Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2017 week one

Featuring Joe Latham, Luke Hyde, Cyril Pedrosa, Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire, Ian Edington,  D’Israeli, Gigi Dee, Simon Spurrier, Kelly Matthews, Nichole Matthews, Kim Newman, Paul McCaffrey.

Portugal h/c (£30-00, Fanfare / Portent Mon) by Cyril Pedrosa.

“What you are doing is pointless.”

What Simon is doing is nothing.

Well, he is teaching and that’s not nothing: it’s the most important job in the world. He’s empowering his young students in multiple ways by showing them that they can draw!

Simon used to draw.

He drew graphic novels which drew critical acclaim but which he didn’t like, and which brought him neither the solace of money nor fame. Critical acclaim can be small comfort if it’s material reward that you’re after.

He has a beautiful, brightly spirited, understanding and encouraging girlfriend called Claire with whom he shares a fairly idyllic townhouse. It’s reasonably rustic even if it’s rented. He probably should mow the lawn occasionally, if only he could be bothered. But swinging idly in a hammock’s much easier. He should probably converse with Claire… if he only could be bothered. But that would mean making some effort. He should probably create once again, as his therapist encourages. But he really cannot be bothered.

“It’s not writer’s block. I just don’t feel like it, that’s all.”

Simon doesn’t feel like it.

 

 

He won’t even pick up the phone to ask for a loan from his Dad in Paris. His Dad called Jean is really quite wealthy, you know. Then Claire and Simon could buy a house, save on the escalating rent and not need to borrow at exorbitant interest from the bank.

“I don’t get it.”
“There’s nothing to get. I just don’t feel like it.”

Understandably, Claire feels frustrated. Inertia, inaction, it’s driving her to distraction, because Simon is simultaneously treading water and drowning.

 

 

That’s beautifully evoked in the art, and not just during the swimming-pool sequence in which Simon only just comes up in time for air. The first several dozen pages are suffocating under drab, murky, energy-sapping olives and tans. When waiting for his father in Paris, Simon is overwhelmed – like the panels themselves – by the cacophonous crowd-chatter in French.

Fast-forward to Lisbon in Portugal to which Simon is invited, as part of a Comics Festival, on the basis of those very graphic novels which he so dismisses. The streets are still densely populated by pedestrians, but because he doesn’t understand Portuguese, the irritating chatter becomes mellifluous music instead, its speech balloons floating soothingly into one ear then out the other.

 

 

It’s something that’s picked up later on.

“A few words in broken English… hand gestures occasionally emphasised with a smile or a raised eyebrow. This basic language, stripped to the essentials, as frustrating as it is, helps us reveal nothing but the best in us.
“The tiny signs that, in a mother tongue, betray stupidity or jealousy no longer exist here.
“I see only their smiles.”

I’ve never read that posited before: that the nuances of one own native tongue can carry loaded connotations – subtle, deliberate or accidental implications; or inferences perceived either rightly or wrongly – whereas a foreign language, struggled with, conveys only the direct, unsullied bare-bones.

 

 

And look what happens to the art!

Like Fumio Obata’s JUST SO HAPPENS, in Portugal the human forms too glide like softened, ethereal ghosts, the buildings, steps and walkways warp as if underwater, and the colours immediately warm then ignite, especially on the sea-front itself! He’s surrounded by enthusiasm, energy and laughter.

 

 

This is Simon Muchat’s first time in Portugal for 20 years. It’s where his family originated from. He’s never been back as an adult. Indeed, he’s felt so distant from his family there that he almost refused a Wedding Invitation from his Portuguese cousin who’s marrying a bloke from a vineyard family in Burgundy. Both you and he will be so bloody glad that he didn’t, as will his Dad.

Because here’s the big thing: you may think that you have a problem with some parts of your family (weddings and funerals can be the worst), but do you ever consider that the generation above you might have even more issues dividing them?

 

 

Expansive, autobiographical excellence from the creator of EQUINOXES (whose multiple perspectives help render it one of the most successfully complex, thought-provoking graphic novels alongside Scott McCloud’s THE SCULPTOR, Glyn Dillon’s THE NAO OF BROWN plus Moon and Ba’s DAYTRIPPER), the second section here will mean so much to those who have found family reunions to be either terrifying, enlightening or both.

This turns out to be an absolute blessing, though not in the most obvious or immediate of ways. There’s an early car journey in which the traditional family silence is perpetuated by Simon (already reticent), his dad and his dad’s brother. Simon doesn’t realise that it’s a silence stilled for a great deal longer than he has been on the scene. Nearly 20 years separates his father, Jean, and his older uncle, Jacques, and it’s only when their more impetuous middle sister Yvette gets rolling that they start to rock. She may be sixty now but Yvette has lost none of her mildly iconoclastic but never divisive drive. She’s a catalyst for conversation, a moderator in reasoned perspective and a reminder of what is important. Good manners only get in the way: good will is what’s important.

 

 

Like Pedrosa’s EQUINOXES this is sumptuous with a central Burgundy vineyard which will make you swoon with bucolic jealousy. It’s not without its problems like cattle coming in across the water when they shouldn’t, or freezers spluttering then dying, leaving meat to rot when it’s supposed to be feeding the proverbial five thousand. But each of these instances will coerce those who may have lost the capacity to cooperate to do so again, then share their past.

It’s an enormous wedding party spread over a very long weekend, but much more informal than most as guests split themselves up into groups and do their own thing. You’ll hear snatches of background conversation and so feel that you’re there, rather than simply seeing what’s staged.

This is a book of the past According to Simon, According to Jean, then According to their ultimate patriarch, Abel: three male generations of the Muchat family which initially held little interest for Simon, but whose migratory past he soon finds so fascinating that he is later compelled to… well, you’ll see.

 

 

Anyone who can speak Portuguese is going to enjoy a fifth more than most because so much of this is deliberately left untranslated, as much a mystery to me as it was to Simon. I like that!

SLH

Buy Portugal and read the Page 45 review here

Injection vol 3 (£14-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey with Jordie Bellaire.

“Assisted fist?”
“Builder’s term for hitting something with a hammer until it goes in.”

Paranormal investigative fiction in which we return to where we began: the British Isles.

Specifically, we return to the rugged land of barrows and tors, stone circles and moors; of ley lines, megaliths and pre-Christian pits; of spriggans, diviners and cunning-folk. It’s the supernatural as science, the very ancient decoded by the most modern.

Information is everything, and everything is information.

Previously in INJECTION: five experts in diverse disciplines led by Professor Maria Kilbride were given funding by the FPI to cross-pollinate, think outside the box and do stuff.

They did stuff: they poisoned the 21st Century.

They did it with an Injection, and now they discover that both they and this planet are far from immune from what the Injection’s become.

 

 

Now:

“Everything from this point on is sketchy, okay? Every second is like you’re in the middle of making a deal that’s going very bad very fast. You know how that feels. Watch everything.”

Technologist Brigid Roth is tasked by Moira Kilbride of the FPI to investigate signal interference in Cornwall resonating from a stone ring on Mellion Moor uncovered following an earthquake and landslide. Chained to one of the standing stones is the remains of a dead body, skinned and boned. Beneath its central stone they discover what appears to be a massive, slab lid. Would it be wise to lift it?

When Brigid seeks information from local lore expert Professor Derwa Kernick, she appears to oblige with legends that suppose the circle to be a gateway to the Other World. Underneath, in a pit, criminals were chained and in the morning they would be gone. Any mechanism for this, she suggests, must have been lost in our oral tradition. So what happened to the man on the moor chained to the stone circle?

 

 

The tension’s kept caught by the constant reiteration of the deal-about-to-go-wrong warning exchanged between Brigid and rich kid Emma Louise Beaufort whom Brigid selects spontaneously as her driver and back-up based on her past (instantly uploaded from the FPI’s extensive, privacy-flouting files) for drug-dealing, robbery and assault. Emma’s role in many ways is as a Doctor Who companion: someone who observes, questions and panics easily – someone whose safety one worries about – while Brigid inventively (and dangerously) improvises with the most modern technology available today. As you’d imagine from the writer of PLANETARY, the dialogue is ever so satisfyingly slick.

 

 

In keeping with the old and the new, Brigid also comes equipped with an female-empowering Sheela na gig around her neck that is far from cosmetic and which, combined with her contact lenses, allows her instant access to all the message traffic of a computer connected to social media and more. It’s something Ellis floated in DOKTOR SLEEPLESS and which Sheean and Ward used excellently in ANCESTOR. Once more, however, Ellis doesn’t eschew the ancient, like the legendary notion that iron acts as a magic repellent. Pedal to the metal, as they say around race circuits.

 

 

As to the line and colour art – for which Bellaire won the Eisner last year, right here – the fog which shrouds Mellion Moor and its environs is phenomenally effective, there are moments of pure, sinew-shredding horror during which Shalvey reminded me of Kevin O’Neill, while during several key climaxes you will be treated to an ancient, tree-stone cathedral of light erupting in the night.

It’s but a herald of what is to come.

 

 

Incursions are increasing. The Other World of Old England’s coming back.

And it’ll only give the Injection more room to manoeuvre.

SLH

Buy Injection vol 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Digby Is A Wizard (£9-99) by Joe Latham…

“We all feel small sometimes.
“It’s quite normal to have hopes and dreams fill our heads with bubbly excitement from time to time. It’s also quite normal for those moments to inexplicably lead us down dark paths and exploded bathrooms.
“There are always lessons to be learned.
“I just hope I remember that when I am next scared and lost down a dark path surrounded by scary gnomes with sticks.”

Digby is about have a bad day. A very bad day.

Not quite on the level of Jose Domingo’s ADVENTURES OF A JAPANESE BUSINESSMAN, I’ll grant you, but it’s up there. Job interviews can ruin your chilled-out vibe like that, don’t you find?

 

 

It all started out so well too, with a hearty al fresco breakfast followed by a little accidental dungeoneering, broken up by backgammon with friendly goblins and convivial chats with other chums like the giant spider and the demogorgon. Digby even arrived in the nick of time for his interview after a brief misunderstanding with a bridge troll!

But then his composure began to unravel with the onset of a gippy tummy, a bubbling belly that caused him to mishear a question and begin to experience mid-interview anxieties promptly leading to full-on panic. Even after some extreme emergency wizardly… emissions… which resulted in him levelling half the building, he somehow still thinks he’s in with a great chance of landing the job! He’s clearly one of life’s great optimists, our Digby…

 

 

Back home, however, following the inevitable bad news after the usual protracted delay in hearing anything, that’s when the metaphorical shit storm promptly whooshes into town to really blow him away. A case of life imitating fart, perhaps… But as poor old Digby begins to rapidly learn that not gaining errr… gainful employment is about to be the least of his burgeoning problems, I was just chuckling with increasing mirth at his travails and lack of travail, and thinking how glad I am not to have to endure job interviews any more.

 

 

 

Told mainly in a two by three grid panel per page pattern, with the odd spectacular full-page spread or elongated landscape thrown in for good measure, this is a silent affair, though jovially narrated through the conceit of a single, simple surreal / sarcastic / sympathetic sentence hand-scribed below each illustration. There are no panel borders as such, just white gutters. Thus it gives this work the visual feel of a collection of carefully assembled Polaroid pictures, which I loved.

Joe’s art style is wonderfully loose, deceptively simple, yet upon examination reveals a tremendous amount of work, particularly in the countryside and forest backgrounds. Whilst Joe employs a heavier line, this did – perhaps for its delightfully whimsical approach – stylistically remind me of Jordan Crane’s sadly out of print THE CLOUDS ABOVE. In terms of colour palette he’s gone for a Feldgrau grey-green that varies in shade decorated with splashes of scarlet as Digby begins to really lose the plot!

 

 

Originally a Kickstarter project from Joe Latham, whose magnificent, synergistic triptych THE FOX / THE WOLF / THE WOODSMAN we could scarcely keep on our shelves when it first came out, I happen to know there are only a handful of these hardcover beauties left to purchase, and that there will be no reprints…

JR

Buy Digby Is A Wizard and read the Page 45 review here

Pollquest (£9-99, self-published) by Luke Hyde.

Ever such a clever conceit and cool social-media experiment engaging fully with an interactive audience, this has been executed with much to-and-fro mischief and visual panache.

The experiment was, if you like, a democratic version of the pick-a-plot books like Sherwin Tija’s YOU ARE A KITTEN and, in comics, Jason Shiga’s highly inventive MEANWHILE wherein you get to dictate what happens next.

But democracy has its dangers as the comic’s protagonist – Bacon the Adventure Dog – would have been worriedly aware of had he been able to peer behind the creative curtain and see what was happening behind the scenes. We will get to that in a second.

Ostensibly, Bacon wakes up one morning, fully refreshed with 3 red-heart lives glowing as they would in a video game, and decides to go on a Poll Quest. He “poot-poot”s himself out of bed, digs his battle-scarred sword out of a treasure chest, taps an app on his mobile which has charged overnight, selects the Haunted Arcade option and defenestrates himself from the top of his tower. I like that fact that it has come under attack on some previous occasion from arrows. I love the fact that he goes splat on his face, immediately losing a life which recovers. He won’t necessarily be so lucky in the future.

 

 

What Bacon doesn’t know is that he has no self-determination.

He’s been saved that particular existentialist crisis.

What we know that Bacon doesn’t is that his entire course of action has been driven by said democracy thus:

Luke Hyde tweets his Twitter followers with a poll which they can then vote on. You know the sort of thing:

“Do you believe #Brexit will be:

“A. Apocalyptic For Our Economy
“B. Bad For Britain
“C. Catastrophic For All Concerned”

Anyone on Twitter can press one of those options and the poll provider will then know what percentage of idiots believe that Brexit will be brilliant for anyone other than the far right like Farage.

In this instance Luke first asked his followers whether Bacon should “Leap out of bed screaming (8%)”, “Roll out of bed farting (46%)”, “Check phone for quests (15%)” or “Sleep another hour (31%)”. Even the poor dog’s flatulence is dictated from on high – which is no viable excuse if you let one off in our shop.

 

 

There were four further polls on that very first page and, vitally, these insights are printed on the left, opposite the ensuing, directly consequent action. Oh, how differently our own lives could have all gone, if we only had responsible adults dictating our decisions behind the scenes. And, oh, how differently our danger-dog’s adventure could have gone if only he too had responsible adults dictating his decisions.

He doesn’t: he has Luke Hyde’s followers instead.

After much Lara-Croft leapin’ about betwixt pillars under peer, dodging the choppy cold waves down below, Bacon back-flips onto a ladder which will take him in into the Haunted Arcade.

“Climbing up, you meet a large door. Do you…

“Open it slooooooooowly
“Blast through with a fist
“Open it butt first
“Jump in shoutin’ ghost pun”

Now, I ask you, which would you have selected? The arcade is haunted. We don’t yet know by what (although we will most assuredly find out), but I was already willing to bet my entire wine cellar that it wasn’t by Randall’s mate Hopkirk (deceased). Slowly seems prudent, a fist might prove pre-emptive and a ghost pun at least empowering / cathartic. But no, Hyde’s good and wise may or may not lead quiet lives, but they whatever they do, they do it butt-first.

 

 

“Butt!!!! Every time the butt!” live-comments Joe Latham, creator of DIGBY and THE FOX and THE WOLF and THE WOODSMAN. And I will remember that, Joe.

Hyde is such an expressive cartoonist that anyone resurrecting Ren & Stimpy, for example, should knock on his door right away. The frantic action has a pull all of its own and so worth the price of arcade-admission.

But there are so many laugh-out-loud instances of such wrong-headed ratiocination on the left-hand page – with poor Luke doing his best to protect the interests of his protagonist against the wilful whimsies of his followers’ wanton irresponsibility – that, as I say, the format of this publication’s reproduction is its forte.

 

 

Plus, Luke himself is a very funny guy. Battered and bruised and (in short) worse for wear, Bacon is given no option by the social-media sadists but to enter a new arena: the sea.

“You dive in… as you fall you contemplate the words ‘salt water’; and ‘deep lacerations.”

SLH

Buy Pollquest and read the Page 45 review here

Cucumber Quest vol 1: The Doughnut Kingdom s/c (£11-99, FirstSecond) by Gigi Dee…

“Cucumber, dear, I just think you ought to run over and see what’s wrong! I’m sure the school will let you reenrol once you’re done saving the kingdom.”

Magician-in-training Cucumber is all set to head off to Puffington’s Academy “for the Magically Gifted (and/or incredibly wealthy!)” when he receives a missive from his apparently imprisoned father that he, and only he – definitely not his infinitely more savvy and tough nut of a little sister Almond who wants to be a knight – can save the Doughnut Kingdom from disaster! For the evil Queen Cordelia has taken control of Caketown Castle and is intent on assembling all the Disaster Stones to resurrect the Nightmare Knight. BOO!!! HISS!!!

The only possible way to stop this dastardly plot is for Cucumber to go see the world protector Dream Oracle and head off on a dangerous quest to acquire the legendary Dream Sword and perform some swash-buckling, sword-wielding antics and save the day. But all poor old Cuco wants to do is learn how to cast spells… Now if only we, and he, knew someone who desperately wanted to be a questing knight…

 

 

Haha, it’s certainly a high fun factor in this all-ages fantasy comedy that also has a surprisingly sharp satirical edge in places. This edition collects a first volume’s worth of material from the hugely popular webcomic that has been running since 2011. After a ridiculously successful Kickstarter that resulted in the self-publication of several books, publishers FirstSecond have bought the rights and put out this first glossy collection.

 

 

With an art style squarely aimed at gamer-friendly minds and a vibrant colour palette to boot, it’s actually a visual feast, not least because all the characters are named and subtly dressed as fruit n’ veg! With bunny ears… I don’t really know what the bunny ears are all about, in truth, other than to further heighten the cute factor, presumably.

 

 

They massively puzzled Whackers, the bunny ears, when I tried this work out on her 6-year-old noggin to her great acclaim. “So they’re all wearing bunny ears, then?” she must have asked about ten times as I attempted to carry on, forging valiantly ever onwards to that delirious moment when bedtime reading is concluded and I can finally go downstairs and relax.  “No, they have bunny ears,” I kept replying, through increasingly gritted teeth. “But they’re not bunnies,” she kept retorting. Statement not question, you will note. Finally, I gave in… “Actually, you know what, I think you’re right: they are wearing bunny ears.”

“… I knew it.”

 

 

Anyway, this is a whole fruitbowl full of fun, a veritable cavalcade of family-friendly crudités. Gigi D.G. has definitely created a work that will delight kids just with its sheer, natural, sugar-laden energy and also make adults cast a wry smile at the more ‘serious’ social commentary jokes thrown in. Thus neatly blending an all-ages smoothie to satisfy both the sweetest of tooth and also provide a bit of crunch.

JR

Buy Cucumber Quest vol 1: The Doughnut Kingdom s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Complete Scarlet Traces vol 2 s/c (£17-99, Rebellion) by Ian Edington &  D’Israeli.

Well, it says vol 2 and we certainly have SCARLET TRACES VOL 1 but I started here, and when you turn over the first four pages you’ll want to too. This is exceptional: scathing socio-political satire made sweet by being British speculative fiction through and through.

With more than a nod to Frank Hampson’s DAN DARE, D’Israeli has excelled himself. There’s an enormous weight to the gravity-defying aircraft, detail galore in the smallest of panels, and the semi-futurist cityscapes come with a vast sense of space and a commanding control of light. You wait until you fly up to Mars!

Coloured to rich, warm perfection, I have rarely seen four more stunning pages kicking off a sci-fi comic, as the tranquillity of a bloody big British loch is shattered by something resembling Thunderbird 3 which catches the lake’s surface with one of its three jutting jet-engines, then nose-dives into what cannot be warm waters.

 

 

Fortunately there’s a rescue party immediately to hand at the shore’s edge. *checks definition of rescue mission*

Oh. Unfortunately what looks like it might be a rescue party turns out to be an assassination squad and the craft crew’s buoyancy blues are compounded by laser beams shot straight through their space helmets. We’re not really talking “injury-to-eye” motif; we’re talking brain-matter skull-‘splode.

 

 

D’Israeli ain’t finished, either. The very next page boasts an orgasmic aerial shot of Crystal Palace Aerodrome rising high into the sky above a lean, clean city with space for verdant parkland and the full majesty of the original giant glasshouse still standing. The lines are crisp, the light is lambent and the design of the leviathan coming in to land – vertically like a Harrier – is so exquisite in red and white that the six-year-old still very much alive in me would dearly adore a heavy model metal version to hold aloft and sweep around my playroom while going “Neeeeeeeeyyyyyyaaaaoww!”

Fans of LUTHER ARKWRIGHT or MINISTRY OF SPACE are also going to get a kick out of this alternate history in which Britain has retained the power it lost with its empire and made leaps in technology before its time – in this instance by reverse-engineering the spoils from a thwarted Martian Invasion.

 

 

In retaliation Britain has taken the fight to Mars with Field Marshall Montgomery in charge, but after 40 years of futile fighting – with national and international opinion set dead against them – things are growing dirtier. Abyssinian Emperor Haile Selassie, Secretary General of The League Of Nations, comes out with a speech astonishingly similar to Kofi Annan’s condemning Israel mid-2007; Canada, New Zealand and Australia are all set to secede from The Commonwealth; and you just know we’re in trouble if Sir Oswald bloody Mosley is Home Secretary. So you can kiss freedom of the press good-bye, and you can be equally sure there’ll be the thuggish boot boys to beat out insubordination, subversion or subterfuge should anyone get too close to the truth of what’s happening on the red planet.

Photojournalist Charlotte Hemming is determined to have a go, in spite of the odds, and after a treacherous journey finds evidence of a civilisation far older than their enemies, the reason that no one is coming home, and Earth’s Final Solution to its problem.

 

 

It’s all very slick, with winks here and there (an ancient mural depicts Doctor Who’s Silurians and Sea Devils as the contemporary, dominant species on Earth!), and Edginton fills his news reports with all manner of sly contemporary references before things turn very, very brutal indeed…

“In the East End of London, Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and the Metropolitan police raided a house in Sydney Street where Scottish seditionists ‘The People’s Caledonian Militia’ had established a hideout. After a heated gun battle, many of the insurgents took their own lives rather than face capture.

“However, it is suspected that several escaped in the confusion.
“Detective Inspector Craven of Special Branch anticipates their immediate arrest but warns that if you should see any individuals with a Scots or Northern appearance, do not approach them, but dial 999 immediately.”

Do it, please, for all our sakes.

SLH

Buy Complete Scarlet Traces vol 2 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Jim Henson’s The Power Of The Dark Crystal vol 1 h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Simon Spurrier & Kelly Matthews, Nichole Matthews.

“A hundred years ago the Crystal was healed and in its light a lost race was reborn.”

We’ll return to that anon, but what you’d most like to know as soon as possible, I suspect, is how this fits in with Jim Henson’s puppet-theatre film?

It’s the sequel. It’s the direct, fully authorised sequel which was developed over many years and original intended to be released as a feature film. As such it’s scripted by Simon Spurrier (CRY HAVOC: MYTHING IN ACTION etc) based on screenplays by Craig Pearce and Annette Duffy and David Odell, and its art doesn’t half glow, which is a good job given that it features a brand-new race called the Firelings. They live near the planet’s molten core. Anyway, here’s Lisa Henson, CEO of The Jim Henson Company and the Muppet maestro’s daughter:

“Jen and Kira have been peacefully ruling Thra from the Crystal Castle for many years… They have grown very old and are living in a haze of memories and ritual, and the peaceful complacency of their court belies a neglect and lack of engagement with the Crystal and Thra itself. Into that setting, a young Fireling girl from the centre of the planet comes to ask a difficult favour of them, a shard from the Crystal to save her civilisation.”

 

 

I’ve only skimmed the first of these chapters reprinting the first four of twelve comics, but it did strike me as odd that “A hundred years ago the Crystal was healed” was impressed upon us three times during the three-page pre-credit sequence, bursts first from the title page yet again, then is repeated two pages later, then two pages after that. It struck me as odd right up until the first chapter’s cliffhanger when I realised why this favour to the Firelings would be so very difficult.

The Gelflings are an animist culture, worshipping the Crystal as a god.

And for a shard to be given, they must first shatter the Crystal itself.

 

 

For more graphic novels, please see Page 45’s Jim Henson Section plus the LABYRINTH 2017 SPECIAL one-shot, released last week and still in stock at the time of typing and the forthcoming 12-part LABYRINTH series whose first issue you’ll find there on our site, although you are very much encouraged to set up a Page 45 Standing Order for the series for collection in store or shipping worldwide as each issue comes out. You don’t pay in advance, only as each issue is collected or dispatched.

SLH

Buy Jim Henson’s The Power Of The Dark Crystal vol 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Anno Dracula – 1895: Seven Days In Mayhem s/c (£17-99, Titan) by Kim Newman & Paul McCaffrey.

Let’s lobs some labels at this, shall we, and see if they stick with you?

Steampunk, neo-gothic vampire comic with elements of Fu Manchu and Giant Monster Movies complete with Kraken. It’s all here, I promise you.

A brand-new story written by the author of the Anno Dracula novel along with its successors set during subsequent eras, this – like its original – takes place during a Victorian England whose crown, through connivance, now belongs to Vlad the Impaler along with Britain’s glorious far-reaching Empire. Not everyone is happy with this (though I’d have thought that one blood-sucking aristo was just as bad as another) so there’s a multinational European naval force assembled just off the Frisian Islands’ North Sea archipelago which is all set to invade / liberate our Sacred Isle depending on your perspective.

Think of them as The Allies. It’s kind of like WWI and WWII except in reverse.

 

 

On top of that there are various clans with secret plans bent on revolution from within, so if skulduggery is your thing you’ll be well-in here. They all seem pretty privileged too, and wear ever such flouncy clothing, plus a great many of them are vampires. This is a certain sub-section of society for whom this is the best wet dream ever.

The series is populated by historical figures, literary characters and those from film and television, so in that regard a bit like THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (except that everything there was fictional including the environments) and you might have a great deal of fun spotting them.

 

 

Now, before we go any further, I should emphasise that HELLBOY’s Mike Mignola is the most enormously enthusiastic fan and provides the introduction in which he is at pains to point out that he’s a purist about Bram Stoker’s Dracula and therefore one of the least likely to succumb to the undoubted charms within, but succumb he has. Plus Neil Gaiman wrote “Compulsory reading… glorious!” and I have the most unequivocal respect for Neil to the extent that I know full well that I have never typed – and never will type – a single paragraph that could match his hastily scribbled weekly Sainsbury’s shopping list.

What I am trying to impress upon you is that they are almost certainly right and I am almost certainly wrong. Seriously.

But I cannot read a book in which someone cries “Egads!” or mumbles “’Ow do, lass?” then an anthropomorphic walrus declares, “The jig’s up, socialist rabble.” The first dozen pages made me squirm with embarrassment, so I set it aside and moved on.

 

 

For steampunk fans I recommend instead graphic novels like LUTHER ARKWRIGHT, CASTLE IN THE STARS, GRANDVILLE, CLOCKWORK WATCH or SCARLET TRACES.

P.S. Words like “skulduggery” and “turpitude” should only be deployed with an arched eyebrow as well.

SLH

Buy Anno Dracula – 1895: Seven Days In Mayhem s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!

New reviews to follow, but if they’re new formats of previous books, reviews may already be up; others will retain their Diamond previews information we receive displayed as ‘Publisher Blurb’.

Cannibal vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Brian Buccellato, Jennifer Young & Matias Bergara

Injection vol 3 (£14-99, Image) by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey

It’s Cold In The River At Night (£9-99, Avery Hill Publishing) by Alex Potts

Portugal h/c (£30-00, Fanfare / Portent Mon) by Cyril Pedrosa

Wet Moon vol 5: Where All Stars Fail To Burn (New Edition) (£17-99, Oni) by Sophie Campbell

Babyteeth vol 1 (£13-99, Aftershock) by Donny Cates & Garry Brown

Be Your Own Backing Band (£8-99, Silver Sprocket) by Liz Prince

Body Music (£22-99, Arsenal Pulp Press) by Julie Maroh

Catboy (£17-99, Silver Sprocket) by Benji Nate

Cici’s Journal h/c (£12-99, FirstSecond) by Joris Chamberlain & Aurelie Neyret

Helvetica Standard Italic vol 1 (£14-99, Manga) by Keiichi Arawi

Invisibles Book 2 (£22-99, Vertigo) by Grant Morrison & Phil Jimenez, Jill Thompson, Paul Johnson, Tommy Lee Edwards, Mark Buckingham, Philip Bond

Look Straight Ahead (£17-99, Cuckoo’s Nest Press) by Elaine M. Will

Lumberjanes vol 7: A Bird’s-Eye View (£13-99, Boom! Box) by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh & Ayme Sotuyo, Carey Pietsch

Over The Garden Wall vol 2 (£14-99, kaboom!) by various

Steven Universe: Anti-Gravity (£12-99, Titan) by Talya Perper & Queenie Chan, Jenna Ayoub

Batman: The Dark Prince Charming vol 1 h/c (£11-99, DC) by Enrico Marini

Daredevil: Back In Black vol 5: Supreme s/c (£17-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule & Goran Sudzuka, Alec Morgan, Ron Garney

Jessica Jones vol 2: The Secrets Of Maria Hill s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos

The Girl From The Other Side vol 3 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Nagabe

Rivers Of London: Detective Stories (£13-99, Titan) by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel & Lee Sullivan

Star Wars vol 6: Out Among The Stars (£17-99, Marvel) by Jason Aaron, Jason Latour & Salvador Larroca, Andrea Sorrentino, Michael Walsh

Batman & Robin Adventures vol 2 s/c (£17-99, DC) by Paul Dini, Ty Templeton & Brandon Kruse, Dev Madan, Mik Parobeck, Joe Staton

Green Arrow vol 4: The Rise Of Star City s/c (Rebirth) (£17-99, DC) by Ben Percy & Eleonora Carlini, Juan Ferreyra, others

Blame! Vol 6 (Master Edition) (£29-99, Vertical) by Tsutomu Nihei

Dragonball Super vol 2 (£6-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama & Toyotarou

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt vol 5 (£9-99, Viz) by Yasuo Ohtagaki

The Mortal Instruments – The Graphic Novel vol 1 (£9-99, Yen) by Cassandra Clare & Cassandra Jean

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