Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews April 2017 week four

Comics from Simon Spurrier & Jonas Goonface plus Geof (one ‘f’) Darrow as well as graphic novels from the likes of Lynda Barry! I know she’s not British, but she should so be made a Dame!

One! Hundred! Demons! h/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lynda Barry.

“I didn’t mention the fact that the acid was two years old and had spent two winters wrapped in tin foil behind a brick in a garage, abandoned during my Jesus-freak period which was at least six personalities ago.”

Haha! Dear, dear Lynda Barry! That her drug-taking days were already pretty much over aged fourteen tells you everything you need to know about her precociously experimental nature which remains to this day in full throttle. That she is willing and able to turn self-denigration into a pithy, comedic side-salad tells you everything about her open and honest generosity of spirit, especially when the reasons behind such early instability were far from funny. She alludes to it earlier with an equally adept turn of phrase:

“When your inner life is a place you have to stay out of, having an identity is impossible. Remembering not to remember fractures you.”

If her more recent WHAT IT IS, PICTURE THIS and SYLLABUS: NOTES FROM AN ACCIDENTAL PROFESSOR are all about catalysing creativity (you won’t find anything more inspirational on our shelves) then this earlier autobiographical work from 2002, finally reprinted, was all about jogging memory, which she highly recommends with specific instructions in the back for this Asian-style artistic experiment.

Those titular demons aren’t always awful, but they are all the moments which haunt you, stay with you, and had such a profound effect on you that they shaped you.

Smell, for example, is as potent as music in being able to thrust you back through time in an instant, and in ‘Common Scents’ Barry concentrates on the singular smells of specific houses in her neighbourhood. Of course, the one house you can’t smell in childhood is your own: it’s the one you grew up in so it forms your own personal baseline of normality and Barry’s was full of aftershave, perfume, dog, hair spray, fried garlic and onions and 9,000 cigarettes.

I adore Lynda’s grandmother, a cigarette and lighter poised ready on almost every page, and her language and lilt carried over from the Philippines which I won’t attempt to transcribe for fear of fluffing the capital letters etc.

Lynda’s mother, on the other hand, I adore not one jot. Her cigarettes are constantly clenched between gritted teeth as she castigates the creativity out of her daughter time and time again.

“Nako! My stationary! Idiot! What are you doing?”
“Making a picture for my teacher.”
“Estupido! You’re wasting it!”

Thank goodness for her school teacher, Mrs. Lesene, who cultivated it instead. That’s another of those things – one the happier instances – that can stick in your mind: the salvation of the right teacher at exactly the right time who can turn your whole life around for years to come.

Instead her mother addresses her like a dog, and Barry does make the connection with the way she initially handled her dog as an adult and child.

“The dog I had when I was a kid was a shelter dog too. I don’t think I would have made it through those years without him. I wish I could say I was always as loving to him as he was to me. I regret so many things.”

Art shown is from earlier format. Please click to enlarge.

That’s ever so sad, as are the pages on which she attempts to fathom the differences between her grandmother and her mother who “didn’t seem to like me much [emphasis on ‘like’, mine], but she meant more to me than anyone.” Instead “Mom used to scream that she couldn’t wait until I had children so I would know what Hell was like.”

“You wait! You’ll see! You’ll be sorry you ever had kids! Children are a punishment!”

So that’s going to be a fairly formative experience.

What else is on offer here? Head lice and her worst boyfriend. Dancing when young without a care in the world! The paralysis if ever you suspect you’re not any good (see WHAT IT IS for Barry’s 30-year paralysis when it came to her own art).  Childhood games in the street: the hierarchies and disputes but also the sheer fun! Losing your earliest comfort blanket or toy by leaving it behind accidentally!

Dropping your best friend on purpose:

“She was an extremely kind and funny person. We were always together. She was two years younger than me but it never mattered until I turned 13.
“Once I turned 13 and started junior high and realized how weird and lame I really was, there was no way I could have an 11-year-old best friend.
“I never talked to Ev about it. I never explained what was going on. I just avoided her and hoped she would forget about me. I did this 31 years ago but my stomach still knots up when I think about it.”

It’s a very personal book, its intimacy with its audience enhanced by the strikingly large size of the script on top of each panel compared with the dialogue below. I don’t know how this works exactly, but I imagined it smaller and something was lost: it felt more mundane, more perfunctory, more like I was being told a story and less like it was being shared with me.

Apart from the grandmother whose every appearance I relished, my other favourite sequences of exquisite cartooning were Lynda’s gawky and gangly self-portraits, all teeth and frankly weird red hair, and the dancing! During dancing the forms undulate rhythmically and you get a real sense of the physical pleasure involved. As to Lynda demonstrating the hula with her knees bent, her hips thrust up and out “like a crazy heifer, as well as one shoulder with her arms thrown to the other side, it is a scream.

Each chapter of this new edition (some of the art here will be from the old edition) is introduced with a double-page landscape, “Today’s Demon(s):” framed to the right, with its inspirations or catalysts to the left, and sometimes commentary or apposite illustrations, which could come in any form from hand-crocheted dolls’ dresses and flowery, frilly and lacey things for ‘Girliness’ to a hand-made cuddly toy inscribed with ‘Where are you?” for the ‘Magic Lanterns’ of lost toys and other treasured items. There’s a particularly poignant photograph of Lynda and Ev when once together.

 

It’s all so fluent, Barry’s ability to turn a phrase or reverse a perspective with insight or hindsight remarkable throughout.

From ‘Lost Worlds’ about those childhood street sports during which young Lynda would break off to wave at aeroplanes as if the pilot and passengers could see her so far below:

“This was long before I grew up and found out you can’t see very much from an airplane window. Big things, yes, but the little things are lost.”

The panel shows a mournful, adult Lynda Barry, very much alone and looking out of the tiny passenger portal at night. We then flip back to her young hyperactive self surrounded by all her friends, caught up in the energy and excitement of game.

“The city is there and so are the streets, but at a certain distance people disappear. Whole neighbourhoods of children just vanish.”

It happens at a distance; it happens over time.

But, with a little applied meditation, it can all come flooding back.

SLH

Buy One! Hundred! Demons! h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Godshaper #1 (£3-25, BOOM Studios) by Simon Spurrier & Jonas Goonface.

One of the things I love most about Simon Spurrier’s creator-owned work is that on top of all the lateral thinking that he pours into its premise, he doesn’t let it lie there: there’s also the language which is far from flippant but instead – like Rob Davis’ THE MOTHERLESS OVEN and THE CAN OPENER’S DAUGHTER – comes with carefully thought-out connotations.

Here Jonas Goonface too goes that extra mile with lithe illustrations reflecting physical prowess and creative endeavour, leaving you much to infer from what they silently depict down the bar (none of which is clumsily and unnecessarily sign-posted by Spurrier) while adding, here and there, subtly highlighted details like this visual rebuttal to an idiot all too fond of the sound of his own ignorant voice:

“Man’s gotta be a martyr to fashion these days, wants to get anywhere.
“Sometimes I wonder if you poor schmoos got it easier, huh? No god, no money, no style
“You know the first thing about fashion, Shaper?”

The staid, self-regarding, disregarding, pot-bellied, barrage-balloon of a man has failed to do more than glance at the man – from behind – who is currently restyling his god with some considerable artistic skill and who is the very epitome of understated dapper in gloves, rolled sleeves, braces over a well-starched shirt, a quiff fashioned topiary-like from dense hair above chic, shaved sides and – to the fore so that the reader’s eye cannot miss it on the bottom of the left-hand panel – a single and small diamond ear stud.

Now that is attention to detail.

God is in the detail and the detail has most certainly been injected into this title’s gods.

This is a world in which everyone has a god of their own, and every god has a person.

It just so happens that they treat their gods like employees or slaves, and their gods are the equivalent of personal bank accounts and/or role-playing console game characters, both of which we love to upgrade as much and as often as we can.

All transactions are conducted via these gods: the series’ sole currency lies in these powerful upgrades. What do we worship more than money and power? They’re basically the same thing, right?

There are, however, some singular individuals born without gods.

They are regarded as “nogodies”.

In this society – as in ours – they are treated as outcasts: the poor. For without a god they can neither acquire nor accrue money. They can never own a home for they have no money (and certainly no access to a mortgage without that bank account), so they are itinerants forever shunned but desperately needed for labour – for their unique ability to refashion everyone else’s gods. They are called Shapers.

We’ve only seen one Shaper so far, called Ennay. He’s black, and the way he’s treated by our first customer – told to exit via the back door lest he be seen, for example – says it all.

He is, however, a bit of a hit on the cantik scene, which is akin to rockabilly and played unplugged, without a god.

“No holy harmonies here. No superpower pop. No gods as guitars. We don’t get aaawwwwf on that godly groove.
“We got a new manifesto. We’re here to repair the square.
“What we play, we play with our mouths and our hands and our hearts.
“This is cantik.
“It cannot be stopped.”

Ennay throws himself into the music and the colours and the crowd go wild.

“Underground, unrefined, unlegal.
“A movement, a manner, a counter-culture crime.
“One seriously unholy racket.”

After which the spotlights go down, leaving a fluid double-page spread bathed in blue and purple neon as Ennay works the floor between tables, taking his credit and receiving his dues. He’s definitely an equal opportunities kind of a guy.

It’s a spectacular piece of fluid figure work and colouring, tracing Ennay’s movements and his admirers in a serpentine path of purple and pink between the rest of the onlookers in indigo, while their cartoon-animal, ghostly gods are lit in bright blue, their outlines an ethereal white.

Which brings us to Ennay’s second secret: he does have a god called Buddy. It’s just not his.

“Weird. Can’t see its believer.”

Gods aren’t supposed to exist without believers. Without believers they’re supposed to fade away (see SANDMAN / AMERICAN GODS). So what on earth is up with Buddy?

Once the subplot involving war and “riff-raff rations” kicks in, the relationship between gods and their owners is explored a little further and grows far darker than you’ll be anticipating, but I’ll have to leave that for the collected edition’s review. Let’s just say that we all know the pain when our bank account’s drained but what if our bank account was a sentient god / ghost / animal?

SLH

Buy Godshaper #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Briggs Land vol 1: State Of Grace s/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Mack Chater, Tula Lotay.

“BRIGGS! You got a visitor. Fifteen minutes, Jim.”
“So what the fuck happened to yesterday?”
“I got busy.”
“I needed you here yesterday. We have a schedule for a reason, Grace. It’s like this: you come visit me and I give you orders. Now, if that’s suddenly becoming difficult for you to understand, well…  forgive me if I’m not sympathetic to you and your frivolous life. What the fuck do you do all day, anyway?”
“Jim, please…”
“Shut up. I run this family. Me, not you. I know it. You know it. Our boys know it. And everyone else we know knows it. And if you are ever late coming here again…”
“STOP IT! This is the last time I’m coming here. I’m telling you this face to face as a courtesy. We’re over. I’m taking over control of the family.”
“Yeah, right. Over my dead body you are. What the hell’s gotten into you?”
“I know about your negotiations with the Albany County D.A.’s office. How’s that for starters? I put a thousand dollars in your commissary account. Consider it severance pay. I suggest you make it last. Don’t underestimate me on this. I’m no sellout. I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to protect our land and our history. I’ve been a Briggs since I was seventeen years old. I’ve gotten pretty good at it.”

And that, as they say, is where we come in. It’ll not surprise you to learn that incarcerated antigovernment secessionist and local white power hoodlum Jim Briggs is not best impressed with his wife Grace’s attempt at a de facto coup. Quite how their three sons, all very different characters, each with their own agendas and differing degrees of filial piety (plus the rest of the rank and file shock troops running protection rackets and goodness knows what else throughout the county) will react, remains to be seen.

It’s an absolute certainty Jim isn’t going to just sit back in his prison cell and take it, though, that is for sure. But being stuck inside serving a full life term for an assassination attempt on the President of the United States might make his control on the clan more than a little shaky, especially given Grace’s inside knowledge of his recent attempts to cut a deal with the authorities, potentially for lucrative fracking and real estate rights to their hundred square miles of rural wilderness. And presumably some reduction of Jim’s sentence…

Sell out indeed, or perhaps buy out might be more appropriate depending on your point of view. If it’s one facing certain death behind bars gradually decaying in a tiny cell, well, it can give even a hardcore anti-establishment man a different perspective on the benefits of the grand old political system and the peoples’ representatives’ fondness for a spot of chicanery.

Brian MASSIVE / DEMO / DMZ / LOCAL / STARVE / NORTHLANDERS / BLACK ROAD / NEW YORK FOUR Wood (he’s written a lot of great comics!!)  has come up with another belter of a premise for us here, fleshing out the rest of the opening pages by giving us the lowdown on Mama Briggs and her brood, as seen through the eyes of the pair of romantically involved FBI agents on undercover surveillance duties, who are just as intrigued as everyone else by the power grab and how raucously it’ll play out.

We don’t have long to wait on that score as Wood fires off the first round of gunfire and high explosives that I’m sure will become an ever-present  punctuation on this title. As far as warning shots go, it’s a pretty full-on scorcher right through the bows, never mind across them, incendiary one for Grace, but given she was expecting it, she doesn’t seem the slightest bit phased. I dare say she’d almost have felt disrespected if it hadn’t been forthcoming… The question now, is precisely how does she respond?

I wasn’t aware of artist Mick Chater before, but it’s damn fine minimal artwork, I have to say, very similar to Butch ARCHANGEL Guice. This is certainly going to appeal massively to fans of SOUTHERN BASTARDS and SCALPED, plus the Justified and Sons Of Anarchy television shows. In fact, Briggs Land is apparently already in development for an AMC TV show, which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

JR

Buy Briggs Land vol 1: State Of Grace s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop The Reign #1 (£3-25, Dark Horse) by Geof Darrow.

“You got Dick Jeezuz on all Christian, all American, all white, alright Radio K.R.O.S.S. – what’s your question, brother?”
“Dick Jeezus… big believer. Listen to you every day. What kinda gun do you think Jesus carries?”
“Well, bless you, son. To answer your question, the Son of God don’t carry no gun. He is a gun. Next caller!”

I think it’s fair to say that Geof (one ‘f’) Darrow is not a big fan of organised religion incorporated.

Nor of so many modern priorities and propensities such as driving while using a mobile phone which, I would remind you, is illegal in this country.

His books are full of such careless cretins and this is no exception: an endless convoy of cars and commercial lorries hogging the desert highway, either oblivious to our battered and blood-soaked hero or throwing cigarette butts at him as they speed noisily by, ejecting a seemingly limitless stream of expletives (at their children) as well as beer cans and fast-food trash.

You don’t have to have read anything previously, but FYI this picks up almost immediately after SHAOLIN COWBOY: SHEMP BUFFET during which Darrow nimbly and fluidly fashioned variation after variation of meat-cleaving mutilation in what I can only describe as the ultimate chainsaw massacre before the juice runs dry and our Cowboy quick-foots it across his quarry instead, deftly dispatching the beetle-bearing shamblers on the stepping-stone hoof.

It was utterly relentless and all the funnier for it. Think Jackie Chan played by a chubby but equally acrobatic Beat Takeshi.

This instalment has a bigger bite to it with satire splattered all over the background details including car number plates, car stickers, graffiti, advertising slogans, cigarette-smoking spiders, prosthetically ‘enhanced’ dogs, assorted other unhealthy animals and a great many guns. It’s not a nice neighbourhood, is what I’m trying to say.

Also, it is extraordinary what modern mobile phone apps you can now download.

The Shaolin Cowboy is much the worse for wear, but is doggedly pursued by vultures, a glowing green warden from Hell and those in service to King Crab (it is a crab) using their new I’m-Hung 7 cell phones to track him via satellite and drones.

Umm, read the SHAOLIN COWBOY: SHEMP BUFFET review, probably.

SLH

Buy The Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop The Reign #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Wild Animals Of The South h/c (£20-00, Flying Eye Books) by Dieter Braun.

South-bound sequel to WILD ANIMALS OF THE NORTH: you could tell that those animals were all from the North because it tended to be snowing, ice featured fairly prominently in their habitat, and several were to be found walking whippets.

Here the animals are 80% wealthier and 90% healthier, far less likely to visit the NHS Drop-in Centre, in no small part thanks to having a proper doctor’s surgery in every suburb. Generally there’s also a great deal more sunshine, although be warned that you can stray too far south and so finish back oop North (see Eastbourne / Antarctica).

Absolute class through and through, this deliriously seductive all-ages art book has bugger all to do with comics but I am so far past caring because beauty.Recommended to fans of Brrémaud & Bertolucci’s LOVE: TIGER and LOVE: FOX etc, the paper stock is thick and matt and the hardcover itself roams free from the fetters of any unsightly insta-rip dust jacket, thus making it ideal for school libraries.

 

As a kid I own that my idea of nature-book heaven would have been one illustrated by KINGDOM COME‘s Alex Ross, but as a big kid now this more stylised approach with elements of Jonathan Edwards lights my fire far, far more. The forms are bigger and bolder for their blocked-out beauty and I strongly suspect that any family acquiring this educational excellence will discover their young ones equipping themselves with paper, pencil and paint in no time in order to emulate its awe.

Featured creatures come with a paragraph which is far from predictable, eschewing cold stats in favour of something more akin to storytelling, bringing each animal’s individuality alive. We did the snow leopard last time, so here’s its warmer cousin:

“Leopards are great climbers. They withdraw with their prey – which can weigh up to twice as much as they do – high up into the trees to be safe from enemies like lions and hyenas.”

I hate climbing trees – vertigo, general lack of bravery etc. – so it’d probably be safe from me too.

“This solitary creature doesn’t even enjoy the company of its own kin. When it crosses paths with other leopards there is often a display of threatening behaviour that can lead to bloody fights.”

Please insert your own personally biased regional smear here. Also: that was my Mr. Bob-san all over. He once successfully took on a fox which took off pretty sharpish.

Admittedly Mr. Bob-san was a cheetah.

My point is that there’s not too much info and it’s all instantly memorable even if you have the attention span of a five-year-old that’s just washed down a dozen packets of Tang-Fastics with five fizzy litres of teeth-melting pop-u-like.

Did you know, for example, that hippopotamuses aren’t especially good swimmers even though we see them doing that all the time with Sir Richard Attenborough, whereas the African Elephant is a very strong swimmer? I’ve only ever seen them wading. Perhaps the canal at the bottom of my garden’s not deep enough.

The scientific name for a giraffe is giraffa camelopardalis and must always be typed in italic (I don’t know why). The second half “comes from the Greek words for ‘camel’ and ‘leopard’ because it looks like a mix between the two!” And it does a bit!

If you ignore the giraffe’s most significant feature.

Its neck only has seven vertebrae, by the way, just like ours. That doesn’t seem right, does it?

Anyway, this is all so ridiculously exotic and lush (and positively dazzling / electrified in the case of the Indian peafowl) with the emphasis on shape, although I could not imagine anything fluffier than the beard of the blue wildebeest here, and as to the intense-eyed, nocturnal jaguar I cannot imagine an animal tasting more like blackcurrant Spangles.

Perhaps I’ll take a photograph of that page for when I tweet this. I’m afraid I can’t find that image online.

SLH

Buy Wild Animals Of The South h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Secret Empire #0 (£4-25, Marvel) by Nick Spencer & Daniel Acuna.

Written by the co-creator of THE FIX etc., this is far from stupid.

Steve Rogers is Captain America, a super-soldier created to help beat back the Nazis.

Since then he’s fought fascist organisations of every ilk including Hydra.

Blonde and blue-eyed, he’s basically the one individual you can rely on to stand up and be counted for what he believes is right, and what he believed during CIVIL WAR was that his own government could not be trusted to command superheroes as a military asset.

In the wake of CIVIL WAR II Steve Rogers was appointed Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., a military organisation barely an arm’s length from that government.

Were a full State of Emergency to be declared by that government then, under the S.H.I.E.L.D. Act, Rogers would become supreme commander of all the U.S. military. As the most trusted man amongst the superhero community he already has their almost undivided attention, their allegiance at his command, and respect as the world’s greatest strategist.

During CIVIL WAR II FALLOUT he made a speech signalling that America and the world in general could not afford for superheroes to continue turning on each other as they have done relentlessly (see AVENGERS VS X-MEN etc). During CIVIL WAR II FALLOUT he also warned Carol Danvers AKA Captain Marvel that she had become increasingly fascistic and dictatorial, using an extreme form of profiling involving predications of the future then acting pre-emptively before any crime was actually committed during CIVIL WAR II and, moreover, that her obsession with a Planetary Defence Shield was dangerously counter-productive. She warned Steve that an unstoppable alien invasion force in the form of the Chitauri was on its way so the need for that Planetary Defence Shield was paramount.

Now: every one of those elements comes to pass, but I won’t be spelling it all out. You’ll just have to read those paragraphs again.

The Chitauri have arrived. Without the Planetary Defence Shield they will be unstoppable even by the likes of Carol Danvers up in space. And the Planetary Defence Shield is down.

Manhattan, home to 95% of the world’s superheroes, is assaulted by a hoard of supervillains incensed at their prior incarceration by S.H.I.E.L.D. in a covert, illegal, mind-wiping, body-altering experiment. So that’s where the super-powered ground troops are all focussed.

Hydra has invaded Sokovia, seizing launch codes for seven supposedly decommissioned nuclear warheads now aimed at Europe.

The U.S. government declares a full State of Emergency and Steve Rogers proves himself to indeed be the world’s greatest strategist, for he has lined all of his ducks up in a row.

The only slight snag is that the nature of those ducks for Steve Rogers is not just an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Blonde and blue-eyed, Steve Rogers is – and always has been – an agent of Hydra.

This is his game-plan come to fruition.

And Carol Danvers is going to rue which side she’s on… of that Planetary Defence Shield.

SLH

Buy Secret Empire #0 and read the Page 45 review here

New Editions / Old Reviews

The Filth s/c (£17-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Chris Weston.

All thirteen issues in one value-for-money volume of full-colour mentalism.

This might be the story of cat-loving, porn-perusing, lonely old Greg Feely living in a flat with criminal ‘70s furnishing. Or it could be that of Ned Slade, for whom Greg is just a parapersonality when he’s not maintaining Status Q as the top operative in the extradimensional clean-up squad known as The Hand.

Regardless, this is THE FILTH, a book bulging with sex, sensory overloads, warped worlds, infectious ideas, fourth walls, monomania, Nazi dolphins, a full-mouthed Communist Chimp, an agent with an accent all but incomprehensible for those not reared in south-west Scotland, and some slightly bewildered policemen.

There was a two-page review in a COMICS JOURNAL published just before I originally which this review which I considered plagiarising to make myself look halfway intelligent (I never read other reviews before I write my own to avoid precisely this risk of contamination). Fortunately I didn’t understand it.

I can, however, promise you a far more focussed book than the INVISIBLES epic, and some astonishingly detailed, bulbous and sordid art from Mr. Chris Weston who constantly impresses with his ability to bring Grant’s mind-fucking concepts to life. He deserves an Eisner just for keeping up.

Lastly, if you honestly need an added incentive: giant, flying spermatozoa!

SLH

Buy The Filth s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Wonder Woman: Earth One vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Yanick Paquette.

“Slave queen of a nation of slaves. Your children will live and they will die by the fist of man.”
“That’s better. Tell me. Tell them. It’s all play, remember?”
“Tell them all what you are. Say it. Tell us all what Hercules has made you.”

“Hercules… Hercules has made me patient!
“Hercules has taught me life is a privilege.
“And no more.
“NO MORE!”

So much for Hercules… Or not, perhaps…

Grant Morrison returns to DC with an evocative, indeed provocative, reworking of the origins of Wonder Woman. Much like J. Michael Straczynski’s SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE trilogy and Geoff Johns’ BATMAN: EARTH ONE (two books so far, presumably a third at some point), this won’t in some ways feel like a radical departure from the mainstream DCU version (whatever that actually means as we careen towards yet another reboot, sorry, REBIRTH) unlike TEEN TITANS: EARTH VOL 1 which was quite the reshaping.

On the other hand, this is quite unlike any other WONDER WOMAN you’ll have ever read.

No, this is more Morrison paying to tribute to the true feminist roots, as he perceives it, of the character, and also her original creator, William Moulton Marston, making maximum use of the additional creative freedom that the non-continuity EARTH ONE series provides. Whilst also having some fun and games deconstructing and retooling other familiar supporting characters like Steve Trevor, here portrayed as African American, and Beth ‘Etta’ Candy who is restored to all her buxom Golden Age ultra-confident sorority girl glory.

Considering that this is undoubtedly an all-action story, it is wonderful to see so much emphasis put on the Woman rather than the Wonder. Also, despite the presence of Hercules, Morrison has very deliberately stepped away from the overarching Greek mythology influences that defined Brian Azzarello’s excellent New 52 run which started with WONDER WOMAN VOL 1: BLOOD S/C.

You probably need to know a bit about Martson to understand Morrison’s approach here. He was a psychologist (and lawyer) who lived with two women, his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston and their lover Olive Byrne. He wrote a lot about dominant-submissive relationships and posited the theory that “there is a masculine notion of freedom that is inherently anarchic and violent and an opposing feminine notion based on “Love Allure” that leads to an ideal state of submission to loving authority.”

It’s probably thus no surprise to find that Martson believed that women should run the world, and was a great champion of the early feminists. It’s pretty obvious therefore to also make the connection with a pair of bracelets that can repel any attack and a golden lasso that compels people to tell the truth. After the sword-wielding New 52 version, I liked this return to the more traditional version of the Warrior Princess.

Grant also can’t resist throwing in a bit of kink bondage for good measure, but it’s done in a way that made me laugh uproariously rather than feeling it was salacious, which it isn’t remotely, but again, it’s clearly another nod to Martson. Suffice to say Steve Trevor’s eyebrows disappear somewhere off the top of his head, and when Beth is explaining the, shall we say, cultural misunderstanding, to Diana whilst they’re propping up the bar afterwards, it provides a superb double punchline that had me wiping a tear of mirth away.

So there was much I really enjoyed about this retelling. The plot is extremely well thought through including a rather naughty bit of parental misdirection which well and truly comes home to roost. This version of Steve Trevor’s motivations for betraying his country to protect Diana and Paradise Island, being based not just on infatuation but also very understandable personal ideals rooted in experienced prejudices, is I think the most depth I’ve seen given the character.

And Beth, my oh my, what a woman. Of all the various incarnations Diana’s bestie has had over the years, I think this brassy, bolshie blonde really does take the biscuit. Well, she probably takes the whole packet given half the chance judging by her girdle size, but she’s no shrinking violet that’s for sure. She’s certainly not going to let any stroppy, statuesque stunner whose been sent to bring Diana back for trial get the best of her!

“These are women of man’s world? Deformed, shrunken, bloated… domesticated cattle.”

“Amazonia has class bitches, too? That’s a bummer. Kinda spoiled my fantasy.”

Yanick Paquette is the perfect artistic foil for Morrison here too. His Amazons are joyous creations, and his exotically detailed Paradise Island truly does look like heaven on earth. There are some lovely page composition devices, including the recurring theme of golden rope as a panel separator, which greatly minded me of J.H. Williams III work on the pages of PROMETHEA. I’ll have to confess historically I’ve not been the biggest Wonder Woman fan (though certainly I’ll be having a look at the Greg Rucka / Liam Sharp WONDER WOMAN REBIRTH reboot), but more tales like this could definitely win me over.

JR

Buy Wonder Woman: Earth One vol 1 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.

Fun: Spies, Puzzle Solvers And A Century Of Crosswords (£15-99, SelfMadeHero) by Paolo Bacilieri

Big Mushy Happy Lump (£9-99, Andersen) by Sarah Andersen

Drugs & Wires #3 (£4-99, self-published) by Io Black & Cryoclaire

Kid Savage (£13-99, Image) by Joe Kelly & Ilya

The Nameless City vol 2 (£10-99, FirstSecond) by Faith Erin Hicks

Saga Deluxe Edition vol 2 h/c (£44-99, Image) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Squarriors vol 1: Spring s/c (£16-99, Devil’s Due) by Ash Maczko & Ashley Witter

Surgeon X vol 1: The Path Of Most Resistance s/c (£13-99, Image) by Sara Kenney & John Watkiss

The Flash by Mark Waid vol 2 s/c (£31-99, DC) by Mark Waid, Gerard Jones & Greg Larocque, various

Green Lanterns vol 2: Phantom Lantern s/c (Rebirth) (£17-99, DC) by Sam Humphries & various

Justice League vol 2: Outbreak s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Bryan Hitch & Neil Edwards, Jesus Merino, Matthew Clark, Tom Derenick

Amazing Spider-Man: Worldwide: The Clone Conspiracy (UK Edition) s/c (£16-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Jim Cheung, Giuseppe Camuncoli, R.B. Silva, Javier Garron

Attack On Titan vol 21 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Avatar, The Last Airbender vol 15: North And South Part 3 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru

 – Stephen

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