Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2018 week five

Featuring Chabouté., Anders Nilsen, Andi Watson, Brenna Thummler, Cullen Bunn, Mark Torres, Jeff Smith, Jason Aaron, R.M. Guera, Davide Furno, Francesco Francavilla, Joanthan Hickman, Dale Eaglesham, more!

Alone (£15-99, Faber & Faber) by Chabouté.

“IMAGINATION n. The ability to form a mental image of fictional or perceived objects or concepts not actually present to the senses. The ability to invent, create, or concoct.”

With that definition, this book begins.

If it were Chabouté blowing his own trumpet, I would not begrudge him, but it isn’t. Both its form and its content constitute a very clever conceit at the heart of this work, which only someone as sharp as Chabouté could possibly have invented, created or concocted and then controlled by the astute observation that that which has never been observed may be subject to an even wilder imagination.

It’s first signalled by an initially baffling “BOOM!” resounding from the top of an otherwise silent lighthouse.

 

 

From the creator of THE PARK BENCH which we made Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month, this UK edition of an earlier work is almost as wordless, this time because it stars a lifetime loner living a solitary existence in a lighthouse surrounded by sea, and two men on a boat whose taciturn skipper does not encourage conversation.

Regardless, there is absolutely no substitute for slowly turning a sequence of Chabouté’s elegant and eloquently orchestrated pages, like the first sixteen here showing a choppy ocean swept over by a seagull before finally alighting on a corroded iron railing, only to be battered off by a crashing wave. It flies higher above the sea-bashed rocks, circling and circling the single, beacon-topped tower until it reaches railings far safer, around the giant lantern itself.

 

 

Then “BOOM!” Something is happening inside.

The sun sets. Time passes. You’ve just passed page sixteen and if you adore sequential art, you will already be in love with this book. However, we have only just begun…

 

 

 

A small trawler approaches the lighthouse rock from afar. It moors up against the concrete quay. A couple of crates are unloaded. The skipper shouts at his new employee to hurry it up. What could possibly be the rush? The boat casts off again, the skipper barking more complaints. It’s no wonder the other guy keeps his own council. Until days later, upon a return visit, he can no longer contain his curiosity about the boxes, suspecting his skipper of smuggling, drugs-running or money laundering.

“They’re supplies. Food!
“That’s right!
“I leave boxes there every week. Been doing it for years.”

They stare up at the lantern.

“He was born there.
“His mother gave birth in the lighthouse…
“He lived with his parents. His father was the keeper.
“His mother died first.
“And then, fifteen years ago, when his father died…
“The kid preferred to stay in there. Well… kid… he was thirty-five then. He must be fifty or so now…
“The guy’s never set foot on land.”

No one’s ever seen him, either. He only fishes with a line once the coast is clear.

 

 

“BOOM!” We see leafy boughs.
“BOOM!” a stallion is startled, and stampedes.
“BOOM!” a centaur in gladiator gear rears up and glares out from under the shadow of his helmet menacingly.

What on earth are those sequences doing there?! I’m not going to tell you.

It’s worth studying the window ledge though, when you find out, for the few found objects of flotsam and jetsam that have washed up on the quay or perhaps been hooked on the fishing line. Then, when there are wonkier sequences still…

Oh, it’s so clever!

 

 

There’s plenty of tension from time to time, but also a great deal of humour. For example, those wonky sequences, but also this: the recluse’s only companion is a goldfish in a goldfish bowl. Yes, he is surrounded by fish and surrounded by water, yet he keeps a goldfish in water. On the poignant side, it too is living a solitary existence, isolated from the rest of the world, imprisoned, but it isn’t aware of its situation, so doesn’t know what it’s missing.

Infer what you will for what follows.

 

 

There’s a superb use of silhouette and contour, and an echoing spiral staircase, a very high tide which serves to emphasise the confinement, and a kindness which may prove anything but.

SLH

Buy Alone and read the Page 45 review here

Tongues #1 (£13-99, self-published) by Anders Nilsen.

“What do you think, Eagle? Interpret my dream for me. Should I have left her to die?”
“Knowing what you know now?”
“Sure.”
“Yes,” says the eagle. “Clearly.”

If you think the eagle’s being harsh, then look at what we’ve done to this planet. Because the girl they’re referring to was quite possibly the very first human, sculpted by Prometheus from clay.

Also, the eagle and Prometheus are on surprisingly good terms: it addresses the Titan as “my Lord”, pays due deference and doesn’t even rip out his liver until given explicit permission.

“We can pick up tomorrow, as ever.” He’s not exactly going anyway, chained to the mountain, and that liver regenerates daily.

 

 

Once the eagle’s departed, mountain goats or deer lap at Prometheus’ open-wound entrails, signalling the unnatural state of affairs.

The crisp lines and rich colours are gorgeous throughout, and I loved the textures in this sequence, particularly the lush, lichen-like mossy stuff he’s sitting on. It looks pretty springy, rising from the hard rock formations in techno-organic patterns which we know that Nilsen is fond of. It matches Prometheus’ mottled, horny-backed form.

I’m kind of hoping Hercules doesn’t kill the raptor in this version. I like him.

 

 

The second chapter here is actually called ‘Hercules’ – which is intriguing given who startlingly pops back up in it. Long-term Nilsen fans may find him familiar. On the very first page, with the eagle soaring majestically above the desert at dawn, the barren but beautiful land scarred by exploded shell craters and up-ended military jeeps, I thought, “Ooooh, this is a bit DOGS & WATER!” I honestly had no idea.

 

 

The up-ended jeep will be revisited later on. To begin with it attracts the attention of the eagle on account of something rattling around inside it. It’s a monkey. The side-window is shattered resourcefully with a rock, stray glass plucked away by a beak. Then something surprising happens which I found so funny. Terrific cartooning. You haven’t seen the last of that chittering monkey, either.

 

 

From the creator of BIG QUESTIONS, POETRY IS USELESS  DON’T GO WHERE I CAN’T FOLLOW, and THE END (GOD AND THE DEVIL back in stock soon), we have the first instalment of a long-form work which poses so many questions, mostly about war both present and in the mythological past, with something slightly futuristic slipped in for good measure. I wonder why so many weapons are being represented as cubes these days? I also wonder it there’s some connection between the squiggly stuff seeping out of the cube is connection in some way to what Prometheus reclines on.

 

 

My final conjecture for the moment is whether the young, Swahili-speaking girl who emerges from the jeep’s boot and pulls herself out from under her two dead friends in ‘The Murderer’ might be a version of Pandora whose story is not unconnected with Prometheus’ (she ends up marrying his brother, Epimetheus in spite of Prometheus’ warnings – hilariously the latter means forethought while the former means afterthought or hindsight!) because she’s the one with that box and that box looks pretty lethal.

It’s reflected in the square of paper, rotated 45 degrees and inserted between the comic’s staples, because Anders simply cannot stop himself when it comes to design. And this is a lavish production, slightly larger than A4 with a thick, cardstock cover and French flaps. Each page of Prometheus’ dream or possibly part-memory is framed in a dissection with yet more entrails and organs.

Anders will be sending us the second instalment shortly.

SLH

Buy Tongues #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The City Never Sleeps (£2-99, self-published) by Andi Watson.

My favourite single, self-contained comic of the year so far, if there were any justice in this industry, it would sweep up on the Eisners.

(There isn’t; it won’t.)

All our copies have been signed.

“It isn’t true to say the city never sleeps.
“The city is an insomniac.”

They’re too very different propositions, aren’t they? The first suggests abundant, eternal energy, the second a debilitating mental malaise. I’ve been in both camps.

“Awake at night, it re-runs the day’s worries on a treadmill of anxiety.
“Preparing contingency plans for traffic flow, dirty bombs, concrete corrosion and flood.
“Forgetting them all in the fog of morning.”

Someone appears to have spent a great deal of time inside what I thought was my private head.

 

 

To begin with we soar above the city at night, composed of so many individual and individualistic sky-scraping entities, clustered together and perhaps communing. But they’re also cramped in a confining night-sky that appears to be rubbed something raw: so many voices, batting and battling about in your head.

The fog of morning lifts them clear from each other in a calm, cool grey and cream sunshine. It is a blessed relief!

But the cycle never stops, does it?

 

 

We’ll return to this first of four short stories in a second, but what I am promising you here are twelve succinct pages of meticulously composed, wit-ridden sequential art inside an exquisitely designed cardstock cover. It’s the first of twelve such mini-comics with a chic, matching trade dress which we’re calling The Andi Watson Collection. They really are that classy, and each will make you grin from ear to ear.  Previously available solely to Andi’s patreon subscribers (https://www.patreon.com/andiwatson), the section will expand as Andi releases each one in turn to Page 45, and we could not be more honoured.

Known to so many families as the creator of GLISTER, GUM GIRL and PRINCESS DECOMPOSIA, Watson’s more adult-orientated material like BREAKFAST AFTER NOON has sadly languished out of print for a shamefully long period now. We made his LITTLE STAR about being a Dad – and it doesn’t get much more mass-appeal mainstream than that – our first-ever Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. So it is a joy to once again promote his prime contemporary fiction, for Andi Watson is one of the finest British creators that this medium has ever known.

 

 

‘Garden Party’ in green will bear strange but all too familiar fruit, and ‘The Eaters’ will make you choke in recognition.

But ‘The Killer Inside Me’ you will never see coming.

And once you have read it, please remember I wrote that.

I was initially perplexed yet intrigued by its page construction in black, pink and purple, but do please trust me when I type that if I continued to describe or analyse its very specific panel layouts in any detail at all, then we would all be spilling into the sad realm of spoilers.

 

 

Instead let’s return to where we came in with the next line of our somnolent city.

“The city never sleeps but it does begin to feel drowsy around mid-afternoon.”

That’s not the punchline by any stretch of the imagination, though that would do fine for me.

No, Andi’s imagination stretches much further than that. As, I hope, you shall see.

SLH

Buy The City Never Sleeps and read the Page 45 review here

Sheets (£11-99, Cubhouse) by Brenna Thummler.

Thirteen-year-old Marjorie has more to contend with than most.

And it shows. Her poor, heavy eyes are so sad.

Her Mom died last spring, “and then Dad sort of did, too.”

He’s become a ghost of a man, floating silently round the house, barely lifting a finger, leaving Marjorie to tend to her brother and run the family business single-handedly, all outside school hours. Unsurprisingly, in spite of all her hard work, the business is starting to crumble.

Some of the customers are far from supportive. Mrs. Waffleton, with eyes like Eastenders’ Angie Watts, cuts her no slack for being even a minute late, while her spoiled daughter Tessi stares, self-absorbed, into the distance.

“Tessi Waffleton always looks like a spring holiday basket.
“But, like, one that you give for revenge or a prank or something that is sort of pretty but is filled with saw blades and worms.”

It’s a perfect description of the overly-made up, pouting girl in pearls. Tessi demands to be the centre of everyone’s attention at school, keeping her entourage in check by denigrating their personal quirky speech patterns. It’s very effective.

These aren’t the worst customers, however.

 

 

Mr Saubertuck immediately grates but seems harmless enough to begin with: eccentric, with lips constantly pursed under a bushy moustache, hair affectedly sculpted with brilliantine and glasses shaped high so as to add to his primly supercilious air. He’s fastidious too, and from this florid suit (everything he wears is patterned) he plucks what I suppose must be a handkerchief but looks more like a pair of pink-patterned panties, and proceeds to wipe down the windows, loudly, squeakily, critically, until he’s drawn attention to himself.

“Oh, don’t mind me.
“I thought this place could use a little TLC.”

He buys a potted plant and plonks it on the counter.

But later he’ll be bringing other things into the laundromat, he’ll find a way of letting himself in, and his self-regard, meddling and presumption will grow increasingly sinister. He has an agenda. I don’t think I’ve disliked a character in comics more since the loathsome Rusty Brown in Chris Ware’s big red ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY h/c. And that’s quite the accolade.

Yes, I found this very affecting in places – very angry-making too.

Wendell, meanwhile, is a ghost. A ghost of the kids-popping-a-bed-sheet-over-their-head-for-Halloween variety. This will prove important.

 

 

 

We first meet Wendell in a ghost town of small suburban shacks and the pinks and mauves and violets give way to an eerie, ethereal, green-tinctured grey. He’s not adjusting well to being dead – he died very young. He’ll tell you how eventually, but for the moment he’s attending group therapy and telling epic fibs about how extravagantly he kicked the bucket.

“See, it all started when I was taken captive by a crew of mutant pirates.”

His tale grows even taller but, in spite of abusing the therapeutic process, his fellow ghosts invite him to the bathhouse.

“Err… bathhouse?”
“Yes, the house with all the baths.”

It’s not just the colours which prove a pale version of reality – even the smells do:

“They just got a new scent of Ghosturizer: Vaguley Vanilla. I hear it’s better than Barely Bubblegum.”

Isn’t this well written?

 

 

Wendell opts instead to go home alone, to stare mournfully out of the caravan window all night. Then from the ghost town he hops on a forbidden ghost train to take him back to the human world, and wakes up in a wicker basket to a glorious sunrise. Tentatively, he tries to make friends with other sheets, flapping in the breeze on a washing line, but they don’t respond to his pokes. Instead he hears the sound of a piano being played, floats up to the open window and sees Marjorie sat at her Mom’s favourite place, the piano. Then… then he ventures downstairs and…!!!

When Wendell discovers the laundromat it’s like the ultimate spa for ghosts! So many luxurious treatments! A sauna of steam, an iron to work out those knots in this sheet’s shoulders, but the centrifugal force of the spin-dryer may give him a bit of a shock!

 

 

 

The profound irony of all this I will leave you to discover for yourselves, but if you think this is where it becomes all comical an’ cute, and Marjorie and Wendell become best friends, then think again. This is, instead, where the nightmares really begin and I honestly believe I’ve told you quite enough already. As in, I’ve laid out all the specific elements which will come into far from clean play.

 

 

Marjorie spends a great deal of time huddled, constantly under threat from all corners. Alternatively, she’s left to stroll on her own down streets which can feel as lonely and as desolate as the ghost town’s, even when strewn with such beautiful, bright autumn leaves.

 

 

 

And the colours are exquisite, absolutely exquisite, the neon pinks of the senescent leaves striking a contrast with the yellow-green lawn they’ve fallen upon.

As I say, very affecting, and fine for all ages.

SLH

Buy Sheets and read the Page 45 review here

Cold Spots #1 (£3-25, Image) by Cullen Bunn & Mark Torres.

An SUV drives through the wrought iron gates of an estate substantial enough to have a sizeable spread of trees, yet close enough to a major city that its light pollution taints the sky purple at night.

It pulls up at the imposing entrance to an even more imposing mansion.

“Mr. Warren values punctuality.
“You’re late.”

It’s always a good idea to establish the hierarchy of employment early on, isn’t it?

A man much younger than the snow-haired butler steps out of the vehicle.

“Is that right?
“Because your boss once told me that he never wanted to see me again.
“By my watch, that makes me early.”

It’s a good line in itself, but also a careful clue artfully slipped in early on, which is why I haven’t quoted you the publisher’s own blurb which is one big blunder-headed spoiler. Instead, I’ll leave you to join your own dots because, quite rightly, they aren’t in the comic itself.

 

 

 

Mr. Warren has reluctantly summoned this Mr. Kerr back after 8 years of absence, for he values his ability to find those who’ve gone missing. And Mr. Warren’s daughter Alyssa went missing, a month ago. There’s a photograph of her in an envelope laden with cash.

“Seems like there was an envelope full of money on the desk the last time I was here.”
“And tell me… how long did those funds last?”

It’s the second photograph which first ruffles Mr. Kerr’s cool, of a girl nearly 8 years old.

“Her name is Grace. She vanished along with her mother. She’s a special child, Mr Kerr, and the courts have seen fit to make me her legal guardian.
“Alyssa was never one to make good decisions.
“I’m concerned for my grand-daughter… for Grace… and I want her brought back to me, where I can protect her. If Alyssa doesn’t want to return… well… It wouldn’t be the first time she’s used poor judgement.”

It’s a scene well played by Mark Torres, for at that last implied sleight, Mr Kerr’s eyes shoot daggers.

Have you figured it out yet? One final clue: Mr Kerr calls Mr Warren “Arthur”.

It’s pretty cold where Mr. Kerr’s headed, to the coast which is close to an offshore island whose inhabitants have recently chosen to dispense with a ferry altogether.

 

 

 

It was preternaturally cold when we first and last saw that island, during the first four pages. Even inside with the thermostat turned up, the breath of the bearded man hangs in the air. His shoulders hang heavy too. He sits alone and pallid in the bungalow’s colourless lounge, overly empty save for some family portraits. also hanging, on the wall.

His wife in the kitchen’s stopped washing the dishes. Instead she’s staring out of the window.

 

 

“Louise? What are you doing?”
“Hmm? I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. I was just watching the boys play.”
“The.. the boys? What are you talking about? You can’t watch them play. The boys are –“

The boys are in the garden, one standing on a swing, the other racing towards a football.

 

 

But you can see right through them. And then there are those faces and eyes

Beautifully judged by Torres for maximum eeriness, there will be more temperamental temperature during the second half of this first issue which I’ve not even touched on.

From the writer of HARROW COUNTY (first two volumes reviewed).

SLH

Buy Cold Spots #1 and read the Page 45 review here

RASL Colour Edition vol 1 (of 3) Drift s/c (£8-99, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith.

Under Jeff Smith’s direction these colours provided by Steve Hamaker with Tom Gaadt are like little else in the business, with a completely different aesthetic to BONE‘s glossy gleam. For a start the paper stock is a lovely, thick matt while the colours themselves are soft and warm at night, yet clean and bright with wide, azure skies during the day out in the dessert.

There is an extended sequence towards the end of volume 3 when our battered and blood-caked RASL, weighted and weary, lets himself surf slowly down the scree-slopes of the arid, clay-coloured outcrop exposed to a desiccating sun under the indifferent watch of a midday moon. There the blues and the sandy stones complement each other beautifully: heat and light and so much fresh air, even if it’s too hot to handle.

 

 

Jeff Smith even spent two weeks sweating bare-chested in the desert surrounded by cacti – something that’s imprinted itself on the art here. There’s a real physicality to the protagonist with slightly simian looks, his big mop of hair, his compacted, body-builder physique and the fountain of sweat that sprays off his face. Even the way he pulls up his slacks is sexually charged. You imagine he might have a growl like Tom Waits, and he sure likes his liquor bars and strip joints.

 

 

 

So.

Does the name Nikola Tesla mean anything to you? He experimented with electricity and (some would say in hushed whispers) with much, much more. Credit went to his former friend turned ruthless and vengeful enemy, Thomas Edison, while Tesla’s monumental achievements in alternating current were followed by an obsession and deception which proved his downfall, sending him down a different road altogether.*

 

 

This is a brutally noir piece of extrapolated science set over several fictional worlds in which our art-thief hero stole the technology he’s been using to hop between dimensions because it could have been used as an electromagnetic weapon. It involves parallel universes, conspiracy theory, Native American symbolism / spirituality and knowing your Bob Dylan. Well, it does for “RASL” Robert, which is why he knows he made the wrong turning at the trans-dimensional traffic lights.

 

 

Unfortunately someone or something is hot on his tail, has murdered his girlfriend and is on verge of murdering her counterpart if Robert can’t take the fight back to them…

The science, he stole came from a research facility he once helped run. Now the dimensions appear to be cracking. There are echoes, traces, visual footprints if you like, and seemingly random bursts of electricity strong enough to kill hundreds of birds in the sky. Then there’s the strange little girl, mute with a lolling head, who seems to know more than she should. On top of all this Robert has been complicating things beautifully by seeing two different women with multiple counterparts and… oh, you really do have to read this for yourself!

 

 

It’s eerie, unnerving, but utterly compelling, particularly the science itself. It is also, as you’d imagine, very, very beautiful with some extraordinary effects as the rooms start to ripple and morph.

* For more on Tesla, please see CORPSE TALK: GROUND-BREAKING SCIENTISTS and GRAPHIC SCIENCE.

Please note: this review was originally written for the complete RASL h/c and our accompanying images may come from any of the three softcovers.

SLH

Buy RASL Colour Edition vol 1 (of 3) Drift s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Scalped Book 3 (£22-99, Vertigo) by Jason Aaron & R.M. Guera, Davide Furno, Francesco Francavilla.

Because I rate this so highly, I’ve written extensive brand-new reviews for this series of five double-editions, but this time I’m merely going to rework what I’ve already for the original volume 5 and 6.

But first, here’s how I introduced SCALPED BOOK 1 and SCALPED BOOK 2 to set the scene.
“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.

That’s all that we – the colonising, genocidal White Eyes – have given back to them, in lieu of their true heritage and of the bounty which was already their own. For more of that history, please see the great graphic novel INDEH by Ewan Hawke and Greg Ruth: it will tear your heart out.

 

 

Scalped vol 5: High Lonesome

The series of secrets is blown wide open here.

Some of them come clean whilst others are seen and you will find out who killed Gina Bad Horse.

You’ll find out Agent Nitz’s true agenda and in another flashback witness Diesel’s harsh transformation from a gullible boy just eager to fit in to a ruthless fear-monger. But it’s all about the structure of storytelling here and once more Aaron does not disappoint, setting it up from the perspective of a travelling trickster arriving at the casino to count cards, whose every utterance is a compulsive lie countered neatly by an inner thought. Then Jason Aaron, I imagine, laughs loudly to himself as he makes you wait until the last two chapters to pick that thread back up and bring it all together in a collision of past and present, and a great big fucking shoot-out.

 

 

Scalped vol 6: The Gnawing

And it’s at this pivotal point, when everything looks like it will fall apart for everyone – when Dashiell Bad Horse will be exposed for the undercover FBI agent he is, when his other employer Chief Red Crow will finally be fingered for murder and his casino invaded by the Asian-American crimelords he’s just insulted, when the other undercover agent Diesel will be released from jail by the FBI despite having murdered a young boy Dashiell had taken under his wing – that Catcher re-enters the fray. He’s barely done more than circle so far, preferring the oblivion of booze and visions of the Thunder Beings (which may or may not be the result of said booze), but now he has some words to say to Dashiell and a sniper rifle with one bullet in it which he’s going to make count.

Everything explodes.

 

 

If you read and review enough graphic novels you can see a lot of them being written and a lot of them being drawn, and you shouldn’t. You shouldn’t be able to peer behind that curtain. Here you can’t. It’s just that good.

SLH

Buy Scalped Book 3 and read the Page 45 review here

Fantastic Four By Hickman Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£31-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Sean Chen, Dale Eaglesham, Neil Edwards, Adi Granov.

Bumper book of brilliance and one of the best runs ever on this sporadically functional family. I’ve hardly had to change a word since my original reviews in 2010, just find you the appropriate pretty pictures.

Even the opening quote sent shivers back up my spine after all this time.

But you’ll also find plenty of fun!

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman vol 1

“So… you’ve been spending a lot of time with yourself.”
“Yes, yes I have.”

Right from the cover with its heads circled around the logo, the whole thing smacks of the George Perez era made glossy with Eaglesham’s finishes feeling half John Cassady, half David Finch – clean and sturdy with hairy forearms and some great stubble on Reed Richards. Thought’s even gone into the flashbacks which find a school-aged Reed receiving sound advice from a father who could never quite follow it himself. There the pages are framed by corners of copper wiring and old transistors. And I loved the Perez era, but this is so much sharper and on a much grander scale.

 

 

 

For a start there are some neat parental interactions, background smiles, and a broad theme of having to try without the fear of failing. There’s also the potential for more marital strife as Reed becomes obsessed not with his successes but with the potential he has squandered to do more. For in the face of a future far from bright and in his search to solve everything, he has discovered The Council – The Council of Infinite Reed Richardses.

 

 

They show him The Farm: hundreds of previously uninhabitable planets terraformed to feed galaxies. They show him The Hole wherein a legion of Dr. Dooms are locked away, collared by a mechanism that destroys their higher functions. Then they show him the infinite possibilities of solar surgery from the Upper Dimension. The problem is, he may have to choose between all that accomplishment… and his family.

 

 

There’s a poignant but also joyful juxtaposition between Reed’s dramatic Extra-Dimensional exploits and the morning breakfast table where dreamboat Johnny Storm is a bed-haired slob in a vest, and almost certainly talking with a mouth full of cereal when he’s peeved to hear that Franklin wants Spider-Man to come to his birthday party:

“What do you want that guy for? If you want a super-cool superhero at your party — someone that says, “Franklin Richards: Livin’ The Dream!” — then you’re gonna want the Human Torch, kid. I’m sure I can squeeze it in.”
“Mom, I’d really rather have Spider-Man.”
“Listen, I’m going to tell you this because no one else will, Franklin. Spider-Man sucks.”
“You suck, Suckface!”
“Franklin! Apologise.”
“Okay, Mom. Fine. Sorry, Uncle Suckface.”

 

 

Johnny’s not just vapid here, he’s hilariously childish, only a few mental grades up from Franklin. There are neat visual nods in The Council to previous incarnations of the FANTASTIC FOUR, some interesting variations on former foes, and a return to a Nu-World gone wrong. But Hickman’s opening salvo culminates ominously after Franklin’s birthday when, late at night, the family’s home is invaded by an intruder who has grave news for daughter Val. Unfortunately Franklin stumbles on him first and his mother watches helplessly as her young son is ‘neutralised’ in front of her. What Sue says next is born of pure maternal instinct:

“It doesn’t matter if it takes me the rest of my life, I’m going to find you… I’m going to find you and make you wish you had never been born.”

Or is it?

 

 

Fantastic Four By Jonathan Hickman vol 2

A second tremendous book by Hickman, this time with 100% Eaglesham wonder as the Fantastic Four do what they always do best: explore.

It’s more science than supervillains and that’s how it should be, give or take a Latverian despot. In four seemingly self-contained chapters Hickman and Eaglesham take us around, under and high above the Earth as Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben encounter other races. Some species are new, some quite familiar, for Hickman is building a wider picture peace by peace (sic). But one thing’s quite clear: we are surrounded.

Some clever new ideas like the home-pad analysis after each episode (then, tellingly, during one) and I’m still laughing at Johnny Storm striding onto the Antarctic Ice wearing little more than cowboy boots and a pair of black, red- and gold-flamed boxers.  Why would The Human Torch need insulation?

 

 

NB This volume also includes DARK REIGN: FANTASTIC FOUR #1-5 which I’ve never read and a slither from DARK REIGN: THE CABAL.

SLH

Buy Fantastic Four By Hickman Complete Collection vol 1 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’.

 The Legend of Kevin: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure h/c with FREE, EXCLUSIVE Page 45 signed bookplate (£8-99, Oxford University Press) by Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre.

 

 

Yes, it’s arrived a week early!!!

Here are those exclusive Page 45 bookplates all signed!

 

 

They’re limited to 100 copies and – at the time of typing (5-19pm Tuesday August 28) – over 60 copies have already gone. Review to follow once I’ve read it on holiday. In the meantime please see all the extant reviews in Page 45’s Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre section!

 

 

We’ve far, far more by Sarah McIntrye solo like THE NEW NEIGHBOURS with its own, signed, limited edition bookplate!

 

 

Strangers In Paradise Gallery Edition h/c (£110-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore

Stray Bullets – Sunshine & Roses vol 2: Change of Plans (£17-99, Image) by David Lapham

Life On Earth Book 1: Losing The Girl (£10-99, Graphic Universe) by MariNaomi

Sugar: Life As A Cat (£14-99, Soaring Penguin Press) by Serge Baeken

Love And Rockets (Palomar & Luba vol 7): Three Sisters (£16-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez

Fruit of Knowledge (£14-99, Virago) by Liv Stromquist

Coyote Doggirl (£17-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Lisa Hanawalt

Fang vol 1 (£6-99, Fantagraphics) by Marc Palm

Batman A Lot Of Lil Gotham s/c (£22-99, DC) by Derek Fridolfs & Dustin Nguyen

Jim Henson’s The Power Of The Dark Crystal vol 3 h/c (£22-99, Archaia) by Simon Spurrier, Phillip Kennedy Johnson & Kelly Matthews, Nichole Matthews

Final Fantasy Lost Stranger vol 1 (£9-99, Yen Press) by Hazuki Minase & Itsuki Kameya

The Legend Of Korra: Turf Wars Part Three (£9-50, Dark Horse) by Michael Dante DiMartino & Irene Koh

Tales From The Hidden Valey vol 1: The Artists (£12-99, Flying Eye Books) by Carles Porta

You Are There (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Jean-Claude Forest & Jacques Tardi

Captain America By Mark Waid: Promised Land s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Leonardo Romero, various,

Amazing Spiderman Epic Collection Venom s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Ann Nocenti, David Micheline, various & Cynthia Martin, Alex Saviuk, Todd McFarlane, various

The Superior Spider-Man: The Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Ryan Stegman, Humberto Ramos, Javier Rodriguez, various

I Hate Fairyland vol 4: Sadly Never After (£14-99, Image) by Skottie Young

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