Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews May 2017 week two

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The Shape Of Ideas: An Illustrated Exploration Of Creativity (£11-99, Abrams) by Grant Snider.

‘Good Morning’:

“The sound of rain
“On rooftop and windowpane
“Is the universe applauding
“Your decision to remain in bed.”

Even rainclouds have silver linings.

There’ll be more weather warnings in the form of metaphorical meteorological conditions as Grant Snider forecasts which elements are most conducive to creativity in the ever-unpredictable ongoing trawl for ideas through stormy seas.

Gale force winds would necessitate lowering your search-sails, I’d have thought, and battening down your hatches until you reach more clement climes, but Snider is never so obvious and the final panel there, with its absolute excess, had me howling.

You’ll find ‘Brainstorm’ under ‘Perspiration’, one of ten categories the cartoonist has chosen to explore creativity under, each taken from his first page called ‘Genius Is…’

1% Inspiration
29% Perspiration
5% Improvisation
8% Aspiration
7% Contemplation
15% Exploration
13% Daily Frustration
11% Imitation
10.9% Desperation
0.1% Pure Elation

You’ll get there in the end!

Ideas come in all sorts of curious shapes and surprises. It’s worth fishing about for them, because they won’t simply appear out of nowhere if you don’t go looking for them.

       

There’s a lot of witty wordplay – though not necessarily as physical as that – throughout this collection of success and failure, hurdles and highlights, extreme pain before gain.

‘Types of Motivation’ will be instantly recognisable to anyone regularly dealing with deadlines with all their attendant pressures and pick-me-ups, and I’m astonished that Snider managed to find six different words ending in “-ernal” which worked so well together, each annotated with an illuminating internal monologue with variations of the end-goal to “finish”!

There’s also a certain degree of poetry as when Grant explores the ramifications of asking different sorts and sizes of questions, concluding with a flourish:

“When you come across an unusual question
“There’s not much to do
“But to stick with the question
“And see where it takes you.”

Lovely lilt, don’t you think?

Not all the strips are o’er-brimming with optimism – disaster can often loom large – but there’s usually and usefully some similar sort of consolation.

Sometimes the pay-off can be outstanding reward rather than mere consolation. In ‘Theories of Disappointment’ Snider provides two contrasting pages in order to catalyse you into reconsidering your entire outlook on life. On the left he presents a conservative, pre-emptive approach to avoiding disappointment by setting your sights low or eliminating them completely. But inaction gets you nowhere and it couldn’t end much more bleakly. On the right, however, the risk taker’s option reaps much larger rewards, ending on a note of abandon and consequent euphoria.

Grant’s here to invigorate or re-invigorate you, for example with a mental Spring Clean or fresh perspectives. ‘Imitation’ is bursting with novel ways of looking at traditional forms, colours and even art movements.

‘Draw Like You’ve Never Been Taught’ comes with that one unexpected beat extra, each time, for maximum mirth.

He has secrets to impart (“pay attention” is pretty good advice!) and encouragement aplenty to brighten your day and cheer you on that uphill, shale-strewn road to artistic success.

Openness to opportunity will prove key, but opportunity doesn’t half knock at inopportune moments. Still, dive in! Hanging about will only give you arm ache.

This should please fans of Tom Gauld’s short comics and cartoons like YOU’RE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY JETPACK enormously.

SLH

Buy The Shape Of Ideas: An Illustrated Exploration Of Creativity and read the Page 45 review here

Strange Fruit h/c (£22-99, Boom!) by J.G. Jones, Mark Waid & J. G. Jones.

Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop

‘Strange Fruit’ – Lewis Allan, Maurice Pearl, Dwayne P Wiggins
Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

That jaunty little lynching song has to contain some of the finest lyrics ever composed. The extraordinary control and restraint are part of why it works so well, along with its plantation and harvesting connotations.

This sumptuously painted graphic novel, on the other hand, has to contain the finest – in fact, possibly the only decent ever – use of the confederate flag which is regularly hauled out as a public, repugnant, celebratory display of racism. Its reclamation through repurposing had me grinning from ear to ear with vicariously vengeful glee. It could not have been better placed, but I know you’re a delicate crowd so I will save everyone’s blushes.

Although I have just found the interior art and it is so exceptionally beautiful that I cannot resist. I hope it intrigues.

 

 

In the spirit of similarly saving steaming hot welts of shame I should warn you that this graphic novel also portrays the horrific levels of overt, verbal and brutal, physical racism which the use of that song’s title suggests. I’m not going to be typing those words myself because in a review that would constitute an unnecessary normalisation of them, but I disagree vehemently with anyone decrying their replication in this comic for we are in Chatterlee, Mississippi, April 1927 and that was the hateful language so casually bandied about around there back then, and we shouldn’t bleach history of its most disgusting elements lest we forget how fetid they were.

Brilliantly, script-writer Mark Waid juxtaposes that absence of any racial goodwill with the higher priority of the day, that of good manners by not swearing in front of women. Cussing meant taking a fictitious God’s name in vain by the way (I don’t think He’d have minded much); it did not extend to ethnic slurs about actual living, breathing, individual human beings.

Right, I think it’s worth reprinting Mark Waid’s brief post-script here to set the scene:

“The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was no fiction. It was, at the time, the worst natural disaster ever to strike the United States. Uncharacteristically heavy rains up and down the Mississippi transformed the river into a raging buzzsaw up to 80 feet wide that cascaded over riverbanks and levees, flooding an area the size of Connecticut.

“In most communities, the levees, man-made, were all that held that river back. They were built and maintained almost exclusively by African American plantation workers who received little or no pay while their white superiors hoarded provisions and allowed little rest for their labourers.

“Ultimately, nearly 250 flood-related deaths were reported, and over half-million men, women and children were displaced by the floods.

“You can guess what colour the vast majority of them were.”

“Reported”: you wait until the two final pages. They will make you seethe.

But everything in the promise of that post-script is delivered here: the desperate fight to save Chatterlee from the floods, the reliance on harangued, conscripted, black slave-labour to do so; and the baiting of that so desperately relied-upon black, slave labour by the Ku Klux Klan, driving the work force away.

By “baiting” I mean hounding at the point of pistols and shot-guns.

Only one soul here treats her workforce with any consideration and Sarah Lantry’s surprisingly cooperative plantation is the one that’s going to be drowned if an old spillway is reopened to divert the alarmingly swelling waters from swamping the town.

Although I notice the contextually exemplary widow Sarah Lantry doesn’t carry her own umbrella.

Little details like that, un-signposted, make for a much meatier book than you might expect, and it’s certainly the work of artist and originator J. G. Jones’ comicbook career. If you already loved him from WANTED, you will weep in adoration at the glory within.

For a start, he’s a superb portrait painter, especially of Mr Fonder McCoy, the initially dismissed and resented, bespectacled engineer sent from Washington, with his intelligent eyes and double chin.

The first few pages are meticulously painted with ridiculous attention to denim detail and ever so lambent they are too, but even they are completely outclassed by the thrilling compositions of the first chapter’s final nine pages and their raw, physical beauty.

On top of the impeccable, muscular neo-classical physique, the weight of a hefty tree trunk, the folds in the robes of the Ku Klux Klan and a purple stormy sky crackling with lightning, there are two perspectives of phenomenal power shot from below then a double-page spread split into radial panels worthy of Neal Adams (except these actually work better – *cough*) to present a monumental sense of movement.

I don’t believe I have ever seen it done quite like this: a first panel whose figure is super-imposed upon its successors without in any way contradicting the explosive, sequential-art narration of what happens next.

What you might infer from the above is a distinct change of pace and perhaps even genre, for this wasn’t what I was expecting when I first read it.

I was expecting straight historical fiction – and for the most part, it is – but what I’m trying to imply is that there’s more than one reason why fans of Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ KINGDOM COME will love this.

My first clue was the comet streaking across the sky.

SLH

Buy Strange Fruit h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Little Mermaid (£12-99, Papercutz) by Hans Christian Andersen & Metaphrog.

Before the anodyne days demanding a feel-good-factor Hollywood ending, children’s fairy tales were scary tales through and through, and we should all rejoice that the likes of Metaphrog are rekindling that fire and brimstone both here and in THE RED SHOES.

Yes, it’s dire warnings for all in THE LITTLE MERMAID as an underwater world of visually evoked wonder, prospects aplenty and the innocent fondling of sensual marble statues gives grass-greener way to dreams of the impossible and – when made possible by a witch’s brew about which the side-effects, possible pitfalls and other potential repercussions are made perfectly clear (death, that sort of thing) – all this wonder and innocence and all those prospects of bobbing along quite contentedly on the bottom of the beautiful briny (shimmering, shiny) sea turns to dry-land, abject misery.

Yes misery, children, misery!

 

Be careful what you wish for, look before you leap, and don’t get ideas above your station or at the very least your regular tideline.

Also: life is cruel and unfair, plus stilettos are a bitch.

Don’t you just love those proscriptive, prohibitive, cautionary, finger-wagging tut-tuts of woe? No, nor did William Blake:

“No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings”.

 – ‘The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell’.

The thing is, though, that’s not really what this is; plus: she gives up her sub-aquatic wings for something that emphatically isn’t her own, and you don’t exactly choose who you fall in love with.

LOVE IS LOVE, a most wonderful thing. Shame it seems to involve so much self-sacrifice.

The titular Little Mermaid falls in love with a human prince first spied dancing on a galleon with women wearing split dresses down the sides, revealing their lovely long legs. He looks just like her treasured marble statue. The ship is struck by lightning and sinks.

She swims.

Oh, how she swims! She saves her dear prince from drowning by propping him all night long in the raging, storm-tossed sea until at dawn they reach land. He is unconscious all through this episode; she is exhausted. And when three girls approach she retires to hide behind a rock. The prince has no idea who has saved him, but he knows whom he first spies upon waking.

The Little Mermaid cannot let this lie, for she is completely and utterly in lust.

Sorry, it’s probably love. Love, lust, infatuation: who can tell except in retrospect?

This review is getting away from me.

So she makes a deal not with the devil but with a sea-witch and not all witches are evil. Most of those I know are lovelies! Hello! *hugs*

No, that’s just children’s fairy tales.

This witch is as kind as you like in giving the Little Mermaid an opportunity to seek what she most desires and is open and honest about what might go wrong. Well, she does demand payment: the Little Mermaid’s voice.

The one cautionary element which I would pick up on in this gorgeous graphic novel – and endorse 100 percent – is that you never agree to give up your voice.

Do you see that Page 45 accepts no advertising on its website? I am grateful to all (especially to co-workers and customers) but I will be beholden to no one. It’s a trust thing, you see. Recommendations, personal relationships and socio-political stances are all about trust, and I will never give up my voice.

The Little Mermaid gives up her voice.

I don’t know who does what at Metaphrog – Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers are as one – and I kind of like that. No, I really, really like that, for comics is a composite visual and (but not necessarily) verbal medium and both elements in comics are narrative. I know them both vaguely but have never thought to ask who does what because I don’t care: between them they are exceptional storytellers.

There is a tenderness and femininity here where it counts; a sensual aspect too. A luring, exotic nature to the form and colours which to my mind are Indian when those count most, putting you in the metaphorical feet / flippers / shoes of the smitten protagonist: you experience first-hand her dazzled attraction to this world of new wonders, however exotic the one she forsakes. And at fifteen you just want it all, don’t you?

I like that when the ship goes down (as do the lights) then so do the words.

Also highly recommended for tears before bedtime then long into that cold and dark night: Neil Gaiman & Lorenzo Mattotti’s restoration of the “grim” into The Brothers Grimm HANSEL & GRETEL and (speaking of Los Bros Darkity-Darkoss) Shaun Tan’s THE SINGING BONES album of exquisitely sculpted then thoughtfully photographed beauty.

SLH

Buy The Little Mermaid and read the Page 45 review here

My Brother’s Husband vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Pantheon) by Gengoroh Tagame.

A very gentle graphic novel full of quiet conversations and even quieter contemplations with such a huge amount of space that I devoured the entire 300 pages in a couple of hours, and I am a very slow reader.

It’s certainly no car crash or culture clash – this isn’t a book of conflict – but certainly eyes are opened and I learned stuff too. I did know that there is a tattoo ban in public swimming pools because my mate Ryz visited and she is covered in tats (tattoos are associated with organised crime), but I didn’t know that the Japanese don’t hug. Although young Kana does becomes delightedly addicted to this novelty.

Young Kana is delighted by most things and inquisitive about everything, so when burly and bearded Mike Flanagan from Canada arrives on her Dad’s doorstep she is stunned then uncontainably excited to learn that a) Mike was her Dad’s recently deceased brother’s husband b) in some countries outside of Japan men can marry and c) that her Dad even had a brother. But what she has now is a hugely exotic new uncle: a great big bear of a man with chest hair and everything! And he gives hugs!

He probably shouldn’t have hugged her Dad, though.

Immediately she invites Mike to stay which puts her Dad in an awkward position because… well, Kana’s Dad, Yaichi, feels pretty awkward about it all, and he begins to realise that he has a lot of thinking to do, and not a little soul-searching ahead of him about his twin brother, why they became so distanced (after an early, closely knit childhood), and his attitude towards sexuality.

I’d like to emphasise right now that Yaichi isn’t homophobic: he’s a thoroughly decent bloke and devoted single father, but there is a lot that this sensitive man has avoided until now and initially he catches himself having double standards that he’s ashamed of. For example, he’s used to wandering around the house in nothing but his boxers after bathing, but feels the need to cover up now that there’s a gay guy in the house. Especially since his brother Ryoji and he were pretty much identical twins! But then, he’d probably have thought to cover himself up with any strange man new in the house… I always have.

Basically he massively over-thinks things, realises he’s massively over-thinking things, and then becomes embarrassed about that. I think it’s all thoroughly forgivable, don’t you?

In the meantime Kana is a whirlwind of enthusiasm – it’s Mike this, Mike that, Mike the other – and asks the bluntest of questions as kids do, even though she’s not quite aware of what she’s asking. Funny!

It’s his daughter’s wide-eyed, unwavering adoration that bonds Yaichi to Mike in these vital early stages and gradually Yaichi begins to come around to the idea of showing Mike round all the local haunts where he and Ryoji used to hang out. Opening up about Ryoji might take a little longer, but Mike’s a very, very patient guy…

As I say, this isn’t a culture clash – Mike is well versed in Japanese culture because he was married to a Japanese guy and he doesn’t go round wearing the pink triangle you see on the front – but where things grow slightly askew is after Kana, desperate to introduce Mike to her friends, learns from a friend’s mother the term “negative influence”. And her father, having become completely comfortable, with his new brother-in-law, is horrified at the prospect of his daughter being taught prejudice.

There’s so much more in these three hundred pages for you discover yourselves, including a deeply affecting silent scene which has nothing to do with Yaichi or his brother, plus on top of that there’s Kana’s Mum’s place in the family to unfold.

I like that Kana’s drawn in the perceived ‘classic’ style of sugar-buzz manga (see YOTSUBA! for equally unbridled curiosity) which suits her personality perfectly, whereas the men are slightly closer to Taniguchi, if on steroids. The parks where the boys played have that same Taniguchi serenity too.

The sentences are much shorter than mine – markedly so – and this helps keep things free from melodrama, mawkishness, and didactic proselytizing.

Beware the visual thinking device, however! Tagame likes to present instinctive reactions at the top of a page – sometimes a couple of panels – and only if you look closely will you notice them joined by thought-bubbles to the subsequent scene below, which is the one that actually, thankfully, occurs.

Now I know what the Japanese sound effect for a snore is.

Concluding volume to come.

SLH

Buy My Brother’s Husband vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Rise Of The Black Flame (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson & Christopher Mitten, Laurence Campbell…

“Hear us, Great Darkness, whose skin burns with the brilliance of a million black fires of dissolution.
“You are the origin of all things, and devourer of all things.
“Your perfect song can be heard in the void, but also in the hum deep within all living things in this breathing world.
“Though having form, you are formless. Though you are without beginning, so are you without end.
“Your time comes again, Great Darkness.
“This life will end so that yours may begin again.”

Oooo, when is sidebar not sidebar? When it’s this blinking good, that’s when! Fans of BPRD will be very familiar with the titular character who has cropped up as the main baddie in that most epic of series three times now, albeit in slightly different incarnations, plus made the odd guest appearance elsewhere such as in SLEDGEHAMMER 44 and LOBSTER JOHNSON.

What has not been explored up until now is his genesis. We know the original human host of the Flame, up to and including WW2, was one Raimund Diestel, often accompanied by his mysterious wife Kamala, before maniacal Landis Pope assumed the rather charred mantel in the modern day BPRD era.

This, then, explores just how the German naval deserter underwent his dramatic transmogrification to the supernatural psychopath, albeit one with impeccable manners, and that, perhaps, it was always his inescapable destiny. A path that indeed began many years previously with simple misstep as a small boy visiting a Berlin museum…

What a fantastic piece of horror writing this is. You never quite know with some of the Mignola-verse mini-series just how vital to the main story arcs they are, or indeed precisely how good they will be. The ABE SAPIEN material for example, is pretty essential reading, if you want to understand precisely what is going on in BPRD. But WITCHFINDER, LOBSTER JOHNSON etc., as fun as they are, can be a bit hit and miss for me and are not remotely essential. This mini provides much insight into the true nature of the Black Flame.

With that said, it also stands alone perfectly, you don’t need to know anything about BPRD to be mesmerised by this gripping tale about two British Empire policemen stationed in Rangoon, Burma, heading into the steamy jungles of the sub-continent to investigate the disappearance of young girls. Not that anyone in authority was paying attention until it was two young English girls that were taken, of course…

As our redoubtable comrades head deeper and deeper into a shadowy world inhabited by cultish magicians and freakish monsters, you start to feel their trusty service revolvers might prove somewhat inadequate protection against such sorcerous adversaries. Fortunately for them, along the way they’ll encounter a former colleague of Sir Edward WITCHFINDER Grey, a Miss Sarah Jewell, who’ll prove far more valuable to their survival prospects than any bullet ever could.

But, as we know, the phoenix-like rise of the Black Flame is inevitable. Therefore the only question that remains is whether the young girls can be saved…?

Absolutely brilliant writing from Mignola and – with long-term collaborator and firm favourite of mine, Christopher Mitten on the pencils (finally making his Mignola-verse debut!), plus of course, Dave Stewart on colours – this is nigh-on perfect. Unless you’re an ill-prepared policeman about to embark on an expedition to the very heart of darkness, that is…

JR

Buy Rise Of The Black Flame and read the Page 45 review here

Summer Magic: The Complete Journal Of Luke Kirby (£19-99, Rebellion) by Alan McKenzie & John Ridgway, Steve Parkhouse…

“And then they were gone.
“Just like magic.
“I was completely alone.
“Or I thought I was.
“That was the first time in my life I understood the true nature of fear.
“I understood that fear isn’t an enemy, but a friend.
“Fear clears the mind and slows down the passage of time.
“It makes you act that split-second faster.
“It gives you an edge.
“Then I SAW it…”

I was rather hoping they would collate and collect all this material one day. So a quick hurrah for that! Back in early 1988 a new character appeared for the first time and took the galaxy’s self-styled greatest comic in an altogether darker direction. Over the years, when 2000 AD has done horror, aside from the obvious recurring villainy of the Dark Judges forever imperilling the Big Meg ad nauseam which is starting to get seriously old now, I think it’s been done rather well, and by and large stands the test of time. Arthur Ranson’s MAZEWORLD (currently out of print) trilogy being an obvious early example of 2000 AD horror, through to more modern takes on the genre such as the extremely creepy CRADLEGRAVE set on a sink council estate.

I did chuckle at the bold legend atop the front cover which states “Before Harry Potter There Was Luke Kirby!” Indeed there was, and the first Luke Kirby material also predated the premier comics boy wizard, which is hands-down Neil Gaiman’s Timothy Hunter in the BOOKS OF MAGIC, by a few years. This material, in essence a collection of short stories published sporadically over nearly eight years, is not anywhere near BOOKS OF MAGIC level, despite how good it is. That work, for me at least, is on a level of its own.

What this material neatly blends is the peculiarly atmospheric flavour of classic British horror flicks such as American Werewolf In London, The Wickerman, plus practically anything from the Hammer Studios, with the twist that our main hero is a nine-year-old mage of immense potential learning on the incredibly hazardous job. Today’s Health and Safety Nazis would have a field day with young Luke’s lack of risk assessment and shunning of protective equipment before plunging headlong into his next perilous escapade. Still, this is set in the early ‘60s where the concept of health and safety was probably limited to finally realising it wasn’t a good idea to send a nine-year-old down a mine…  To the tenth, count ‘em, tenth, circle of hell, though, no problem guvnor, right this way.

Read as a whole, where you can see the weekly joins, particularly with the early stories compared to the later ones (something 2000 AD improved considerably on over the years to the extent that the likes of CRADLEGRAVE is simply one seamless narrative very smoothly spliced from the weekly chunks), it has all the charm, and mild inadvertent amusement, plus a dash of pure stoopid, engendered by said period flicks.

With all that said, this is genuine brooding horror with child abductions, werewolves, vampires, devils, demons and random exsanguinations lurking around every corner. Luke Kirby, though, has the magical chops to take on all-comers, once he’s got a bit of practice in. Girls, though, they’re an entirely more terrifying prospect…

Penned entirely by Alan McKenzie (who also scribed the excellently spooky Brigand Doom around that time, about an undead highwayman cavorting around in a dystopian future, though I have still to forgive him the woeful Supersurf 13 featuring a certain Marlon Shakespeare esquire), with very different turns on art from 2000 AD stalwarts John Ridgeway, Steve Parkhouse, Graham Higgins, I finished this wishing, as with a fair few other characters (including Brigand Doom which ‘concluded’ on a cliff-hanger to say the least), that there will one day be new Luke Kirby in the pages of the self-proclaimed galaxy’s greatest comic. It just feels like there is so much more they could do with the character.

But, perhaps that is also part of the charm of 2000 AD. They relentlessly find talented up-and-coming writers and artists, create new characters, churn out some great stories, then move on and keep on innovating. Aside from Dredd, obviously. There must always be Dredd. There really must. But you don’t get to 40 years old producing the same old shit week in, week out. Unless you have the marketing budget of Warner Brothers or Disney, that is…

JR

Buy Summer Magic: The Complete Journal Of Luke Kirby and read the Page 45 review here

New Avengers by Bendis Complete Collection vol 4 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Billy Tan, Michael Gaydos, Jim Cheung, David Mack, Chris Bachalo.

For which you will need Bendis & Yu’s SECRET INVASION, which is where Bendis’ NEW AVENGERS has been heading since its very beginning. I’m not kidding: as will be revealed here, a very long game has been played by both the creator and so the characters. This is it come to fruition, then almost immediately moved firmly on.

That cat can’t help leaping right out of the bag now, clawing and scratching away, so if you want to read the best-ever AVENGERS series outside of ULTIMATES Season One and Season Two, with knock-out comedy dialogue, but you don’t what the surprises spoiled for you here, please click on NEW AVENGERS VOL 1 for that review instead, and walk away now!

I wrote: “NOW!”

I’ve heard from one quarter at least that all SECRET INVASION was to them was one massive fight. Actually it was several, but point taken. The thing is, it isn’t self-contained. Not only was it the climax to several hundred pages of sneaking about, whispering, mutual suspicion and second-guessing about the shape-shifting Skrulls’ infiltration of planet Earth, but the flesh of it – the emotional core – lies here.

Its flashback revelations are stunningly clever with gorgeous art from Jimmy Cheung for the episodes revisiting the Illuminati’s covert counter-strike against the shape-shifting Skrulls all those years ago (see NEW AVENGERS VOL 3) and you finally learn exactly what the Skrulls have done since with all that genetic lost property.

Then, appropriately enough, its ALIAS’ Michael Gaydos who provides exceptional acting for the argument between lovers Luke Cage and Jessica Jones – first on the telephone and then face to face in front of Avengers Tower, home of the opposing MIGHTY AVENGERS who want this underground team locked up – about the custody of their baby after its recent near-murder.

Luke insists that Jessica has sold out, citing principles, honour and standing up for what’s right; Jessica’s sole contention is that as parents they must put the child’s safety first. Its truth and simplicity seem incontrovertible, even to a non-parent like me. Furthermore, Jessica maintains that, under their virtually unique circumstances, Avengers Tower is the only place where their baby is safe.

But S.H.I.E.L.D. has been played. Hydra has been played. The Avengers have been played. All by a single Skrull disguised as one of their own. Who, where, when and how? You’ve seen it all before, just not from this perspective.

Learn precisely how the Skrulls gained the inspired element they’d need to escape detection so long as they remain in human form and for what psychological reasons they carefully selected which individual super-humans to replace with their own infiltrating agents many moons ago! Watch it dawn on the Skrull Empress that her personal sacrifice and long-term strategy lay in tatters when several years ago The Scarlet Witch turned the world upside down during HOUSE OF M! Wince as The Scarlet Witch subsequently hands them their invasion on a “No More Mutants” platter!

Then weep as Jessica Jones’ words about the safety of her baby come back to haunt her.

The second half of this whopping repackage deals with the fall-out to SECRET INVASION whose repercussions are substantial: the last person in the Marvel Universe you’d want to be given the keys to the door has been given the keys to the door.

Clint Barton, the only current long-term member of the Avengers (as Hawkeye then Goliath now Ronin) is horrified to discover [REDACTED] marketing himself and his fellow convicted criminals to the public on television as the new official team. There’s a great scene in which they try to figure out who each shady figure is underneath their new masks, and once again Hawkeye is not best pleased to find himself represented by [REDACTED].

And you know our HAWKEYE, right? “Act in haste, repent at leisure” were words specifically written about him. Every idea he has is a bad idea.

What follows is a game of super-powered chess as each side tries to out-manoeuvre the other with several layers of misdirection, bluff and countermeasures, resulting for now in a stalemate with one notable exception.

My only qualm amongst so much excellence lies in the ‘Dark Reign’ chapter masterfully illustrated by Alex Maleev in which Bendis’ dialogue for Emma Frost sounds lazily like his own Jessica Jones rather than Grant Morrison’s, Joss Whedon’s and Warren Ellis’ louche, sybaritic Emma Frost well established by the trio of writers in NEW X-MEN then ASTONISHING X-MEN.

Still, every other element here will give you a great big grin.

SLH

Buy New Avengers by Bendis Complete Collection vol 4 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 information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

Hostage h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Guy Delisle

The Sound Of The World By Heart h/c (£22-99, Magnetic Press) by Giacomo Bevilacqua

Casanova vol 5: Acedia vol 2 (£13-99, Image) by Matt Fraction, Michael Chabon & Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba

Batman: Detective Comics vol 2: Victim Syndicate s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by James Tynion IV, Marguerite Bennett & various

Amazing Spider-Man vol 5: Worldwide s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Humberto Ramos & Guiseppe Camuncoli, Francisco Herrera

Jessica Jones vol 1: Uncaged s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos

News!

    

ITEM! Hello! Would you like some lovely merchandise designed by the equally adorable Jamie McKelvie? If so, you really, really, really need to pre-order by May 21st, please to avoid that dreaded tears / bedtime interface we would all rather avoid.

Why? Because that’s when Page 45 has to place its own pre-orders, and re-orders of comics merchandise are rarely available. Ta!

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE ENAMEL PIN: SKULL
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE ENAMEL PIN: KLLK

Also, while you’re here:

All THE WICKED + THE DIVINE graphic novels reviewed by Page 45, spoiler-free.

Which, by book four, isn’t easy!

FAQ: THE WICKED + THE DIVINE VOL 5: IMPERIAL PHASE S/C is due 7th June, and you could pre-order that too is you’re of a mind to, but that isn’t even an inch as important because we constantly re-order. You just might like to have it shipped to your door ASAP!

Thnx!

ITEM! Reminder:

PAGE 45’s 50% SALE!

PAGE  45 KICKED OFF A 50% SALE OF 2,500 GRAPHIC NOVELS LAST FRIDAY NIGHT.

It’s probably going to be closer to 1,500 by the time you see this, but what a lot of grinning faces we’ve seen!

What I love so much about it is that the books you are buying are brilliant. They’re not rubbish, or else why would we have reviewed so many of them?

No, we’re simply doing this because it’s only Phase One of Page 45’s Evolution this year – a means to a most emphatic, architectural end – and because it has been proven that having too much to choose from destroys sales.

There have been surveys on this sort of stuff about jam! Jam!

ALL of these were in the sale as of Friday night!

But please don’t think this mean we believe we’re selling jam or we’re going to cut back on diversity. Oooooh no!

Just bulk.

Comics is a visual medium, particularly for kids who don’t browse by spine, and this will allow us to present more of the very best quality comics face-on.

You can always order in whatever you want by asking at the counter, regardless of whether we stock it on our shelves.

It’s basically the same thing as Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month, which we were begged for when a customer called Simon Ghent simply could not handle so many reviews of great graphic novels every month, and wanted to buy what we told him to!

Hello, by the way: we love giving shop-floor recommendations tailored to your tastes. Just ask at the counter!

THANK you! xxx

 – Stephen

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