Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews June 2017 week two

Featuring Jillian Tamaki, Sina Grace, Philip Pullman & Fred Fordham, Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows, Gerard Way & Nick Derrington, Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev wnew editions from Darwyn Cooke, Jeff Smith & Charles Vess.

Boundless (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Jillian Tamaki.

Reveries, perspectives, freedoms, constraints…

Bodies, faces, fiction and fabrication…

Illusion, isolation, engagement and disconnection…

There’s so much to absorb in this phenomenally rich and varied collection of searching short stories. You neither know what you’ll get next nor know how it will be presented or indeed how each will end – except unexpectedly.

It’s bookended on either side with two vertical, vertiginous tales, the first being a seeming celebration of newly discovered World-Class City life, away from home, as a fledgling woman enjoys heady independence…

“I’m gonna live in a World-Class City
“Not gonna leave
“’til my mom comes and gets me.”

… up to a point.

The forms are brave, bold and weighty, but if you look closely, in spite of what the author contends, a price is being paid.

‘Boundless’, meanwhile, is life seen from sky-level by a bird, ground-level by a squirrel and the point of view of a house fly very much aware of its mortality, further jeopardised by the irate attention it attracts on the move. The bird luxuriates in the freedom flight affords, un-confined to “a lateral axis”, but it must beware of where webs are woven.

“Most webs are so finely spun as to be completely undetectable and of no consequence to most organisms. We must avoid them at all costs. A simple lapse of attention or care can be deadly.”

That’s worth bearing in mind throughout this collection and, of course, life. Webs of deceit are being woven throughout ‘The ClairFree System’ which seeks to ensnare the unsuspecting with sincerity, which is a neat trick if you can pull it off. And the narrator can. There is a blindingly brilliant moment in the middle involving a hands-on approach whose intimate touch is reprised as the punchline. You’re not quite reading what you’re presented with at the beginning.

Further illusions are examined in ‘1.Jenny’, this time in the mirror-life that is Facebook, where the facts and stats begin to diverge from reality. Well, they do that, don’t they? What was it Charlie Brooker said about Twitter being an interactive game where one presents an approximation of oneself in order to win the most followers? Something like that.

“The mirror Facebook was all anyone could talk about for two weeks.
“At first it looked like an exact duplicate of the main Facebook, But soon small changes started to appear in everyone’s profiles…
“1.Katie’s liked National Broccoli Day
“(Katie hated broccoli.)
“1.Jonah was married to 1.Caroline
“(Jonah was 16, openly gay, and not yet dating.)”

These departures are amusing enough to observe in others but when 1.Jenny’s life begins to deviate dramatically from Jenny’s, Jenny becomes obsessed with following her mirror self, judging it and finding it wanting. Her therapist wants to discuss Jenny’s home life, her past; Jenny would rather discuss 1.Jenny’s.

As with almost all of these stories – a dozen or so including one on the back of the book – I’m still processing it and will do for months to come.

‘Half Life’ I knew I recognised – it’s from the NOBROW 7 anthology – but it’s even more fascinating in this context, as a woman gradually becomes more conscious of her own body, just as it starts to diminish, to physically shrink and doesn’t stop. What happens with her relationship to the outside world is riveting and goes far further than you would anticipate. It’s not an unhappy tale. The narrator is relatively equanimous to her situation, calmly observing its details before becoming fascinated by where its trajectory unexpectedly takes her. It’s really quite sensual.

Rarely does one encounter such a variety of visual styles as well as narrative approaches in a single creator’s compendium, although Eleanor Davis’ HOW TO BE HAPPY immediately springs to mind.

Here we are treated to the soft forms and fleshy colour apposite for the reminiscence by its producer of the short-lived but bright and bouncy sitcom-porno created for television.


But there’s more than a little up in ‘bedbug’, haggard husband Jeremy drawn very differently to his narrator wife – slashes of line and a clueless, open mouth as opposed to her more voluptuous, fully realised physique.

“I got bitten first, on my lower leg. We assumed mosquitoes – Jeremy closed the bedroom window. But soon, we both had bites in the tell-tale rows.
“We stripped the bed. No sign, not even a hollow moulted shell. The internet said that was common, though.”

Nothing here is accidental. Jenny’s lines are much, much looser in ‘1.Jenny’ – again, approximations – while ‘The ClairFree System’ is in black and white and quite precise, hailing the Holy Grail of a perfect skin and creepy, cult-like images too. Full-page poster panels, the lot of them.

For more Jillian Tamaki, please see SUPERMUTANT MAGIC ACADEMY, SKIM and THIS ONE SUMMER with her cousin Mariko Tamaki, each as different from the other as the tales told here.

Jillian Tamiki and Mariko Tamaki will both be at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2017 this October. Come join us; it’s fun!


Buy Boundless and read the Page 45 review here

Nothing Lasts Forever (£13-99, Image) by Sina Grace.

“I stop listening.
“I can’t deal with answers.”

A tender, honest and unsanitised self-expression during which Grace finally begins listening to himself, so starts to find answers and, in doing so, discovers the other thing he was searching for within: his perfect comics project.

There’s a telling two-page parallel in which, on the left-hand side, he scrutinises previously drawn pages hanging from a studio washing line, some appended with notes, others linked by thematic threads, anguishing over what he should create next.

“It’s gotta be: funny, cool-looking, have emotion and –“

His mobile phone interrupts. It’s Date O’Clock. On the right-hand side, he’s paying no more attention to the present.

“I try to combat the weirdness of internet dating by going overboard on personal stuff with “strangers” I chat online with…”

Which might be fine if you ask them about their lives as well… and so long as you on no account begin blathering on about your ex-boyfriends.

“I met an ex for lunch today…”
“So am I your sloppy seconds?”

Unable to take the hint (not listening…), Sina launches into a self-absorbed emotional post-mortem on that meeting before sitting up afterwards in bed, on his own, between the empty, upturned shells of his date represented as a toy – a Russian Doll.

“My strategy to overshare really doesn’t help me learn more about Dear John…”


But this is what I mean about unsanitised: Grace is well aware of his own shortcomings, the contradictions between what he most wants to know by a third date but can’t bring himself to ask (“Do you feel like I’m “it”?”), and the over-commitment he doesn’t want to hear from some others on date two: this sends him running very scared indeed. But I suppose it depends to some extent at least on who asks, and how they ask.

Please don’t be fooled into thinking that this is artlessly slapped onto the page as either a careless emotional evacuation or a didactic, I know-best critique of others’ behaviour. It’s free from guile but it’s so tightly structured as a second, vital reading will make emphatically clear.

“Did you not like your ramen?” asks his Dear John date.
“I did! I think I may have a gluten problem or something with starches… ‘Evs! Check time!”

On a first read-through one could easily conclude that Grace was so caught up in his own monologue – preoccupied with offloading – that he failed to stop talking and eat: that his supposed gluten problem is just an excuse for that bad behaviour, and his “‘Evs! Check time!” was a hurried way of concluded that line of questioning. If you study his face, he’s certainly anxious about something.

But this is still quite early on, and earlier still there’s a similarly ambiguous end to a conversation at a convention which has been equally well set up in advance. In it he seems to duck a fan’s question about what’s next on his plate before ducking into the toilet to throw up.

“Must be stress… Yeesh, hope that doesn’t happen again.”

The ambiguity wouldn’t have worked half so well had Grace not preceded the encounter with self-doubts as to which artistic direction he should indeed pursue next, and immediately preceded that question with a convention-floor interview after which he castigates himself for what he perceives to be an evasive answer or at least one insufficiently confident about “the more sexual portions of SELF-OBSESSED”.

“Fuck, that answer sucked.
“In a country that prides itself on freedom of speech, I shouldn’t have to be concerned about others…
“Like, wouldn’t a kid in the closet in Iran expect me to live loud?
“I am unfettered by religion and shame, I should revel in my freedom!”

I can assure you that Grace does revel in it loudly and proudly throughout, encouraged by the likes of fellow comicbook creators Eric Stephenson, Jeff Lemire, Becky Cloonan and Brandon Graham to make both his comic and his craft as individualistic as he wants. He also revels in it poignantly and endearingly in a recollection of an early crush, aged 14, on a 28-year-old teacher which he attempts to pursue with a clumsiness which is ever so cute, online. One AOL chat ends with the teacher signing off:

“Gotta run. Alias is on. LY.”

And oh, the high, heart-fluttering thrill, hoping beyond hope that he meant “Love you”!

Then the down-to-earth crash as your hopes are dashed. It signified “Later, yo”.

“Ah…” replies Sina in a speech balloon dripping with desolation, a giant heart breaking behind him, “That’s what I thought…”

Let’s pull back again to the structure and the book’s immaculate, yet oh so subtle panel-by-panel composition, however. Between the comicbook convention restroom jitters and RamenGate, we are presented with a page called ‘All the times Amber was right…’ Amber is his best friend and confidante, his wise woman with unfalteringly fine advice, encouraging and emboldening when appropriate, puncturing his puffed-up delusions wherever necessary:

“And put some weight back on! I don’t wanna see any of that anorexic actress B.S. from you!”

The thing is, the first four free-floating examples are given in blue whereas that final sign off is bordered, in pink. It’s only on a second reading that the reason behind this far from random artistic decision will become clear. Little impresses me more than such an absence of sign-posting, and there’s plenty more where that came from.

I’ve considered whether such a critical observation itself constitutes sign-posting, but I have at least refrained from critical analysis in this instance, and on balance it seems far more important to impress upon potential readers that what may initially appear to be a jumble of multiple snapshots presented with mixed levels of rendering – either created for this highly original graphic novel or salvaged from sketchbooks, journals or lined notebooks – is in fact a painstakingly arranged, intricate lattice of increasing intimacy.

Diaries lend themselves to observation, introspection and self-analysis if you care to pursue your thoughts far enough. And that’s essentially the overt aesthetic: immediate, loose, candid, exceptionally revealing in every sense, and not afraid of being published for public consumption without polishing either the presentation (which would have eroded the intimacy) or the author’s personality (which would have obliterated it).

Instead his inconsistencies which we all harbour – his highs, extreme lows, and his self-destructive dating choices demonstrating an initial chasm between self-knowledge and self-guidance – are bared not for his own benefit, but for others’.

Just look at the cover with its attendant, top-right comprehension! It is, both in its sentiment and placement, the very antithesis of veneer.

This is above all about digging beneath the surface in order to help heal, and as such it reminded me in no small part of dear, dear Sarah Burgess (THE SUMMER OF BLAKE SINCLAIR – 3 volumes – and BROTHER’S STORY) whose struggles with sociability, self-confidence and self-worth in the form of her online comics I have long admired and pestered her on several occasions to press into print so that we can place them proudly (as we have this) in Page 45’s online Mental Health Section.

For as NOTHING LASTS FOREVER progresses, so it increasingly cuts to the chase.

“Why am I surrounded by love & support and still think about dying?”

Sina is indeed surrounded by love and support, even by his one central on / off ex-boyfriend – prepared to pick him up by car, by hand and in standing steadfast with both arms braced on either side as Sina wibbles aimlessly on about some nebulous future at a party – but it is so often that one feels most alone when surrounded by friends. And, for some like Sina, it is so often that one can feel most empty, remote and removed when in bed with another, during sex.

Please don’t judge. You may feel very differently, for we are all unique and complex individuals. Forgetting that is to fail to consider and acknowledge the validity of others’ struggles and their very humanity.

“Acclaim doesn’t fix depression.
“Therapy, supplements, talking about it, time, medication… these things help.”

A comic like this doesn’t come round very often, though I do wish it would (Sarah Burgess, you are brilliant and so please take note) and I, for one, relish meeting new people with experiences outside of mine which enrich my understanding of life and of love and of hurdles which I could never stride over nor vault. It’s ever so eloquently expressed, even in the silences.

I’d like to end on another high note, the title: NOTHING LASTS FOREVER.

You don’t think really believe that Grace is alluding to relationships, do you? Even if he may be in part, it’s far more positive than that.


Buy Nothing Lasts Forever and read the Page 45 review here

The Adventures Of John Blake: Mystery Of The Ghost Ship h/c (£14-99, David Fickling Books) by Philip Pullman & Fred Fordham…

“I believe you were a member of the 1929 Einstein-Carmichael expedition.”
“There was a scientist in the party.”
“That’s right.”
“What was he investigating?”
“He didn’t talk much. Was only interested in the experiment. And his son. James, was it?”
“No, John. Very bright boy…”

Rip-snorting, high-seas, high-octane, time-travel, all-ages, hyphen-heavy yarn penned originally for The Phoenix Comic by His Dark Materials author (first and second volumes of the first part of that trilogy, NORTHERN LIGHTS, have been adapted for comics) and adeptly illustrated by able seaman Fred Fordham, who I must admit I wasn’t familiar with, but certainly is a talent with his neat and tidy shipshape ligne claire linework.

I note, actually, it has just been announced Fred is going to adapt Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird as a graphic novel for Harper Collins, who clearly view him as a safe pair of hands on the proverbial tiller for tackling such a heavyweight literary title. I think that is probably more than enough sailing puns now…

Cast adrift on the oceans of eternity, buffeted by the ever-changing tides of temporal instability, boy genius John Blake is determined to get his millennia-spanning motley crew back home to their respective eras safely. There are others, however, who covet his time-travelling vessel, the Mary Alice, and will stop at nothing to get their dastardly hands on it!

Ah, this is a great bit of fun, speculative fiction with Bond-style delightfully preposterous ‘espionage’ elements, courtesy of secret agent Roger <ahem> Blake, and the main bad guy, multi-squillionnaire tech giant Carlos Dahlberg and his enormous super yacht and gigantic guided missiles. I would make allusions to him making up for some inadequacy perhaps, but let’s keep this review as all-ages as the work itself!

Adults will undoubtedly love this boy’s and girl’s own adventure, as John teams up with a young lady called Serena whose daft dad managed to dump her in the drink without a life jacket in the middle of the South Pacific. Now she’s part of the ghost ship’s crew, criss-crossing time in search of safe harbour and answers to explain their peculiar odyssey.

Can John keep his crew, with the assistance of the eponymously named suave naval intelligence officer, out of Dahlberg’s megalomaniacal clutches?! Or will Carlos finally break the maxim that money can’t buy you everything and achieve his tyrannical ambitions of global, and temporal, total domination?! Why am I using a question mark as well as an exclamation mark?! The answer to the last question, dear reader, is that I am a idiot. For a resolution to the other two queries, however, you will have to read the book…


Buy The Adventures Of John Blake: Mystery Of The Ghost Ship h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Providence vol 2 h/c (£19-99, Avatar) by Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows…

“In fact, you’re spoiled for literary heroes tonight. I believe the gentleman next to that older lady is Lovecraft, whose story you enjoyed.”


Yes, good old H.P. himself makes a suitably saucy cameo appearance right at the end of this volume. If you think that sounds like a rather cheeky conceit, it isn’t, trust me, as H.P. will become a vital if minor part of our chief protagonist Robert Black’s supporting cast. It does, however, provide more than a little bumptious and welcome comedic relief after some of the most intensely horrifying pages you’re ever likely to cast your disbelieving, widening eyes over.

Fans of the Call Of Cthulu RPG may well recall that whilst reading certain skin-bound tomes and encountering mysterious otherworldly entities in all their various guises – some considerably less human than others – would garner you precious arcane knowledge, it would also cost you precious Sanity Points, of which you winsomely started with a seemingly relatively substantial, if finite, number. Lose them all, though, and a permanent gibbering vacation in the nearest asylum promptly ensued, also thus requiring the rolling up of… a new character.

What did you think I was going to type there, hmm? I’m not entirely sure at this point just how many Sanity Points I have left after this second of three such tomes… fortunately not flesh-encased, mind you, unlike the direct market editions, albeit being still limited to a most bizarre 6,666 copies for each volume before you’ll ever see sight of any softcovers. 6,666 being the number of publisher hyping greed rather than the much smaller, and less offensive, traditional Satanic 666…

If you thought NEONOMICON had some… disturbing content, shall we say, in one or two places (yes, I am thinking of the absence-of-contact-lens scene in the swimming pool…), this is as wrong as that on practically every other page. It’s small wonder, therefore, that poor old Robert is the veritable quivering jelly by the time he somehow makes it back to Boston from the genetically questionable wilds of upstate Massachusetts. Then matters start to get really strange as, well, let me get Pitman the photographer to explain it to you, and the ever-trusting Robert, as he leads him on a literal and metaphorical underground trip where the intersections between the world of dreams and our own are… less asymptotic, indeed entirely unbounded…

“You see, there’s, uhm, realism and there’s realism.”

Yes, it’s all about to get very real for poor old Robert, as he continues to try his quavering best to make sense of his increasingly bizarre experiences and detail them in his extensive prose journal writings, once again included, betwixt and between each issue of comics, for our entertainment / warning.

I stand by my comment in my review of the first volume of PROVIDENCE that this is the best comics Alan has written in years. If this really is to be his last comics project, as he insists, it’s certainly bowing out at the very apex of his prodigious powers, leaving a legion of highly perturbed readers in his majestic wake. In many ways, I do see this as a companion piece to PROMETHEA, which also explored the theme of imagination as reality, and the apocalypse, just from a rather more transcendent perspective, in the positive, traditional sense. This, however, is a huge warning of what (hopefully not literally) lurks beyond our immediate tangible perception, insidiously, relentlessly searching for a way in…


Buy Providence vol 2 h/cand read the Page 45 review here

Doom Patrol vol 1: Brick By Brick s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Gerard Way & Nick Derington, Tom Fowler…

“Exceptional! Make some room! It’s time to take things to their next logical conclusion!
“Engage neurotic pain amplifier! Bypass settings one through four and begin at “Disorientating Agony”!
“Yesss! Yesss!  Release your fluids!
“Level six! Level seven! You will open up and let us in! We will obtain the meat!”

There are those who will inevitably find reading this disorientating agony, I suspect, much like Grant Morrison’s DOOM PATROL run, but sometimes, you just need to let it all wash over you and be transported along for the ride, even if that is in a stolen ambulance barrelling through dimensions unknown whilst reality falls apart spectacularly around you. Which is exactly what Gerard Way espouses in his interesting afterword, referencing a bemused reviewer who felt this wasn’t a comic that could be reviewed, only experienced. He has a point.

Still, I suppose I’d better try…

The Doom Patrol as we know it appears to be extant, though improbably disparate, scattered and utterly dysfunctional, both individually and more certainly collective. Okay, they were always exactly like that, but the gang is most empathetically not together. Neither individually nor collectively…

Cue Casey Brinke, EMT technician and who “only wants to do good things.” When she was a little girl, her mother told her… “Be a bright light in a black hole… just before she flew into the sun.”

Okay! Whether Casey, or parties with a guiding hand hidden behind the scenes know it, her mission seems to be to get the Patrol back together, apparently in as chaotic and messy a fashion as possible. Several of your old favourites will reappear one by one, such as Cliff Steele, Larry Trainor, Crazy Jane, Danny The Street, and my personal favourite Flex Mentallo. My absolute top moment in this volume, actually, is the Man Of Muscle Mystery suicidally riding a bomb, Dr. Strangelove style, to the rescue. The Hero Of The Beach doesn’t worry about trivial matters like getting blown to smithereens!!

I am presuming Casey is going to stick around, hazardous to her own health as that will no doubt be. And then there is a new Patrol member Terry None, which might be a wee nod to Morrison’s Number None of the Brotherhood Of Dada. Doom Patrol fanatics, as Way avowedly is, will probably notice all manner of Easter eggs inserted meltingly into the proceedings.

It’s gloriously daft writing from Way, I’ll give him that! There is an immensely engaging and even moderately coherent story slipped in there amongst all the froth and frolics, which is just enough to hold this emergency call of a comic on the proverbial road, tyres screeching, blue lights-a-flashing and the psychic sirens wailing and Dopplering away merrily. Lovely, friendly, frisky pop art from Nick Derington and Tom Fowler. Very clean, clear and consistent too, to say there is so much madness occurring on every page. Just one question remains then…

What’s Going On With Niles Caulder? No, really, what is going on with Niles Caulder? You’ll find out, as he also has a mini-story within the story told one-popping-up-apparently-but-definitely-not-so-randomly-page-at-a-time, with enigmatic titles like “What Are You Doing, Niles Caulder?”, “Niles Caulder: Habitual Snoop” and “Meanwhile, In Larry Trainor’s Innermost Parallel Lifetime.” It will all make sense in the end, trust me. And The Chief. You should always trust The Chief. Plus, it would seem, Gerard Way.


Buy Doom Patrol vol 1: Brick By Brick s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Infamous Iron Man vol 1: Infamous s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev.

“So you’re the one who’s been giving my son a hard time all these years.
“Naughty boy.”

Along with Matt Hollingsworth who keeps the colours subdued until the cauldron comes out, line artist Alex Maleev absolutely owns this title.

He was Bendis’ creative partner on what was the finest run ever on DAREDEVIL and, more recently, this series’ immediate predecessor INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN. It was there that we first met the reformed, harmless and armourless Victor von Doom, smooth-faced, suited and booted following events in SECRET WARS. Now, following the events in CIVIL WAR II, there is slight a gap in the market for an Iron Man. So Doom swaps armours in order to atone for decades of home-grown tyranny, international terrorism and the world’s worst overuse of the term “Bah!” (which is a little like “Meh!” but a lot less dismissive and much more infuriated).


All three books are fab, but as reference you only need INTERNATIONAL IRON MAN to comprehend the dynamics between Doom, Tony Stark (now actually absent yet virtually present) and Stark’s ex-belle, the exceptional scientist Amara who is, I believe, falling for Doom against her own dear wishes and much better judgement. If she isn’t then I do apologise, but it’s subtly done and I really do think so.

With the aid of Stark’s armour, Doom is now using his years of prior knowledge to take down former associates in crime with very little effort, tearing their home addresses out of his Filofax as he tears down their laboratories.

He’s expending neither much effort nor half so many words as he used to: it’s all very admirably efficient. Less is more when you are as powerful as Doom and this is where Alex Maleev comes in. He renders Doom far more of a presence through relative relaxation: an inexertion, both in battle and conversation.

The very first page shows Doom in his original armour, gauntleted hands folded one over the other in the most keep-your-own-counsel, foreboding manner imaginable, speaking only when spoken to and when provoked; sometimes not even then. He takes one solitary action which is instantly effective, concluding the one-way conversation in a manner akin to putting the phone down on a cold-caller, but with additional benefit of knowing you won’t be cold-called again anytime soon.

This that page; this is that panel.

Honestly? I think the second panel of this collected edition is the best rendition of Doom of all time. I’d have stopped talking right then.

Glaring from under his cowl (gauntlets folded, yes) Victor growls – without growling anything – are you seriously going to fuck with me…?

Fast-forward to the heavily fortified S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier floating high above the world’s surface, and its Commander Maria Hill is fobbing off a pedantic phone call from her mother whilst painting her toe nails. Now, I know that’s in the script so credit as always – always – to Brian Michael Bendis, but Maleev nails the multi-tasking mundanity of applying polish while listening to bothersome shit which you really shouldn’t have to take except from your mom. One of those actions requires real concentration.

What happens next requires even more concentration, but I would be exceedingly distracted throughout if I thought my socks had smudged the wet varnish.

Alex Maleev Exhibit C comes from Switzerland whither Doom temporarily re-houses Amara, and the mountainous backgrounds are – in their truest sense – awesome. Hollingsworth once again fires on all restrained cylinders and the effect is tranquil, idyllic.

I should probably be telling you the plot.

Doctor Doom has reformed and wants to set the world to rights, empowered by Tony Stark’s armour. No one believes him, especially former Fantastic Four adversary Benjamin Grimm. So that gets in his way a bit.

Doom is disgusted by what he finds has become of his kingdom, Latveria, which lies in rubble and under the command of a military rabble which should, he now believes, have transformed his prior dictatorship into a thriving democracy. Instead, there aren’t even any schools to go to, so the kids clutter up the streets, carrying rifles with live ammunition.

He’s also disgusted to find Ben there.

Things, however, are looking even more grim for our Benjamin whose rocks are coming off, clink, clink, clink, one at a time, because someone in the shadows appears to have made an unexpected return from the dead.

“Ah… Vic?”
“You need not speak.”
“It’s… She says she’s…”
“I know. I knew when I walked in. Hello, mother.”

But there’s someone else waiting in the wings whom Doom knows so well, and he should no longer exist, either.

Exceptional for Marvel right now, this is written with all due care for the past, but with a refreshingly thorough reassessment in the light of sweeping changes which comes from a lot of lateral thinking.


Buy Infamous Iron Man vol 1: Infamous s/c and read the Page 45 review here

New Editions / Old Reviews

Parker: The Outfit s/c (£17-99, IDW) by Richard Stark & Darwyn Cooke…

“Salsa was a stick-up man from Cuba. He’d been a revolutionary, a gigolo and was now an armed robber. When he saw the call come through he keyed his Dodge. He’d been stalking out the gas station since Parker’s letter. Two years ago he’d stopped for gas and made it as a layoff dump. As he roared towards the station he pulled on his mask. The two clowns didn’t know what hit them. All they’d remember was that they were robbed by Frankenstein.”

This, the second Darwyn Cooke adaptation of a Richard Stark ‘Parker’ novel is a direct sequel to the first, PARKER: THE HUNTER. As mentioned in my previous review, with crime it’s all about the plot for me, but Cooke’s art on the first book just took my breath away literally right from the moment I opened the book. THE OUTFIT, if anything, is even more beautiful for reasons I’ll come to, and once again we begin with a panoramic double-page splash of the locale, this time Miami Beach c.1963.

Following the events of THE HUNTER Parker knows he’s made some serious enemies in the shape of the Outfit having taken them for $45,000, which sure isn’t chump change, but that’s how they’ve been made to feel, and it’s sure how they’re choosing to take it. The Outfit are coming after Parker so repeatedly now he decides the only option is to change his face as well as his scenery. But easy living costs money, and after an armed robbery heist to generate some quick cash goes slightly awry, all thanks to a good old-fashioned double crossing at the hands of a greedy dame, the Outfit learns just why it is they’ve been unable to spot Parker recently. And, so the chase begins again.

Parker, a smarter wit than all the bosses put together, surmises the only way he’s going to be able to get them to stop coming after him for good is if he keeps hitting them hard, where it hurts them the most… in their wallets, so that they’ll have no choice but to make peace with him. Of course, Parker being Parker, he has a few more angles to his plan than that, but he’s certainly not one to show his hand until it’s time to claim the whole pot. And so, with the aid of some long standing friends scattered across the States, who might not exactly be adverse to some easy scores against the Outfit themselves, he starts a co-ordinated campaign of action, having forewarned the Outfit this is just a taste of what they can expect if they don’t leave him alone.

One key addition to Cooke’s glorious armoury of endeavour this time around is the use of devices relatively atypical to sequential art, such as floating narrative text-excerpts to build extra vital detail and background information into the plot. Often when this device is used in comics, it makes the work feel text-heavy, but here it’s so punchily done in a breezily staccato manner, it really adds to the action. And in a particularly delightful conceit, when Parker’s extended gang of colleagues launch their concerted series of heists all aimed at interests of the Outfit, he employs a completely different art style to chronicle each heist, switching from illustrated magazine article to Pink Panther-esque cartoon style, to panelled newspaper strip, to ligne claire, further adding to the gloriously period ’60s feel of the whole joint. It also neatly provides a very clever mid-book interval in true old-school cinema style, before Parker takes central stage once again to bring the hidden elements of his master plan to a concussive conclusion.


Buy Parker: The Outfit s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Bone: Rose (£11-99, Scholastic) by Jeff Smith…

Using some of the supporting characters from BONE but set in an earlier time, this standalone work is quite different in that it is a straight story without the comedic element that often featured in its parent title.

This is in essence a high fantasy story about the Princess Rose and her sister Briar involving talking dragons, strange creatures (some of which will be familiar to readers of BONE), mysterious protectors, dastardly villainy and the usual expendable cannon-fodder villagers.

The lush painted artwork from Vess put me in mind of his slice of THE BOOKS OF MAGIC and adds to the magical fairytale qualities of the book. Personally I was left with the interesting paradox of finding the character of Rose slightly annoying because everyone seems so easily able to manipulate her naivety and exploit her, but on the other hand as a device it is used well by Smith to generate some lovely tortuous and unpleasant plot twists. You’ll almost certainly find yourself muttering under your breath to Rose, come on you really can’t be that daft, but in the end I found myself rather carried along by the story.


Buy Bone: Rose 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’.

Giant Days vol 5 s/c (£13-99, Boom Box) by John Allison & Max Sarin

Threads: From The Refugee Crisis h/c (£14-99, Verso) by Kate Evans

Pop Gun War vol 2: Chain Letter (£17-99, Image) by Farel Dalrymple

Ravina The Witch h/c (£19-99, Titan) by Junko Mizuno

Ethel & Ernest s/c (£10-99, Jonathan Cape) by Raymond Briggs

Motor Crush vol 1 s/c (£8-99, Image) by Brenden Fletcher & Babs Tarr, Cameron Stewart

Batman: Detective Comics vol 9: Gordon At War s/c (£14-99, DC) by Peter J. Tomasi & Fernando Pasarin, Scot Eaton

Nightwing vol 2: Back To Bludhaven s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Tim Seeley & Marcus To, Marcio, Takara, Min

Teen Titans vol 1: Damian Knows Best s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Ben Percy & Khoi Pham, Diogenes Neves, Jonboy Meyers

Venom vol 1: Homecoming s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Mike Costa & Gerardo Sandoval, Juanan Ramirez, Iban Coello

The Girl From The Other Side vol 2 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Nagabe

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.