Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews July 2018 week four

Featuring Geof Darrow, Aleš Kot, Danijel Žeželj, Jordie Bellaire, Edouard Cour, Tara Booth, Daryl Seitchik, Brian Wood, Justin Giampaoli, Andrea Mutti, Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill, Brendan Leach, Anne Simon, Chip Zdarsky, Jim Cheung, Valerio Schiti 

Days Of Hate vol 1 s/c (£15-99, Image) by Aleš Kot & Danijel Žeželj with Jordie Bellaire.

In which Kot and Žeželj project American politics just a few years down the line from where they are now. As you might suspect, they aren’t very pretty.

“The United States of America, 2022.

“The loss that ripped them apart drove one into the arms of the police state and the other towards a guerrilla war against the white supremacy. Now they meet again. This is a story of a war.”

Wars, of course, are increasingly fought with far more than fire power: information is everything – as is disinformation and coercion, backed up by threats to your nearest and dearest.

2022, by the way, is no universal dystopia – and it’s certainly not post-apocalyptic – for most of mainstream society’s getting on with life as usual, just as it generally does whatever the threats to others’ civil liberties. It’s not they who’ve been targeted. Most of mainstream society doesn’t care what happens to minorities.

“Remember when we all hated on 2016 online? Called it a “trash fire”?
“And then on 2017? 2018, the elections?
“People don’t even hate on 2022. We’re catatonic.”

 

 

But the internment camps are back for the dregs of society and Peter Freeman, head investigator of the Special National Police Force Unit for the Matters of Domestic Terrorism, could not be more delighted. That’s what happens when right-wing shit gets normalised.

He’s summoned a Person of Interest, by the way, one Huian Xing, and is interrogating her in a most affable manner. Will she tell him what he wants to know? The chances are, he already knows it.

 

 

He knows about her wife, Amanda, what happened to their child, and so what happened to their relationship.

Amanda is regarded as far more than a Person of Interest. She’s on Peter Freeman’s Most Wanted list. Now, it appears, he has an ally in Huian:

“She destroyed my life.
“I’m finally ready to return the favour.”

 

 

Meanwhile, some of the white supremacist here are holed up here in an open concrete retail park’s Herbie’s American Dining, on the outside as bland as can be, on the inside oppressively adorned with almost every inch of wall space decked out in red-and-white-striped, nationalistic Americana: giant, overbearing, emblematic bald eagles, wings stretched out proprietarily across flags.

It’s a social occasion, and they are far from stupid. Nor are they inhuman: never make that mistake. Dehumanisation is their preferred province. But the ladies will soon be heading out while the men discuss matters of domestic terrorism. Just not the sort that Peter Freeman’s interested in investigating: who even cares about the queers?

Fortunately someone else does.

 

 

“Multiple molotovs thrown through the windows and someone somehow accidentally left a few well-placed and easily flammable objects in close proximity to specifically those windows. Oh, and the doors got locked from the outside and the bouncers got shot.
“Clearly an accident.”

Žeželj excels at the toxic. Not necessarily the chemically toxic, but the socially unsafe, precarious, treacherous. His rough-hewn, shadow-heavy art is haunted. You can see the skulls beneath faces.

 

 

Oh, but this sprawling city shines in the dark! Its glossy skyscrapers, glowing with uncaring activity, rear between busy bypasses, overpasses, underpasses, all snaking circuitously in coils round Los Angeles.

Was that a bomb going off?

 

 

So yes, with Jordie Bellaire’s considerable colour enhancement, Zelzelj can do sleek and slick too. Those freeways are almost wet with light in the night.

Once out in the countryside the line and colour artists open up so much space! Although, you will note that the darkness remains, both at ground level and hovering above like an oppressive shroud.

 

 

It’s in the countryside that you will meet Xing’s parents, when she calls home. But Peter Freeman got there first.

Her father’s a novelist of some renown. He has attracted Peter Freeman’s attention.

“Perhaps we could… begin a correspondence? Email? Or maybe I can find you on Facebook? Twitter? Somewhere else entirely?”
“… You can add me, yes. I am on both.”
“Good. I hope you’re careful about what you write there. I believe in the First Amendment, of course, but some of my colleagues nowadays… they sometimes joke there’s only a one-letter difference between internet and interned.”

He looks away, very pleased with himself.

“Would you mind if I took your daughter for a walk?”

 

 

Aleš Kot writes with carefully weighted sentences, delivering the most chilling courtesy that I can recall in comics; Žeželj responds with measured, telling looks.

This is the first half of a future already upon us. After that we’ll be moving inexorably into LAZARUS territory. Can we please keep doing our most vocal best to ensure that this, which should never have happened, is reversed as soon as possible? Otherwise it will all begin to look increasingly familiar, normal and, yes, mundane.

SLH

Buy Days Of Hate vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

How To Be Alive (£6-99, Retrofit) by Tara Booth…

One of the most absurdly enjoyable comics I have read in a long time! If you’re looking for something to make you snort coffee through your nose – in an outward direction I should probably add just for the sake of total clarity on my review-writing process – this is it!

Completely silent and as slapstick as Harold Lloyd in his pomp, the publisher bills this as…

“A collection of Tara Booth’s most recent gouache paintings. Straying from the narrative form of her first publications, How To Be Alive is a series of autobiographical densely patterned, colourful, one and two page vignettes about modern life, swinging emotionally between bitterly painful to insightful to amusing.”

Trust me, even the bitterly painful are excruciatingly hilarious, for us at least, never mind “amusing”. That is downplaying the comic genius of this material. I’m not entirely sure about “insightful”, either unless you count learning the fact that trimming your own fringe and getting a bit carried away and doing the sides of your head as well leaves you looking like a cross between the bearded lady and a werewolf as a valuable life lesson…

I think there are two points which make this psychedelically coloured romp tickle the ribs to cracking point time after time. Firstly, it’s that Tara has chosen to eschew panels and borders completely (which given the riot of crazily painted colour certainly minded me greatly of Brecht THE WRONG PLACE Evens) instead frequently employing the conceit of painting anywhere between three and eighteen versions of herself engaged in some ludicrous activity such as squeezing spots, working out or indeed even going to the toilet.

Often the Taras are so tightly tucked in next to each other that it gives the effect of an unceasingly twirling zoetrope threatening to fly off its axis completely. Chaos in motion! The other clincher is the facial expressions, the final one often being the punchline that underscores the absolute joyful lunacy of it all. Such as when after downing a large glass of red wine, Tara turns to camera and gives us a beaming smile, complete with temporarily tannin-stained teeth. We’ve all been there!!

JR

Buy How To Be Alive and read the Page 45 review here

The Shaolin Cowboy: Start Trek h/c (£22-99, Dark Horse) by Geof Darrow.

The original SHAOLIN COWBOY finally back in print after a good decade or more in the wilderness.

“How charmingly Asian of you…
“And without the aid of wires.”

Honey, you have never seen a kung-fu flick with such slick choreography, frozen-framed here for detailed analysis as only a comic can do!

Even the noble and nimble Jackie Chan would bow to Geof Darrow’s superiority as nigh-on a hundred vengeful varmints queue behind King Crab, a somewhat self-involved crustacean whose entire family and prospective wife were once gorged on by the Shaolin Cowboy in search of a sea-food platter. I can assure you that these revengers will be disassembled in no uncertain terms, and will learn the true meaning of the term gut-punch.

First, though, they stand in line… after line… after line… in a sequence of double-page spreads so deliciously self-indulgent – so hilariously inexhaustible all the way to the fly-clouded portable loo – that you cannot help but cackle. This is the artist, remember, who rendered Frank Miller’s HARD BOILED in all its gore-strewn glory and his detail exceeds even the great George Pérez. Pore over the Alton-Towers-long queue with its cats, parakeets and monkeys, its tattoos, handcuffs and (warning) cock rings. It demands that you do so!

This is a man relishing his craft, drawing for the sheer joy of it. The landscapes are epic with gigantic geological outcrops, while the skies coloured predominantly by Peter Doherty are a lambent, pollution-free blue. Then when those geological features start moving…

There’s a scene here which I feel sure inspired another in Brandon Graham’s original MULTIPLE WARHEADS, as a city-sized dinosaur actually carries an industrial citadel on its back. Venture down its gullet and in its stomach-sewer depths you’ll find a great big, bloody shark, presumably acting as a digestive enzyme.

Like Beat Takeshi, The Shaolin Cowboy himself is a man of few words, leaving those for his sun-visored, hip-hop-hating horse who has quite the thing for Robert Mitchum. The script is packed with political and cultural satire but remains light, bright and breezy. It’s all about the acrobatics instead.

Very, very funny scene when a sentient skull is cleaved in two, its subsequent speech balloons equally bisected.

“Ibu                          profen.”

Continued in SHAOLIN COWBOY: SHEMP BUFFET then SHAOLIN COWBOY: WHO’LL STOP THE REIGN.

SLH

Buy The Shaolin Cowboy: Start Trek h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Herakles Book 1 h/c (£15-99, Lion Forge) by Edouard Cour.

“He really appreciates you, my love…
“But he seems sad…
“I think he’s the simplest and most complicated man I’ve ever known.”

Behold the thrilling Twelve Labours of Hercules, here played largely for laughs, and successfully so!

Although that doesn’t prevent it from becoming incredibly touching before, during and immediately after the scene quoted about, when the big galoot – on his way to Thrace to steal the Man-Eating Mares from tyrannical King Diomedes – stops by at King Admetus’s gaff, finds his friend as open-armed as ever, but the city silent in mourning. Admetus excuses himself for he must attend the funeral, but he won’t say whose it is.

Oblivious even before becoming blind drunk, Herakles helps himself to the hospitality on offer, roaring with laughter at his own clumsiness before finally realising that no one’s joining in. The funeral, you see is for the kingdom’s queen, Admetus’s very own wife.

The subsequent panel is a picture of self-searching and searing, red-cheeked shame.

“Skor.”

 

 

It’s a swear word in Ancient Greek. All the swearing is in Ancient Greek. It’s a cumulatively funny joke set up so well in advance that it doesn’t have to be signposted here. Because here, it isn’t funny.

“S-sir…? Wh-where are you going?”

He’s going to Hell. More accurately, he’s going to Hades, and he will bring Queen Alcestis back.

Cour doesn’t signpost this, either, but at the risk of a slight spoiler, the spectral figures you’ll find silently haunting Herakles throughout are his own wife and three kids whom he killed with his own hands in a volcano of rage visited upon him by the goddess Hera.

Oh, how the gods do love to interfere with mortals in most mythologies – see Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN, for a start.

 

 

To seek atonement, the half-god, half-human visited the Delphic Oracle where he was told to submit for twelve years to King Eurystheus and perform whatever tasks were commanded of him, hence, these Twelve Labours. I imagine all of that will come out in book two.

Instead Edouard Cour throws us straight into round one, in which our hulking Herakles must slay The Lion With Impenetrable Golden Fur. Hilariously, on very first sight, he flexes his bow and sends an arrow flying lion-wards. It “ptong”s uselessly off the beast’s back. Well, of course it does. We are reminded immediately afterwards: “…The Lion With Impenetrable Golden Fur”.

 

 

Charging up to the summit he spied it leaping down from, Herakles sees only a lake.

“Well… I guess I could use a bath…”

He strips and dives gamely in. On surfacing, he discovers the The Lion With Impenetrable Golden Fur waiting patiently for him on land, as dry as a British country meadow right now.

“Skor!”

 

 

Other Ancient Greek swears include “orkis” and “proktos”. I think you’ll understand the latter at least without any input from me.

Now, I don’t know how many other sources there are for the Twelve Labours Of Hercules, but mine was (and remains) ‘Fabulae Faciles’ which, aged 9, I had to translate from Latin. Not all of it, single-handedly: as a class we were each assigned chapters or paragraphs which we had to prepare in advance then read out in front of the headmaster who resembled no one more closely in both stature and temperament than Marvel’s Wilson Fisk, Kingpin of crime. He once shook a boy – who had already been made to stand in a corner, facing away from the rest of us in disgrace – so hard by the scruff of his neck that he fainted.

I won’t tell you what he did to the 1st XV rugby team, except in private.

But back to Latin and basically this: you didn’t want to get it wrong.

So although you have to contend here both with my wonky memory and my wiffy language skills, those skills were at least enhanced by a certain degree of… motivation. And I can tell you this: Cour has stayed absolutely true to what I read, with but one later digression added earlier on in order to, I presume, balance things out a bit (this takes you up to and includes the 8th Labour; the digressions in ‘Fabulae Faciles’ became much more extensive as the extraordinary feats progressed). However, he has elaborated considerably on what was pretty brief, bare-bones, almost perfunctory narration with his own comedic panache and cleverly extrapolated detail.

 

 

For example, Herakles did take to wearing the fleece of That Lion With The Impenetrable Golden Fur, flopping down from its skull which he wore on his head as a helm, but it’s never explained exactly how he skinned said Impenetrable Fur. It’s Impenetrable, right? Well, it is explained here, and craftily so.

Secondly, I don’t recall ancient Greeks sitting on wooden, civic park benches. They do in round two, while giving our dim one directions to the lair of The Hydra That Breathes Deadly Poison.

Thirdly, although it was made clear that poor King Eurystheus did dispatch Herakles on more than one errand simply to get rid of the goon because he feared the company of such a strong, able and determined individual with the capacity to improvise in a flash, it was never to my knowledge suggested that he set him the challenge to Clean The Stable Of King Augeas Of Elis simply to humiliate Herakles.

 

 

But it makes so much sense! Think about it: almost all of the Labours Of Hercules are feats of monumental physical prowess involving capturing or killing feared powerhouses – the besting of beasts, some of which like the Hydra could regenerate – whereas suddenly he’s set the seemingly incongruous, low-level, dirty task of clearing out the cowshed! And it seems a Sisyphean task, what with all the plop being dropped 24/7 by cattle. However, see improvisation / lateral thinking!

I wish I had! I grew up on a dairy farm, so that was once my morning mission, slopping out the shippen. True fact! Also true fact: I liked it!

Anyway, my point is this:  Cour has gone to enormous trouble not only to provide us with a most mischievous entertainment, but to think things through so carefully and cleverly that he adds logically to the mythology while staying entirely true. The one major departure is the invention of a mocking shadow subconscious – and, you know, all the dialogue.

 

 

Herakles himself is rendered with a sort of exaggerated Marc Hempel heft – a more-than-mortal bulk to rival his foes’, rather than a mere circus muscleman – which gives him both gravity and gravitas. Those foes are as exotic as you would hope for and also include a Giant Boar, a Giant Bull, Man-Eating Birds with razor-sharp feathers, and a side-serving of centaurs after the ever-thirsty Herakles helps himself to their stash of wine.

What’s probably struck you most strongly, however, are the colours, so fulsome and vibrant that they radiate heat and dominate the page. I don’t have a full range for you here, but when they disappear under a snow storm for a scene of sombre reflection, it’s therefore startling, with the shades of his wife and three children standing together, adrift but united in silent judgement…

SLH

Buy Herakles Book 1 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Exits (£13-99, Koyama Press) by Daryl Seitchik…

Have you ever wished you were invisible?

What would you get up to if you were?

And then what effect would it have on your head once the novelty wore off and you realised you were stuck like that…?

Here’s the publisher’s blurb, which originally came written in invisible ink, of course, but fret ye not I’ve applied the top secret component to make it appear for you again… Be quick, before it vanishes…

“Claire Kim hates herself and the world she lives in. Working at a mirror store, she shows customers their reflections and daydreams about erasing her own. One night, on her way home, she gets her wish. Follow Claire as she wanders invisibly through the city and her own psyche.”

 

 

It sounds like a fairly simple conceit. And it is. But it’s extremely well done and followed through to include not only all manner of amusing vignettes as Claire accosts deserving misogynists in the street and plays voyeur to canoodling lovers but also dealing with the practicalities and quite frankly numerous impracticalities of being a disembodied voice and the emotional turmoil it clearly would create. Which if you’re already on the edge, is probably likely to send you teetering over it. But maybe that’s exactly what Claire needed…

 

 

Very well written piece of speculative fiction with real heart and more than a little dry humour too.

JR

Buy Exits and read the Page 45 review here

Rome West s/c (£14-50, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood, Justin Giampaoli & Andrea Mutti…

“All of Republic history is under intense scrutiny, from the landing, to the appropriations, the Aztec War, and the RSB scandals. Everything.
“We’re a nation coming to terms with its past sins, painfully, violently. And the one constant… is the Valerius family. The Valerius name. My name is Calliope Valerius. And I’m on trial. I’ve been on trial my entire life.
“I know not many of you like me. The colour of my skin. Or the way I look. My Roman name.
“I get it. You look at me and see a thousand years of suppression and assimilation of native cultures.
“You think just because of my name, that I support all that? Do you all honestly think I’m guilty of century-old war crimes.
“It’s not my personal ideology. It’s just a name.”

The rise and rise and, well, if not quite fall, then painful self-refection of an empire… A Roman West empire that began with a few bedraggled shipwreck survivors being washed ashore on North American soil in 323AD, including one Lucan Valerius, and who then promptly set about building what would become the most expansive superpower the world had ever known. Both by strength of words in negotiation with the local native tribes, but of course also by the sword in conflict. Conflicts. Repeated bloody conflicts.

 

 

The Emperor of historical conflict fiction himself, Brian NORTHLANDERS / BLACK ROAD Wood returns in conjunction with fellow scribe Justin Giampaoli and previous artistic cohort Andrea REBELS Mutti to tell this epic alternative building of empire with stories featuring Lucan Valerius and his descendents in no less than eleven time periods from 323AD through to 1989.

 

 

We do, of course, get one set in 1492, when a certain Christopher Columbus descends upon the Americas convinced that fame and fortune are his for the taking, only to be given very short shrift by the locals and being very surprised about the fact they are speaking Latin! What’s great about this work is the attention to detail, and it’s the little conceits, such as an insurgent group centuries later being called the Sons Of Columbus that help make this such an engrossing read.

 

 

Each of the stories in and of themselves are entertaining enough, but the bigger picture that builds as we move forward in time is the real story. Precisely how an Empire is built, and who gets assimilated along for the ride or just plain crushed, relegated to a footnote in history, along the way. The consequences of said construction, good and bad, Brian and Justin have also thought through very carefully, as detailed by Calliope Valerius’ private thoughts whilst on the stand…

 

 

“I want to tell them the world isn’t so binary. That there’s such a thing as nuance, as context.
“The Valerius family assimilated and incorporated the tribes instead of slaughtering them as the Iberians would have done.
“The Romans introduced a unifying language, but at the cost of hundreds of native tongues.
“We implemented a unifying system of government and equal representation, but it homogenized countless thriving tribes and their unique customs.
“We welcomed… and still welcome…native and pantheon Gods alike, the Prophet, the Christ and the Disciples Of David.
“But we also funded the bloodiest war in history.
“The Romans brought their technology, water and metal works, and of course, their weapons of war.
“Oh, they never let me forget the weapons. From matchlocks to chemical weapons to intelligence, Valerius Arms is the world’s oldest, wealthiest company.”

 

 

Straight out in graphic novel form, this wasn’t released in single issues first, just in case you’re wondering why you might not have heard much about it. For me it’s just as good as NORTHLANDERS.

JR

Buy Rome West s/c and read the Page 45 review here

League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century (Complete Edition) s/c (£15-99, Top Shelf / Knockabout) by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill.

Satirical, century-spanning science-fiction leaving the Victorian era behind increasingly in favour of living memory, the three-part saga is set in 1910, 1969 and 2009.

1910

Another highly inventive collage culled from works of other authors, this time with the added entertainment of songwriters Brecht and Kurt Weill.

Quartermain, Hyde and the Invisible Man are all dead now, whilst Captain Nemo is not much longer for this world. Yet Mina Murray – she of the hickie-hiding scarf or very high collar – remains as vigorous as ever. Infuriated too, mostly by the ineptitude of her new team of sleuths: Allan Quartermain Jr (hmmm…), burglar Raffles, and the immortal if not immutable Orlando who preens himself / herself hilariously throughout, name-dropping like a Timelord:

“Lando, that has to be the most stupid thing you’ve ever said.”
“Oh, I don’t know. There was, “Oh look! What a wonderful horse!” That was at Troy.”

 

 

Lastly there’s Tom Carnacki whose disturbing premonitions of impending disaster are what drive this new series. For the seer has twin visions: one of a sect preparing to create a Moonchild or Anti-Christ; the other of Captain Nemo’s daughter rejecting her father’s inheritance and abandoning him and his Nautilus for foreign climes – which to her means here. Unfortunately as the team concentrate on the former along with what appears to be the return of Jack The Ripper in the form of Mac The Knife, Mina is warned too late by Norton, a man trapped physically in London but free to roam through time, that it’s their very investigation that will, in an impetuous raid, precipitate and perhaps exacerbate exactly what they’re seeking to avert, setting the scene for 1969.

Meanwhile, they’ve taken their collective eye fatally off the crystal ball which warned of human heads piled up on the docks outside a London hotel which is exactly where Captain Nemo’s daughter Janni has sought employment and attracted a worrying amount of salacious attention from its drooling, drunken patrons. This is where Moore has so cleverly adapted Brecht and Weill’s ‘Pirate Jenny’, recasting the song’s victims as culpable rapists thoroughly deserving the wrath and carnage as each verse inevitably builds towards from its initial ominous warning:

“And the ship… the black raider… with a skull on its masthead… moves in from the sea!”

 

 

Kevin O’Neill is on magnificent form as ever, particularly during the harrowing ‘Pirate Jenny’ refrains although you’ll also get the big bang for your buck by the end. My favourite, this time, of the many side-references Moore packs in, is the gossip about the Chatterleys!

I can’t help you with the rest of the Threepenny Opera, but if you’ve never heard ‘Pirate Jenny’ we’ll be playing Marc Almond’s ivory-hammering 1987 ‘Melancholy Rose’ b-side version in the shop. Just ask us to slap it on next time you’re in!

1969

 

 

Ravaged by time, the once-mighty League is now down to three members: Mina Murray, preserved by her vampiric bite, Allan Quartermain Jr (look, we do try our best to keep reviews spoiler-free), and the immortal but far from immutable Orlando who is back on the turn and once more growing breasts.

Now they’ve returned to London in 1969 and immediately set about investigating even though Oliver Haddo supposedly died in Hastings back in 1947. Well, someone did, and it’s a scene which Moore and O’Neill play to perfection. Who then is the mysterious Charles Felton courting vain and gullible pop star Terner of The Purple Orchestra whose front man, Basil Thomas, was drowned in his swimming pool by robed monks in front of his pilled-up boyfriend called Wolfe Lovejoy?

It’s a special Same-Sex, Drugs & Rock’n’Roll edition of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, as the once-prudish Mina strives to stay hip to the times but finds she’s not as au fait as she thinks. Indeed, this second part climaxes in a stunningly bad acid trip by the Edward Hyde memorial statue surrounded by the art and artefacts of the day from Spacehoppers and Daleks to Tony the Tiger, after which Mina’s fate will genuinely shock you.

The title has always been a collage of borrowed fiction so none of London shops, clubs or inhabitants shown here have ever existed save in books, films, television programmes and songs. Half the fun is spotting what Moore has appropriated and where from, especially now that as the years progress the variety of media Moore can choose from expands. Michael Caine’s Jack Carter plays a pivotal role in tracking down Basil’s murderers, and although ‘Get Carter’ didn’t actually appear at the cinema until 1970, cleverly he has yet to head north on that family business in Newcastle. I’ll leave the rest of you to puzzle over yourselves, but I was particularly tickled to see Parker, Lady Penelope’s chauffeur from Thunderbirds, as a petrol pump attendant.

2009

 

 

In which the identity of the Moonchild is finally revealed.

The final six-part adventure has just begun in LOEG: THE TEMPEST #1 – it’s going to make James Bond fans smile – and you can catch up on the previous LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN iterations by clicking on any of their covers at that there link. Cheers!

SLH

Buy League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 3: Century (Complete Edition) s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Pterodactyl Hunters In The Gilded City h/c (£17-99, Secret Acres) by Brendan Leach…

“Eamon, there was nothing you could have done.”
“I could have sent that harpoon through its goddamn heart – if Alfie hadn’t lost his nerve.”
“But, that little boy…”
“Oh, that kid was dead when he left the ground.”
“And if he wasn’t? You’d have harpooned him as well? Through his goddamn heart”?”
“BOYS!”
“Jesus, Declan.”
“WATCH YOUR MOUTH. Losing children to these beasts is never easy. In ’84 I saw three swoop down on an ice skating pond. Seven boys – GONE! And your Uncle Peter, rest his soul, had to slide across the lake on his…”
“Da…”
“Yeah, Da, we know the story.”
“Oh.”

 

 

Here’s the flapping of the publisher’s leathery wings for you…

“Brendan Leach’s Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City, a Best American Comics selection and winner of the Xeric Award and Ignatz Award for Outstanding Comic, is a story of sibling rivalry and family tradition in a rapidly changing world: a version of 1904 New York where generations of working-class hot air balloonists take to the skies each night to defend their city from pterodactyls.”

First off, if you’re a fan of Gipi’s (LAND OF THE SONS) art style, this could be a little extra bonus for you whilst we patiently wait for the great man to crack on with his next work. We said precisely the same of Will Morris’ SILVER DARLINGS, a book we loved so much we made it a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month.

 

 

This work actually has a couple of other things in common with SILVER DARLINGS, in the sense that it is, despite the diving, devouring dinosaurs, indeed a fairly straightforward character piece about the very uneven sibling rivalry that exists between the gung-ho, all-action moustachioed Damon who flies around in a hot air balloon lobbing dynamite and firing off spear guns and his overshadowed more thoughtful  younger brother Damon, who is restricted to ground crew lookout duty… and preparing the spear guns…

Boom… prepare for some family fireworks…

JR

Buy The Pterodactyl Hunters In The Gilded City h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Song Of Aglaia h/c (£17-99, Fantagraphics) by Anne Simon.

“Father?”
“Yes?”
“I hate all men. Including you.”
“Good-bye daughter.”

Funny!

Truth be told, water nymph Aglaia will find good cause to hate one more man, but so far she’s only encountered two. Admittedly, they’re both absolutely rubbish: a merman who gets her up the duff in a single swimming session then fails to return, leaving her to wait forlornly on the same rock she saw him off on, every day for months; and a dad that banishes her from their kingdom on account of the other man’s crime.

All the other anthropomorphic men she encounters will prove positively lovely – supportive and self-sacrificial in one instance – making that early declaration of misandry a bit impetuous. We’re only on page five!

 

 

Mind you, if you have only met two men and they both turn out to be heartless monsters, that is going to colour your perception a wee bit, isn’t it?

It’s very interesting, on occasion, to compare what a publisher puts out as publicity to what you make of a work yourself.

“Betrayed by her fleeting first love and her father’s cold rejection, Aglaia the oceanide conceives at a very young age a fierce hatred of men. She is by turns a reluctant wife, a passionate lover, an absent mother, a heroic fighter, and a revolutionary queen — and through it all, her destiny is inexorably linked to the complexity of her character in this deeply human, contemporary, and iconoclastic comedy.”

She’s not a passionate lover to the husband who brought her offspring up as his own; she’s a passionate, covert, nocturnal and extramarital lover to a bloke she finds, then keeps imprisoned, in a hole in the ground. Not a lot of options there.

“If you ever break up with me, I’ll kill you.”

Again, funny! This is a very funny book.

 

 

Aglaia’s definitely an absent mother: immediately after laying her eggs she goes straight to bed, incubation be damned. She becomes a bit of a monster, to be honest, then raises another in the vein of brattish child-king Joffrey from ‘Game of Thrones’. So cycles history.

Anyway, back to the publisher.

“Cartoonist Anne Simon showcases a deft touch in this astute dissection of human relationships, which weaves 19th century France, biting feminism, and the pop imagination of the Beatles into one deliciously philosophical farce, full of subversive twists and comical turns.”

I think I detect an Edward Gorey influence, myself.

SLH

Buy The Song Of Aglaia h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Two-in-one vol 1: Fate Of The Four s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Chip Zdarsky & Jim Cheung, Valerio Schiti…

“While I feel insulted that you think Doom can be “surprised,” I will stick with your plan, Richards.”
“Yeah… yer onna winnin’ team now, Doomsie…”

A cheeky little appetiser, this, and also question poser, I have to say, ahead of the return of the Fantastic Four with their new #1. The first question being why Chip Zdarsky & Jim Cheung, Valerio Schiti aren’t going to be on that title? Because I’ve been highly amused by these recent exploits of the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing and old hothead Mensa-reject member Johnny Storm, aided and abetted by the Infamous Iron Man himself, Victor Von Doom, or the more informal ‘Doomsie’ as Ben likes to irritate him with.

Still, Dan Slott, fresh off a thousand years on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN culminating with his insane speculator-frenzying RED GOBLIN arc and Sara SPIDER-MEN Pichelli are a very safe pair of hands.. Well, two pairs, but you get my thwip, I mean quip.

 

 

Chip’s story of Ben and Johnny searching the multiverse for the rest of their family with the aid of an artefact left behind by Reed in case of just such an eventuality has been both poignant and hilarious in turn. Victor, sharing Ben’s suspicions that Reed, Sue and the kids are in fact dead, decides complicity in hiding the truth from depressed man-child Johnny is the best option. How very grown up and sensible of them…

 

 

We, of course, know different, don’t we, chums? At least at think we do, having read (and probably partially understood) Jonathan Hickman’s SECRET WARS, which seems to suggest the other half of the FF are off recreating universes. But surely, you think they would have at least dropped a postcard back home to Earth-616 to say everything was okay…?

And… just to make organising a family reunion that bit more complicated, our Terrific Two (yeah not quite the same ring to it…) have discovered that the cosmic car crash which created them also means they are tethered together in terms of their powers. So both Johnny and Ben are now suffering from the family split, gradually depowering and getting weaker and weaker. Which is just the sort of thing you don’t need when you’re off bouncing round the multiverse, bumping into all manner of alternate FFers and other supes…

 

 

The second question I have, especially given how this material is going story-wise, is whether the Reed and Sue pictured on Esad Ribic’s excellent cover to the new issue #1 are the Earth 616 original or indeed some proverbial variants…? I guess we’ll find out soon enough. The way Johnny, Ben and Uncle Victor are carrying on blundering around (Carry On Capering, if you will), I suspect variants and the search for the original first printings will continue…

JR

Buy Marvel Two-in-one s/c vol 1 Fate Of The Four 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’.

The Arrival s/c (£10-99, Lothian) by Shaun Tan

By This Shall You Know Him (£10-99, Koyama Press) by Jesse Jacobs

Fence vol 1 (£8-99, Image) by C.S. Pacat &  Johanna the Mad

Map Of Days h/c (£16-99, Nobrow) by Robert Hunter

Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad s/c (£16-99, Dark Horse) by Evan Dorkin

A Sea Of Love h/c (£19-99, Lion Forge) by Wilfrid Lupano & Gregory Panaccione

Shit Is Real (£17-99, Drawn & Quarterl) by Aisha Franz

Batman vol 6: Bride Or Burglar s/c (Rebirth) (£14-99, DC) by Tom King & Mikel Janin, Joelle Jones, others

The DC Universe Of Mike Mignola s/c (£16-99, DC) by Mike Mignola, Neil Gaiman, George Perez, John Byrne, Jerry Ordway, Roger Stern, others & various

Titans: The Lazarus Contract s/c (£14-99, DC) by Dan Abnett, Benjamin Percy, Christopher Priest & various

Daredevil: Back In Black vol 6: Mayor Fisk s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Charles Soule, Christos Gage & Stefano Landini, Ron Garney, Mike Perkins

Venomized s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Iban Coello, Kevin Libranda

X-Men Blue vol 4: Cry Havok s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Jorge Molina

Bleach vol 73 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

One-Punch Man vol 14 (£6-99, Viz) by One & Yusuke Murata

Fruits Basket Another vol 1 (£11-99, Yen Press) by Natsuki Takaya

Ibitsu (£14-99, Yen Press) by Haruto Ryo

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