greens whorling around in the sky like a William Turner sunrise or storm.

Given that this is written by the creator of MULTIPLE WARHEADS and KING CITY and both drawn and coloured by the creator of the equally allusive, elusive BEAST, you would be so surprised if this repeated old tropes without infusing them with something new to comics. I imagine Charles Vess of SANDMAN, STARDUST and DRAWING DOWN THE MOON would swoon over this, but equally so Monsieur Moebius, for the double-page landscapes are epic.

But this is an alchemical fusion which transmutes those and any other influences into an entirely new element of Churchland’s own crafting. I’m speculating on Rackham, Vess and Moebius but I know for a fact that Churchland incorporated Yoshitaka Amano’s fashion sense into the mix. Sir Arclight in his aquamarine cloak could easily be from Faerie nobility, far from incongruous in A Midsummer Night’s dream, and there is much of the Elizabethan about everything here from the courtly intrigues to its couture.

And so we come to the androgyny and it’s not your Natassja Kinski ‘Cat People’, girl-with-a-boy’s-bob thing going on. Cut to the court, and it’s ostensibly a much more sybaritic affair but also, above and beneath that, a genuine, heartfelt and complete relaxation of stereotypes to form new norms. Well, new to comics. Thankfully it’s being going on around us in real life for years.

Meanwhile, far beneath those palatial, stone surroundings Lady Kinga’s modest apartment, hidden away in a quiet understone pass is – like her new body – far more fibrous with wooden bookshelves, books and an armchair fashioned rather than carved from a tree, retaining its organic shape. I love that her potted houseplants, and those trailing from baskets hanging above, radiate a natural light but – best of all – there’s a single panel in which Lady Kinga refreshes her roots by soaking them in a steaming basin of water.

There she studies scrolls to discern what could have hurt her new familiar friend which snuggles itself down on a cushion by her side on the floor. A few hours later there is a knock on the door and that news from Sir Arclight:

Lady Kinga’s body is back and resides once more in court. But if Lady Kinga’s no longer within it… what is?

SLH

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

Underwinter #1 (£3-25, Image) by Ray Fawkes.

“I keep having these nightmares and I think I know why.”

‘Symphony’ part one: it’s all very sensual.

It’s also more than a little sinister, evoking early on the taut tensions of sado-masochism, the sharp string bow playing across soft, bared flesh.

Precisely worded, like any musical movement it builds beautifully.

“It’s my bruised ribs, struck, col legno, hit with the bow and not the hair…
“It’s my welted skin, the jete strokes, where the bow bounces again and again in ricochet.
“And then as the music intensifies, sautille, tremolo, bariolage… then it is also my voice.
“And there’s a pain that is beyond all imagining, beyond sanity
“And I weep…
“Because I don’t want it to end.”

‘Overture’ has two meanings, you know.

I am most definitely in!

A string quartet is invited to play blindfold at an exclusive party at a secluded mansion. There is a lot of money involved: £10,000 each for this first session. If they are pleasing, and enjoyed, they will be asked back.

The gig is brought in by Kendall, the libertine of the group: well built, well racked and well packed, first seen laid back in the arms of an older man, his lunchbox painted to be prominent.

However harmonious they may be on stage, in private Ms Ortiz at least is fractious, sneering, until she sees the colour of the money.

“Welcome. I am Meister Maranatha.
“You will play the pieces in the order selected for you. Do not improvise. Do not speak during the performance.
“You will wear the clothes we provide. You will not remove your blindfolds.”

From the creator of the fiercely inventive ONE SOUL and THE PEOPLE INSIDE whose construction, specific to the medium of comics, you will never have seen the like of (no exaggeration), this is a complete change of delivery in watercolour washes reminiscent of David Mack, expressionistic flourishes which reminded me of Bill Sienkiewicz and Francis Bacon, then a raw, roaring, abrasive crescendo during which the blindfold slips and –

You might want to Google ‘Maranatha’.

SLH

Buy Underwinter #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Michael DeForge…

“Sticks?! You came. I always thought you hated me, but here you are visiting me in my time of need.”
“No, I’m visiting girl. She was bitten by a harmless snake.”
“Oh.”
“I do hate you. You’re literally the worst. But I have to recognize I have certain obligations to the residents of this forest, so I’ve hired proxies to keep you company.”

Not sure having ants crawling all over me is what I’d want if I was lying on a drip in a hospital bed, but still, it’s about what you’d expect from the rather hard-hearted “49-years-old former Olympian, poet, scholar, sculptor, minister, activist, Governor General, entrepreneur, line cook, headmistress, Mountie, columnist, libertarian, cellist.” As Sticks Angelica is want to self-promote, sorry, describe herself…

Following on from a disturbing family scandal, Sticks has decided to live off the grid deep in the Canadian woods in total isolation. Except she seems to be perpetually surrounded by the local wildlife that antagonise and annoy her in no small measure simply by existing. Which is a shame, because they all actually seem to idolise and adore her despite her obnoxious manner. Particularly a rabbit named Oatmeal who is deeply, madly and utterly unrequitedly in love with her. My favourite denizen of the dense foliage, though, was the cross-dressing moose named Lisa Hanawalt. And of course, harmless snakes are anything but!

It starts to get really strange (remember who the creator is…) when a reporter called Michael DeForge turns up to interview Sticks for a proposed biography. In typically terse fashion she’s having none of it, promptly knocks him out on the spot, and buries him neck-deep in the heart of the forest. Then, presumably believing no one could possibly do it better than herself, she becomes our narrator informing us all about her upbringing and myriad odd occurrences during her formative years. Meanwhile, Sticks develops an almost maternal instinct for an unnamed feral child that provides us with an interesting counterpoint to her character compared to the brash, hard exterior that she projects, well irradiates, out to the world.

What we thus end up with is a typically trademark surreal DeForge yarn (FIRST YEAR HEALTHY, DRESSING, ANT COLONY, A BODY BENEATH)   that is also a curiously insightful examination of how we are all curators of our own personal public history, some of us infinitely more subjectively so than others. All that really matters in the end, though, is were we loved and cherished, and did we reciprocate those emotions to others unselfishly? I will leave it up to you to decide whether Sticks eventually manages to pass muster in that particular respect… As fine a potted / potty comics faux biography as Seth’s GEORGE SPROTT and Chris Ware’s ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20 in its own very, very peculiar way.

JR

Buy Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero and read the Page 45 review here

Pizza Witch – Deluxe Edition h/c (£10-00, Shiny Sword) by Sarah Graley…

It would be fair to say that Sarah Graley’s comics star is ascending. Well, if you think being involved with something called Lil’ Poopy Superstar a noteworthy rung on the comics ladder to stardom, that is…! Given it is RICK AND MORTY’S: LIL’ POOPY SUPERSTAR and Sarah wrote and drew it, I certainly do!

That’s a pretty big licence to be allowed one’s own largesse with. I should also add that back-up comic art in that particular tome was provided by a certain Marc ELLERBISMS Ellerby. Plus she’s got KIM REAPER #1 arriving very shortly too, following the mis-adventures of the “part-time Grim Reaper; full-time cutie” which sounds and looks very fun. Maybe the cute-but-dead genre has some after-life in it yet…

Sarah’s evidently daft sense of humour and energetic, engaging art that tips its metaphorical hat to the likes of LUMBERJANES, OVER THE GARDEN WALL and SCOTT PILGRIM is proving a winning combination, it seems. And we’ve sold myriad copies of her autobiographical OUR SUPER ADVENTURE to locations as far flung as Australia! So who, or what, is Pizza Witch… and what, or who, is she after…? I shall let the supernatural lady speak for herself…

“I parked the broom, what’s up?”
“Do you believe in love at first sight, George?”
“WHAT.”
“I just delivered a pizza to the dreamiest babe who ever babe’d!!”
“More babe than me?
“Shut up George!!”
“When she comes back with the money, I’m gonna ask her on a date!!”
“Hm.”
““Hm” What?”
“Just… Let your pizza do the talking? Everyone who eats it pretty much falls in love with you anyway. Also, people don’t want to be asked on dates when they order pizza… They just want pizza…”
“Eheh…”

George is her cat.

Except… the dreamiest babe ever is lactose-intolerant and hasn’t even tried Roxy the Pizza Witch’s perfect pizza laden with her trademark (and very literal) pizza magic but also loads of digestive dairy disaster!! Eheh indeed. Cue one cheesy cheese-free rom-com as Roxy is determined to do whatever bizarre questing activities it takes to get a slice of the action with the girl of her dreams…

Originally a webcomic, then very kindly offered by Sarah as a limited print run thank-you as part of Sarah’s Kickstarter for OUR SUPER ADVENTURE, the pineapple-sweet, 24-page main tale is reprinted in a far swankier (and neatly re-lettered) format here. The rest of this lovely gold-embossed, shiny hardcover is then bulked up and out with extra toppings of a bonus short story and various concept and process pages. Sarah has also very kindly signed and sketched a small pizza slice in each our copies! Go on, dig in!

JR

Buy Pizza Witch – Deluxe Edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Triangle h/c (£12-99, Walker Books) by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen.

Jon Klassen eyes are unmistakable and ever so expressive.

They either stare directly at you, poker-faced, with an alien intelligence and unknowable thoughts or they slide hither and thither, assessing the situation, attempting to keep their own counsel but often betraying a truth. Or a lie.

They allow the rest of his faces to perform not at all, enhancing the deadpan delivery while ramping up the comedy quotient, for there lies much mirth in the repetition.

You may know Jon Klassen, as the co-creator of all-ages SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE and EXTRA YARN plus the sole creator of the I WANT MY HAT BACK, THIS IS NOT MY HAT and WE FOUND A HAT tricks.

And they are all tricks in one form or other, the images informing the true meaning or contradicting what is written outright. This, I argue – in each review and possibly to deep sighs of “Do shut up, Stephen” – makes them comics, for without the visual narrative they would mean a lot less or nothing at all.

This is not a comic.

That doesn’t matter: illustrated prose is a wonder as well and the visuals are still delicious. I’m sure there will be gurgles and chortles throughout from very young readers and this is what we want!

But whenever I write “all-ages” I do so deliberately, meaning that the books are likely to be enjoyed equally by oldsters and even, like HILDA, bought as often as not by adults for adults. I adore every one of the above. Absolutely adore!

This one, not so much. With no mid-story gags to speak of, I was anticipating a ferociously funny punchline.

I’m still waiting. “Heresy!” etc.

Triangle travels to play a sneaky trick on Square. I’m sure it’ll enhance spatial awareness no end.

SLH

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

Siberia 56 h/c (£16-99, Insight Comics) by Christophe Bec & Alexis Sentenac.

From the writer of CARTHAGO, the sub-aquatic, shark-infested shiver-fest featuring razor-sharp teeth embedded in a mouth big enough to engulf a bathysphere as if it were a bonbon. That mouth belonged to an eighty-foot long Megalodon, a species of shark which didn’t have the decency to die out 2.6 million years ago as we were all promised.

This too has teeth, but they feature in a future so far off that I probably don’t have to dread its arrival. They’re also found only on a planet so far away that I’m unlikely to stray there by mistake, even with my preternatural ability to catch the wrong bus.

Let’s hear the low-down on SIBERIA 56 from its publisher, shall we?

“It is the age of space exploration, and five scientists travel 80 million light years from home to study the planet of Siberia, the location of Earth’s 56th colony. Covered with dense snow and steep mountains, Siberia’s poles reach temperatures of -300° F with icy winds of close to 200 mph.”

It’s not that much more clement at its tropics.

Now, I grant you that no one could possibly know what lurks thereupon until it is investigated, but I don’t think it’s the most massive leap of imagination or cold, deductive reasoning to extrapolate from a present rife with flying drones that this far-flung future might have satellites capable of picking up 600-foot, heavily armoured, ice-bound, predatory lampreys on the prowl which they have mis-monickered “snakes”.

I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t need frail feet on the ground before you discovered that.

They’ve a more plausible excuse for failing to identify the planet’s even more antisocial alpha predator (no clues in this review), but even so: which particular meteorological property of this planet made it even a passing consideration as a potential colony when you’ve 55 others on the go?

At this point we’re just talking about the weather. And since the daily weather is what human beings talk about most, I don’t see anyone in their right minds decamping to Siberia 56 from infamously rain-drenched Britain let alone folks from Florida. Even Earth-bound Siberian inmates would probably decline swapping their current gulag for a life-long fling on a planet which would be equally fettered: with all-encompassing survival suits not to breathe oxygen but to quantifiably decrease the probability of contracting chapped lips.

With but a couple of exhibitions of extreme over-acting, the art on offer is ever so pretty. Sentenac excels at landscapes: landscapes which are as epic and as alien and as luminous as you’d like. That’s why you’re here. Alexis can also ramp up the tension like nobody’s business when you’re all alone on the glacier and you feel something very big and presumably ravenous thundering towards you and – not to be underestimated, this – underneath you.

But Sentec is left woefully adrift by Bec throughout on the cold, hard logic front. No, not just the logic front, but the story-building front.

The colonists’ database seems of paramount importance throughout: that’s what they’ve been sent there to construct from inexplicable scratch (see drones earlier) and the new expedition’s greatest asset which they rely on in order to survive. Yet it has (firstly) the most implausible, negligent gaps when shit they knew simply wasn’t entered, then (secondly), on narrative command, the most ridiculous leaps of instantly summoned stats derived from no discernible evidence.

And that destroys all the tension Sentenac attempts to build.

It’s as if the writer lost his original map or his Card Index System and, with it, the plot.

In Christophe’s defence, perhaps the translator was rubbish. I don’t know because I haven’t read the original. But we are told early on of the key subterranean carvings which reminded the crew of Lascaux cave paintings that…

“According to the analysis of the microresidue, these drawings were done with a metal tool. They’re at least 60 million years old.”

Okay, fair enough. So why are they referred to later on by beardy, irritatingly know-it-all, go-to scientist Boyett as “frescoes”? A fresco, by very specific definition, involves painting on plaster: painting on wet plaster most often, but certainly painting specifically on plaster and not “drawings done with a metal tool”.

*grinds teeth*

It’s far from the only ill-informed gaffe, but Giotto would be gurning in his grave.

SLH

Buy Siberia 56 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

New Editions

The Cartoon Utopia (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Ron Regé Jr.

“Believe only your own consciousness and then act accordingly and abundantly.”

I thought only my step-mother could make black and white dazzling, but Regé is back with a spiritual manifesto and ode to creativity: a singular, secular vision delivered with all the fervour of a religious sermon. It’s a call not to arms but to peace and perception unshackled from the conditioning of ages, exhorting all to see new possibilities, infinite possibilities, so enabling one’s full potential to be realised in both senses of the word.

The result is empowering and positively euphoric.

It’s also mesmerising: wave after wave of hypnotic patterns, symmetry within asymmetry and vice-versa, pulsing, radiating and mutating with a kaleidoscopic rhythm.

 

I love the way that the lettering is fully integrated into the art, often delineated with exactly the same thickness, the hollowed capitals precisely the right size, totally at one with each page and its constituent panels. I’ve never been allowed to review a book by Ron Regé Jr before. I found it profound, inspirational and beautiful to behold.

Alternatively: a great big colouring book for adults.

SLH

Buy The Cartoon Utopia and read the Page 45 review here

DMZ Book 3 (£22-99, Vertigo) by Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli…

Wizard magazine hilariously recommend this series to readers of FABLES. This is a bit like recommending a John Pilger documentary to addicts of ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

Manhattan is no longer the thriving hub of culture and commerce it once was.

It is a wreck ravaged by all, caught in the crossfire between the U.S. Army and America’s own home-grown, anti-establishment militias which rose up while all the eyes and soldiers’ feet were abroad in Afghanistan and Iraq, and did a little insurging of their own.

A supposedly demilitarized zone, Manhattan is prone to be bombed with a moment’s notice and has become a no-go zone for everyone but the most intrepid or reckless reporters.

This reprints the thinner volumes 6, 7 and a little of 8. Here’s Jonathan’s most excellent overview of DMZ written – please note – in 2009:

“The normalisation talks were the fucking scourge of lower Manhattan. Don’t believe the hype — any signs of improvement on the ground are completely manufactured. It’s old-fashioned Surge tactics. Swarm a dozen square blocks with troops and air cover and suddenly it’s the safest place in the world. The next dozen blocks…   … not so much.”

For those people who are already gripped by DMZ, no background explanation is necessary on this volume except to mention that Wood’s level of storytelling has not dropped at all; if anything it’s gone up a notch a two as the conflict in the DMZ gets even more political (if that’s possible) and bloody (if that’s possible) as it grinds its way inexorably towards the inevitable end game. It’s just a case of who’ll be left standing to take a seat at the table once the dust has settled over what little’s left to eat…

For those unfamiliar with DMZ, or perhaps have thought, “Oo, it looks a bit too political to me I’ll give it a miss,” well you’ll only have yourself to blame when you’re asked to sign up for your compulsory ID card in the not too distant future, no matter which government is in power.

DMZ is an excellent education on exactly how politicians of every stripe and hue will seek to turn things to their own advantage and fuck the cost to the men and women caught in the middle.

Yes, it’s obviously meant to be a representation of what is happening on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan and various failed states in Africa right now writ large with internecine tribal rivalries, impotent international bodies, paid-for security goons and journalistic spin, conflicts of huge egos, and the inevitable scramble for power and money. But it’s a credit to Wood’s writing that the central premise of all of this taking place in the heart of America, in downtown Manhattan, is utterly believable making it not only a powerful warning to us of exactly what we’re letting our governments get away with in our name all around the globe right now, but also a brilliant story in its own right.

Every character is flawed or compromised by their ideological idiocy, cowardice, greed or just plain stupidity; it’s just to a greater or lesser degree that allows them in turn to be manipulated by someone further up the food chain with more power and influence to wield. Is anyone completely pure of heart and deed in this narrative? No, but then, that’s just like the real world, no? Even non-action can make you complicit as our non-hero journalist Matty Roth knows only too well. Pick a side, though… well, then you’re in it nostril-deep… Read it and weep, and be grateful you’re not living somewhere where someone else controls virtually every aspect of your day-to-day existence not least your survival.

JR

Buy DMZ Book 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Batman By Brian K. Vaughan s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian K. Vaughan & various.

From the writer of SAGA, EX MACHINA, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD etc

With the Joker and Arkham Asylum playing roles in Brubaker’s BATMAN: THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, there was more than a cursory reference to madness there, but here Vaughan delved a little deeper into mental illness, specifically when it comes to identity.

In a short story themed heavily around Alice In Wonderland (and Lewis Carroll aficionados do stand a chance solving the clever clues throughout before the dark detective does), The Mad Hatter kidnaps Dr. Kirk Langstrom (the Jekyll-like geneticist able to transform himself into a creature with the Hyde of a bat) and one of his psychiatrists, using the former to transform the latter into a raving Jabberwocky, perhaps subconsciously in order to give the Arkham analyst some insight into his condition.

In the WONDER WOMAN two-parter Clayface steals some of the Amazon’s essence (Diana herself was originally created from magic clay), rendering her into a state where she is once more a Donna Troy twin which neither of the two ladies – priding themselves on their individuality – take too kindly to.

But the big one here is the three-part ‘Close Before Striking’ in which Nightwing (the first Robin) begins to seriously doubt the strength of Batman’s self-awareness when faced once more with Scarface, the ventriloquist’s doll with an eye for the moll, and a hair-trigger temper and Tommy gun. Except that Scarface isn’t the problem – he’s not real:

“The Ventriloquist is an extremely dangerous man. Arnold Wesker has a dissociative disorder that allows him to guiltlessly act out his psychopathic disregard for human life through a puppet persona. Possessing more than one distinct identity allows a man to do things most people would never imagine.”
“You wouldn’t know anything about that, huh?”

Why is Nightwing so worried? Well, for a start, how real has the identity of Bruce Wayne ever been since his parents were killed? He’s been a mask the Batman uses either to distract or extract information. The same goes for Matches Malone, a woise guy arsonist whom “Bruce” has been impersonating for much of his career in order to infiltrate the mob. Except: Matches Malone is real and isn’t Bruce, as becomes appallingly clear when a man fitting the description of Matches is gunned down by Scarface after apparent betrayal.

There is far more to that one than I’m giving away, both in terms of what Batman has been keeping secret, what he has erroneously presumed, and how stable he is in any identity. It’s actually a Batman gem amongst so much similar, trite old paste.

Oh yes, I’m constantly forgetting the art, aren’t I? Standard and perfectly acceptable superhero stuff for the Wonder Woman thing, animation-style rendering for the Hatter episode, really quite cool McDaniel fare that put me in mind of console game Time Splitters for ‘Close Before Striking’ and for the bonus five-pager, it’s so compact that the density of writing takes over, but you will not mind because it’s all very clever and would have made the most amazing spring-board to dive off of, had someone at DC recognised what Vaughan had given them: a brand new villain who thinks well outside the box and who was intended to have strong ties to Bruce himself, plus a very filthy joke involving the Periodic Table.

Niton will take a little bit more research than you think.

SLH

Buy Batman By Brian K. Vaughan 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.

Saga vol 7 s/c (£13-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Velvet Deluxe Edition h/c (£44-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting, Elizabeth Breitweiser

What Parsifal Saw (£13-99, Fantagraphics) by Ron Rege Jr.

Afar s/c (£13-99, Image) by Leila Del Duca & Kit Seaton

Black Hammer vol 1: Secret Origins s/c (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Jeff Lemire & Dean Ormston

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 15 – Cometh The Hour (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Laurence Campbell

Doom Patrol Book 3 (£31-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & various

George Sprott s/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Seth

Hillbilly vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Albatross) by Eric Powell

Invincible vol 23: Full House (£14-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Cory Walker

Livestock (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Hannah Berry

The Hellblazer vol 1: The Poison Truth s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Simon Oliver & Moritat, Pia Guerra, Jose Marzan Jr.

Astonishing Ant-Man vol 3: The Trial Of Ant-Man s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Ramon Rosanas, Brent Schoonover

Spider-Man: Miles Morales vol 2 s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Nico Leon, Sara Pichelli

Unbelievable Gwenpool vol 1: Believe It s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Christopher Hastings & Danilo Beyruth, Gurihiru

Unbelievable Gwenpool vol 2: Head Of M.O.D.O.K. s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Christopher Hastings & Irene Strychalski, Rachelle Rosenberg

X-Men: Epic Collection – Second Genesis s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Chris Claremont, Len Wein, Bill Mantlo, Bonnie Wilford & Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, Sal Buscema, Bob Brown, Tony DeZuniga

The Ancient Magus Bride vol 2 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Kore Yamazaki

Bleach vol 69 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Fruits Basket Collector’s Edition vol 11 (£14-99, Yen) by Natsuki Takaya

Platinum End vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Sword Art Online: Progressive vol 5 (£9-99, Yen) by Kiseki Himura

News

ITEM! LOVE IS LOVE raises $165,000 for Orlando Pulse victims!

Brilliant! Let’s keep the funds coming: LOVE IS LOVE in stock, reviewed.

We Ship Worldwide!

ITEM! Riveting and exceptionally eloquent Q&A with Yuval Noah Harari whose blindingly brilliant ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ I am currently addicted to.

Try this, on fictions:

“The best test to know whether an entity is real or fictional is the test of suffering. A nation cannot suffer, it cannot feel pain, it cannot feel fear, it has no consciousness. Even if it loses a war, the soldier suffers, the civilians suffer, but the nation cannot suffer. Similarly, a corporation cannot suffer, the pound sterling, when it loses its value, it doesn’t suffer. All these things, they’re fictions. If people bear in mind this distinction, it could improve the way we treat one another and the other animals. It’s not such a good idea to cause suffering to real entities in the service of fictional stories.”

 – Stephen

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