Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2017 week four

Featuring Jiro Taniguchi, Andi Watson, Aleš Kot, André Lima Araύjo, Jason Latour, Chris Brunner, Rico Renzi, Spencer Woodcock & Denny Derbyshire, plus Jason Aaron & R. M. Guéra in a brand-new Scalped review.

Loose Ends (£14-99, Image) by Jason Latour & Chris Brunner with Rico Renzi.

Chris Brunner and Rico Renzi have got a whole lot of Kyle Baker going on in their exceptionally expressive forms and neon-bright, Miami night colours. There’s a huge weight to the heads and hips as Sonny and Cheri cruise the throbbing boulevards, getting shit-faced and grin-faced after an absolutely wasted night in a hotel room and obliterated afternoon in a bar by South Beach.

Sonny is perpetually wasted throughout, in the past and present, even when handling explosives in a can on the can.

It’s the sort of cartooning where thoughts fly round your head in the form of flags, butterflies, bees, burgers and broken hearts and an anthropomorphic pink bunny rabbit might bug you from behind your bleary, red-eyed, booze-bruised head as cops patrol disconcertingly close by. Kyle Baker, Kyle Baker, Kyle Baker!

Baker’s even there in bomb-blasted Baghdad and the brutal raid by law-ignoring police-thief Robbin’ Hood on a gangland crib many moons ago. The ghetto blaster’s banging so loud that it’s bouncing on the table-top as it’s rocking up the room. They’re not going to hear the murderous prick coming, especially after they’ve silenced Spidey, the look-out perched on the head-high fence reading a Spidey comic in his Spidey tee. Loved that!

There’s one hell of a lot of noise achieved not by lettering but by line and colours just as Paul Peart-Smith did so masterfully at the Notting Hill Carnival in NELSON. As well as the sound there’s the smell under the armpits and the sensation of smarting knees.

It’s straight-up cartooning excellence (Kyle Baker, Kyle Baker!), Latour leaving Brunner and Renzi to deliver so much of what counts in the form of implication rather than explication, though as a reviewer I do love a comic that kicks off with the main protagonist announcing his name as you’d have to after receiving a call on a public phone booth. Makes my life much easier, cheers!

Right from the get-go it’s for you to infer what you will from the map, the midday sun and its setting, or Sonny’s mobile home decor (rifle, bong, gas mask!).

Apparently this was written a decade or so by the artist on SOUTHERN BASTARDS and co-writer of BLACK CLOUD, but it’s exceedingly tight in construction. You watch where that gasoline can goes carefully, along with its cell-phone trigger.

Sonny and Reggie met in the army in Afghanistan and Iraq. There they discovered both the lucrative allure of opium and the unpredictable aspect of car boot bombs.

Now Reggie has persuaded a reluctant Sonny to run another cross-country errand but before then Sonny’s stopping off to see old flame Tina who’s now working as a waitress at The Hideaway. So how does he end up with Cheri? It’s a figurative car crash.

Reggie, meanwhile, is having a more literal collision, first with a telephone pole then with two cops, one of whom was once partnered with Robbin’ Hood. His new partner’s not one for the letter of the law, either – nor indeed its sentence, sub-section or full-blown statute. They want Sonny or, more accurately, they want Sonny to lead them further up the drug-running chain which leads everyone to Miami and vice.

Frantic climax as fortunes flash backwards and forwards in various factions’ favours, and a particularly neat piece of choreography in a leap over a second-storey external hotel walkway.

SLH

Buy Loose Ends and read the Page 45 review here

Scalped Book 1 (£22-99, Vertigo) by Jason Aaron & R. M. Guéra.

“And yet, here we are, still forgotten, still a third world nation in the heart of America.”

Crime and grime on the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation, South Dakota, “where the great Sioux Nation came to die”.

Gone is the majesty, the beauty, the health, the wealth and the freedom to roam.

They’ve been replaced by grinding poverty enforced by unyielding societal shackles, dilapidated housing patched up with corrugated iron, refuse-strewn streets, gutted car wrecks abandoned on pock-marked asphalt and a burned-out people deprived of any opportunity but to drink themselves to death.

“From us Lakota they took the Black Hills, our sacred Paha Sapa, and the billion dollars in gold that was buried there. They took the herds of buffalo and the prairie where they roamed. They took the pride and the dignity of a once great nation, giving nothing but misery in return.”

The Lakota have been left with nothing except 80% unemployment, the highest alcoholic rate in the country and a life-expectancy fifteen years below the national average. The suicide rate’s through the roof. Take White Haven, Nebraska, where the locals pick up their processed cheese with food stamps:

“Population – 28. Average annual beer sales – 4 million cans.”

Young Dino’s family is a perfect example: amongst the eight living together is a brother enduring the after-effects of fetal alcohol syndrome, an uncle who’s a diabetic amputee, while his sister Krystal has upgraded from crystal to crack. And she’s pregnant.

Oh, and Dino has a daughter. Dino dreams of leaving and never coming back, but his dreams are so far beyond reality so it’s time to get a job as a janitor in the casino.

Oh yes, there’s a new casino in town, which is exactly this community needs. Partially paid for by misappropriated federal funds and a hell of a lot of ill-gotten gains, it “belongs” to tribal leader Lincoln Red Crow. As does almost everything and everyone else.

“Most powerful crime figure in three counties. Traffics in methamphetamine, illegal arms and prostitution. Runs his own private army of murderous thugs. And generally rules over this reservation like a medieval warlord.”

Or, as Lincoln Red Crow would put it:

“You’re looking at the President of the Oglala Tribal Council… as well as the Sheriff of the Tribal Police Force, Chairman of the Prairie Rose Planning Committee, Treasurer of the Highway Safety Program… and managing director of this here brand spankin’ new casino.”

Essentially, he doesn’t have much trouble with the law anymore. He is the law, locally at least.

 

Agent Nitz of the FBI has other ideas, and it’s personal. For over thirty years he’s held a grudge following the murder of two fellow agents by radical Native American Rights activists amongst whose members were Red Crow and Gina Bad Horse, once close but now obviously very much at odds. For years Nitz has been unable to pin down who pulled the trigger and make them pay, but recently he’s found a way in: Gina’s son Dashiell.

Unlike Dino, Dashiell did escape the Reservation when his mother sent him away in his early teens. He’s been gone fifteen years during which he toughened up quite considerably. Resenting all the time she took protesting, he too swore that he would never come back but now – much to Gina’s astonishment – he’s back and – much to her horror – he’s working for Red Crow, ostensibly as a cop but more of a hired thug. One of his very first actions is to bust his mother over the boot of his police car.

Oh yes, Dash has fitted right back in, with much of the muscle he’ll need to survive.

And that’s exactly what he was sent back to do: fit in.

He’s working undercover for the FBI. He is FBI. It’s Dash’s job to find blood on Crow’s hands, even if the blood in question is Dash’s. For what no one has thought to tell Dashiell is that he isn’t the only Agent in town. It’s going to get brutal.

Now, the reason I’ve placed so much emphasis on the abject misery and decay is that it is essential to what transpires. It’s not just the setting, it’s the cage which forms the confines of whatever actions or reactions are open to its many protagonists. There is a poverty of opportunity for almost everyone here and Jason Aaron is not about to belittle the reality – for it is a cold, stark reality for Native Americans and First Nations Canadians who aren’t feeling too bright right now about their colonisers’ anniversary celebrations and wouldn’t necessarily be best pleased with my even referring to them as Canadians.

Dino Poor Bear’s story is particularly poignant and – after being given a break by Dashiell in not busting him when Dino was so blatantly running supplies for the meth manufacturers – I felt a twinge when he later reaches out to Dashiell as a possible guiding father figure or big brother substitute only to be ignored… until I remembered that Dash is as damaged and so as dangerous as everyone else. Here’s Agent Nitz:

“This punk is not just arrogant…
“He’s reckless, stubborn and completely out of control.
“A borderline sociopath driven by deep-seated anger, and maybe an unconscious death wish to boot.
“He’s a violent meltdown just waiting to happen. A definite danger to everyone around him.
“In other words…
“He’s fucking perfect.”

No one here is on the side of the gods except perhaps Catcher of the deep green sunglasses who has squandered his native visionary gift and international Oxford education (which could have made him the upstanding leader the community so desperately needed) in favour of the white man’s gift of alcohol-induced oblivion (of which he is all too aware)… Granny Poor Bear who feels her prowess waning in spite of the enormous, potent animal spirit which Catcher sees rearing up behind her… and Gina Bad Horse. But even Gina is guilty of maternal negligence as well as… well, you’ll see.

On her way to make amends for the latter Gina spends an entire day trying to make amends for the former by persistently attempting to contact her son, but he’s one dismissive step ahead of her and the only interaction they’ll have in this first instalment is over the boot of that car.

By the same grey token, however, what Aaron goes to great pains here and throughout is to emphasise that although there are some major malfunctions of humanity in the form of Diesel and Red Crow, neither are monsters without some considerable making.

Lincoln, for example, was raised in a residential school run by white Christian priests, reduced to a number rather than a name and then regularly flagellated in order to induce him to pray:

“We must kill the Indian inside you in order to save the man!”

The sins of the fathers…

It’s Red Crow rather than Dashiell who will reach out to Dino in a most unexpected manner at a most unexpected moment, but with the most predictable and entirely understandable results. It may make you weep. One of the volumes that follows actually did make me weep, physically.

Structurally the second half of this book is exceptional. Those six chapters revolve around the intense, bloody launch-night of the casino. Each is devoted to an individual protagonist and some of the key events in their past which inform their present, as well as their future trajectories. Along the way their own, differing perspectives on those key hours is limited by their experience of them: what they see, who they overhear talking to whom, and who they get hit by. As events go out of eye-shot or move out of ear-shot, then we are left waiting for the next witness who might have seen more. This places you firmly in each individual’s shoes while you walk in them which is vital for your emotional investment both now and during the horrors to come. But, of course, as a reader you are privy to them all and as the dots join up in the order which Aaron has controlled to precision, you are left not only with so many secrets which no one else knows, but a burning desire to learn precisely which single, blisteringly time-sensitive question Catcher wants answered by Red Crow.

I’m ashamed that it’s taken me this long to talk about R. M. Guéra.

For if this is a cage of confinement, you couldn’t feel the bars without them being smelted behind you, cooled down while you wait then set in their stone or concrete.

To comprehend their physical constrictions and choice-based restrictions you have to be able to see them with your own eyes or else those taut tensions are lost.

As I wrote previously, the environment here is all.

The Prairie Rose Reservation is far from pretty. It’s wretched, worn out and its walls as well as its doors are all too boot-brittle thin. As a township it is insular. It is surrounded by countryside – so much countryside! – yet therein too lies its awful isolation from any judicial force which might give a  good goddamn.

Guéra draws this all this alluring nature in the form of owls, stags and bears and it is beautiful to behold. It’s just appallingly rare, so often dead and decaying, and crawling with maggots in Catcher’s drunken day-dreams or visions.

The art is both bold and fluid, well lit at night and dramatically exposed during the day.

Dino’s smooth face and open eyes are seen in stark contrast to Granny Poor Bear’s wisely narrowed slits between puffed and hooded bags, while her flabby jowls and wizened mouth speak volumes, if only anyone would listen.

The glint of light on Catcher’s green aviators under his wide-brimmed hat unexpectedly suggests mid-John Byrne as inked in different places by Klaus Jansen or Tom Palmer.

This new package contains the first two slimmer volumes with enhanced production values yielding much sharper lines and brighter colour while losing none of the original atmosphere.

If the opening few paragraphs of this review got your teeth grinding in anger at the injustice of it all, I highly recommend Ethan Hawke & Greg Ruth’s INDEH: A STORY OF THE APACHE WARS to see the white man making his first inroads before making off with the lot.

SLH

Buy Scalped Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Furari h/c (£18-99, Fanfare / Potent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi…

“Get your greens! Root vegetables! Bamboo shoots from Meguro!”
“Very soon now.”
“What?”
“Sakura”
“Huh? Oh. The cherry blossom. Indeed. They say they’ve already started budding on Ueno mountain. They’ll be here before you know it. From where you’re standing the cherry blossoms look like a white cloud. It’s a real sight.”
“Wow. It must be. That’s something I’d like to see at least once.”

Me too. One day, perhaps.  Inō Tadataka (1745 – 1818) produced the first extensive accurate mapping of Japan using what we today would recognise as the modern techniques of surveying. Having retired early at 49 after very successfully expanding the family business of rice trading and sake-brewing, he then set about learning geography, astronomy and mathematics from a renowned Japanese astronomer.

After five years of intensive study, he then petitioned the Shogunate to be allowed to perform a survey of the entire country, using only his own money. His request was perhaps unsurprisingly promptly granted! So, for the next seventeen years until his death, that was practically all he did, producing maps that remained the definitive word on Japanese cartology for nigh on a century. Which sounds like a rather onerous, intensive, all-consuming task entirely devoid of fun. However, for Tadataka the daily rigours of surveying and precision map-making brought him immense joy and satisfaction.

Taniguchi doesn’t overtly state that Furari, which can be translated as ‘go with the flow’, is the story of Inō Tadataka, but it clearly is, set in the latter days of his period of study. However, much like THE WALKING MAN, this work isn’t really about the central character at all, but rather his world, being the diverse districts of Edo, seen through his eyes, and even the eyes of the animals such as birds with their very different perspectives, as he wanders the streets, counting paces, trying to achieve a consistent result and thus be certain of the distance travelled. We do learn a little of his home life, and his doting wife, who is rapidly beginning to realise that she is going to have to share their much longed for retirement with the third wheel of surveying. Or perhaps she’s the third wheel to Inō and his surveying. Still, she doesn’t seem to mind too much as long as he involves her and she’s quite the student herself.

Taniguchi brings the world of Edo so vividly to life, showing us every aspect of the bustling streets of ancient Tokyo, from the topography of the terrain itself and the various buildings sat on it, from hovel to grandiose, also neatly illustrating the ongoing transition from mediaeval to modern. We also get to meet its people, from hawking food vendors and hustling street corner tradesmen to even a beatific, wandering Haiku composer. The overall effect is to transport you to an entirely different, simpler, if no less busy, time. Allow yourself to meander those streets with Tadataka, taking in the sights, sounds and smells. Let him worry about counting the steps, frequently forgetting to do so as some delightful everyday distraction captures his attention. It would happen to you too, I promise! Reading this might not be anywhere near as good for your physical health as actually getting out for a stroll yourself, but it’s not far off for the soul. A wonderful, virtual, walking meditation.

The art is exquisite, of course. I did wonder beforehand whether, this being a relatively early Taniguchi, I might be slightly disappointed, as I was in places with the art in THE TIMES OF BOTCHAN, his treatise on the revered Japanese author, Natsume Soseki. But whilst Taniguchi connoisseurs might be able to detect the odd difference between this and perfectly polished works such as QUEST FOR THE MISSING GIRL and A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD, plus his final work for the Louvre collection before his death, GUARDIANS OF THE LOUVRE, such as slight over-rounding of the odd face, and not quite as much extensive background detail as his later works, no one will be remotely disappointed. It is just utterly captivating artwork from a true mangaka genius who is a true personal favourite of mine.

Plaudits to Fanfare and Ponent Mon for continuing to publish his work in English, hopefully there’s more to come.

JR

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

Alice Isn’t Happy (£10-00) by Spencer Woodcock & Denny Derbyshire.

Nor would you be.

Approaching ninety-five, Alice lives a largely sedentary life in sheltered accommodation run by Eileen. Apparently they’re called managers now, not wardens. And it’s ever so sheltered. They don’t get out much.

Every so often Spencer pops by. My guess is that Spencer is in his mid-thirties at this point. He’s since moved to the Outer Hebrides by mistake. All it takes is one wrong turn at the traffic lights.

“Do you want your windows washed?”
“Oh, I suppose.”

Spencer is working for a support scheme for older people in NW5. I’m not sure if it’s exclusively for socialists, but Alice is very much a member – once of the Communist Party until the Soviet Invasion of Hungary in 1956. She wasn’t happy then, either.

“What she really wanted was someone to hold forth to about Blair and Brown… and how they were betraying the Labour movement and the working classes.
“I knew that, of course, and it was fine by me. Half our members didn’t give a monkeys if their windows got washed or their grass got cut. What they wanted was a little prison visit.
“A break in the routine.”

It’s May 2002, and if Alice isn’t very mobile now, she’ll be flat on her back and ever so frail by February 2003. The decline is swift and steep.

Did I mention that this is autobiographical?

Back in December 2001 she was nimble enough to make a dash for it from the sprawling Bluewater shopping centre during a group outing. It was the peak Christmas shopping period so the centre was swarming and locating a little old lady in a blue bobble hat wasn’t going to be easy.

“Another check. Security had not seen her. Alice was just gone. That vast pit of capitalist consumption has swallowed her old socialist soul whole.”

Or she’d done a total runner. There are so many lovely lines like that.

“By the time we arrived the other bunch had been engulfed. A few flecks of people plankton in a Bluewater sea.”

Each era comes with its own colour. I was going to type “season” because this covers little more than a year, but they do seem like eras: varying stages of health and mobility.

By the time of the trip to the Chilterns in September 2002 Alice is confined to a wheelchair – for the outing, at least – so is a great deal more manageable, if as difficult as ever. But I don’t think “stoical” is the right word to describe Spencer: I think it’s “committed”. It takes a great deal of effort to wring the right information out of the hospital on his several visits, just to locate her in what seems like Bedlam. Or, as Woodcock calls it, the “Hieronymus Ward”.

I’ll leave it to Denny Derbyshire to provide the giggles there – it’s a fantastic, fantastical tableaux – but they won’t last long, for her tour de force is a full page devoted to Alice’s ancient hand, each knuckle gnarled like a knotted tree branch, its bony back veined like a mountain range seen from the sky. The shading is subtle, the tips of her fingers just-so.

It’s an arresting moment, standing out from the rest of the art which is deeply unglamorous and appropriately bleak, except in its recollections of Soviet Russia and Alice’s gypsy lineage, and the view of the Chiltern Hills which prompt them.

There aren’t enough graphic novels about old age: A THOUSAND COLOURED CASTLES, CEREBUS: THE LAST DAY… The title CAN’T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT INSTEAD? sums the subject up, really.

“How are you doing, Alice?”
“Oh. Not too bad.”

Bedridden, drained, with a drip sticking into her skin: “Not too bad.”

“Her voice is weak and slightly tremulous.
“The venom is drained out of it.
“As if all the piss and vinegar has been sucked out through those tubes.
“She has to take a little rest before managing another sentence.”

It’s the most surprising sentence in the book.

“Thanks for coming to see me.”

SLH

Buy Alice Isn’t Happy and read the Page 45 review here

Generation Gone #1 (£4-25, Image) by Aleš Kot & André Lima Araύjo.

“Everything in the world is code…
“The human genome. The computers. Your phones. The traffic. The movements of the oceans, the movements between our neurones.
“Everything is code. Including our flesh.
“So how do we rewrite it?”

Well, my own computer codes are rewritten every so often by an update that’s unsolicited and unilaterally installed, shutting it down in the middle of a project while I’m making coffee, after some external force has grown bored of me pressing “postpone”. After which I have to re-learn how to use it again, which is a pisser.

It even happened to my cell phone last week, so when I needed to take an urgent, time-sensitive photo I was left flailing by a 3-minute camera tutorial instead. Familiar to you, much…?

I make a joke, but it’s far from inappropriate to the final few pages which are one hell of a wake-up call.

Ales Kot is a man of ideas. The writer / philosopher of  WOLF, ZERO and MATERIAL has given us much to ponder on in the past and I have every faith that he’s about to do so again.

Take the cover. At first glance the logo looks like a corporate brochure, doesn’t it? That’s not an accident.

At second glance the ensemble looks like something from CEREBUS in the late 1980s crossed with its later iterations after issue 200 (you can check them all out in the CEREBUS COVER TREASURY) when the story would kick off on the cover, complete with opening dialogue.

Most adept comics’ covers are an enticing advertisement for what lies within: a summary, a distillation or an attention-grabbing image. They’re stage-setters. They’re drooling posts. But in effect they are a distancing veneer: you only become engaged once you’ve settled yourself down with a chilled glass of white wine and flicked open the comic excitedly. What this does is throw you right into immediate immersion, in this case to a couple’s late-night, flat-on-their-backs, star-gazing wishes.

Elena wishes that her boyfriend Nick would reciprocate her declared love for him, vocally. Nick wishes that his “babe” would just shut the fuck up. Actually Elena’s aspirations aren’t even that high: she’s all apologies for her open expression. He insists that she should feel gratitude for his tolerance towards her emotions. Sadly, she does.

“Are you ready for tomorrow?”
“Born ready. Born to make a mark.”

They’re really not ready for anything that will follow but, yes, Nick wants to make a mark. I don’t think you’ll like him at all.

Nick, Elena and Baldwin are three young friends who are precociously consummate, code-breaking hackers. They’ve already broken into the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency’s exceptionally well protected website twice and, in a trial run for their real end-goal elsewhere, they are about to do it a third time.

Baldwin is alone, organised, and driven but disciplined. You may discern what drives him within. He exercises at the crack of dawn then blends nutritious juice to sustain his peak physical and mental acuity. Then he wipes the surfaces clean. He is meticulous.

Elena is loving and doting, not only on dismissive prick Nick to whom she is loyal, but on her mother who is undergoing treatment for cancer. Constantly they cuddle up on the coach. They tease each other too.

Nick eats with his family in silence before skulking upstairs – to his childishly door-declared exclusive domain – to draw his own bath. Perched on the toilet and staring into his smart phone while the water runs, his finger is idly pressed between his big toe and second, and you just know that he’ll sniff himself before getting in. The devil is in these details.

What happens during their final trial run at code-hacking is telling.

They think they’ve gone undetected. They haven’t.

So let’s flick back to our other chief protagonist who welcomed us in with his theory of code. This is young, bespectacled Mr. Akio, working for S.T.A.R., a subsection of D.A.R.P.A., tasked with helping to re-establish America’s global dominance which, as he perceives it, has been eroded “at an increasingly rapid rate since 1970s”. He has contributed to this military endeavour by building ideas, codes and thence machines. We are shown some very big mechs indeed.

Now he unveils to the military board his own private ideal, Project Utopia. It is code-based and clever, pertaining both to machines and to humans. But how do we rewrite that code in humans which generally takes multiple generations of genetic evolution?

“Have you ever read a book that changed your life? I bet you have. The content of the book changed the way you processed information. Then it changed the way your brain processed the information. Then it changed the way you interacted with the world.”

They want to revolutionise the military.

He wants to revolutionise the world.

They throw the book at him.

Then, behind his superiors’ backs, Mr. Akio throws the book at our three.

Change the code, change the human.

It’s a pretty grim ordeal, the transmogrifications throwing them up in the air, but the single Araύjo image that haunted me most – and does still – is Mr. Akio’s eyes when threatened and dismissed.

SLH

Buy Generation Gone #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Back In Stock, Tweaked & Titivated!

Princess Decomposia And Count Spatula (£10-99, FirstSecond) by Andi Watson.

Young B’Adult Literature at its best!

What can I even mean?!?

Poor Princess Dee is so very industrious.

Well, she has to be: there’s mail to be minded, state papers to be signed, laws to be licensed and delegations she’s been delegated to attend. The Underworld doesn’t run itself, you know!

This should all fall to her father, the king. Alas, he is utterly exhausted from so many hours devoted to bed, attending assiduously to each of his own ailments and really putting his back into putting everybody else’s up – especially his daughter’s and chef’s. He’s so addicted to Wellbeing Weekly and each of its dull-as-dishwater fads that he’s demoralised his last royal chef into seeking alternative employment where the food is more nourishing and tasty: Dismal Vista Prison!

And that’s what I mean by B’Adult:

The king is a bad adult – an emotionally manipulative and selfish shirker, evading every exertion and exigency. He relies instead on the limitless patience of his doting daughter who takes his responsibilities very seriously indeed.

“Just when I think I’ve cleared my desk, CLUNK, down comes another pile of papers.”
“You need a holiday.”
“Then I’d never be able to catch up.”

I hear you, hon! I hear you!

 

Into this limp and unleavened bread mix comes Count Spatula, master pâtissier with a shaved head, slightly pointy ears and twin gaps in his teeth where some would sport fangs! Oooh!

But young Count Spatula has a rare sense of perspective, a heart of gold and a recipe for the most unconventional lemon-drizzle cake you can imagine. Umbrella required! He picks our Dee up when she’s at her most down and even attempts to bring a zing of zest to the dining table of the old king himself. Unfortunately that may get him noticed…

From the creator of Young Reader soaraway successes GLISTER and GUM GIRL, plus British adult classics which we cannot sell you for shame that they are out of print (BREAKFAST AFTER NOON and LITTLE STAR, our first-ever Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month), comes the sort of kids’ comic I crave: one which, as ever with Andi Watson, neither underestimates nor talks down to its audience with linguistically or visually infantile clichés.

PRINCESS DECOMPOSIA AND COUNT SPATULA, for example, owes everything in its inking to silent cinema creep-fests ‘Nosferatu’ and ‘The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari’, hence the misty mid-day focus when Dee and Cee are out and about in the Overworld summer-sunshine, and all the speckled, flecked and flickering, scratched-black-celluloid effects at night!

So much of this art is to die for. I love Princess Decomposia’s minimal, pointy nose, often appearing so far to the right that it’s merely representative. I love the shiny adoration in her eyes at the climax of her six-page plea for reason and reaction – for responsibility – from her father. I love the black, bat-winged buns of her hair! I love her father’s face, a wizened black-hole of wrinkled skin being sucked into itself through sheer lassitude. And I laughed out loud at the Lycanthrope delegation’s dismay when offered a biscuit in the form of a Winalot Shape.

Give those dogs a bone!

SLH

Buy Princess Decomposia And Count Spatula 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’

By Chance Or Providence s/c (£14-99, Image) by Becky Cloonan

Black Road vol 2: A Pagan Death (£14-99, Image) by Brian Wood & Garry Brown

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Tales h/c (£14-99, Archaia) by Cory Godbey

MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun #4 (£4-99, Improper Books) by Matt Gibbs & Sara Dunkerton

Real Friends (£9-99, FirstSecond) by Shannon Hale & Leuyen Pham

Serenity vol 5: No Power In The Verse h/c (£17-99, Dark Horse) by Chris Roberson & Georges Jeanty, Stephen Byrne

Solid State (£17-99, Image) by Jonathan Coulton, Matt Fraction & Albert Monteys

A Study In Scarlet (£9-99, SelfMadeHero) by Conan Doyle, Ian Edginton & I.N.J. Culbard

The Hound Of The Baskervilles (£9-99, SelfMadeHero) by Conan Doyle, Ian Edginton & I.N.J. Culbard

The Sign Of The Four (£9-99, SelfMadeHero) by Conan Doyle, Ian Edginton & I.N.J. Culbard

The Valley Of Fear (£9-99, SelfMadeHero) by Conan Doyle, Ian Edginton & I.N.J. Culbard

Valerian: The Complete Collection vol 2 h/c (£24-99, Cinebook) by Pierre Christian & Jean-Claude Mezieres

Valerian: The Complete Collection vol 3 h/c (£24-99, Cinebook) by Pierre Christian & Jean-Claude Mezieres

Wasteland Compendium vol 1 (£35-99, Oni) by Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten

Deathstroke vol 2: The Gospel Of Slade s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Christopher Priest & Larry Hama, Carlo Pagulayan, Gary Nord, Denys Cowan

Flash vol 3: Rogues Reloaded (Rebirth) s/c (£14-99, DC) by Joshua Williamson & Carmine Di Giandomenico, David Gianfelice, others

Mighty Thor vol 2: Lords Of Midgard s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman

Uncanny Avengers: Unity vol 4 – Red Skull s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Gerry Duggan & Kevin Libranda, Pepe Larraz, Rodrigo Zaras

Bleach vol 70 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

MULP: Sceptre Of The Sun #1 (£4-99, Improper Books) by Matt Gibbs & Sara Dunkerton

Green Lantern: Rebirth s/c (£13-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ethan Van Sciver

Green Lantern: No Fear s/c (£11-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Darwyn Cooke, Ethan Van Sciver, Simone Bianchi

Blackest Night s/c (£17-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis

Green Lantern: Blackest Night s/c (£17-99, DC) by Geoff Johns & Doug Mahnke

 

 – Stephen

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