Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews August 2018 week four

Kill Or Be Killed vol 4 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser.

“Is everything all right, Dylan?”
“No… not really. But it will be.”

Will it?

It’s the KILL OR BE KILLED finale from the creators of THE FADE OUT, FATALE etc, and if the penultimate chapter’s cliffhanger is a narrative bombshell you couldn’t possibly see coming, then the final-page punchline is a visual whose eyes will bore into your own so hard and so deep – meeting your gaze directly, unflinchingly – that I defy you to look away. For a full five minutes I studied those dense, shining shadows, sweeping black lines and broad colour brushstrokes, so bold that anything behind became even more ethereal. Then, almost as soon as I looked away to flick back through the preceding four pages which made so much sense, I had to return almost immediately.

I think that’s the general idea with obsession.

And this all about obsession.

Up until now KILL OR BE KILLED has been the psychological self-examination of an educated young man with a gnawing sense of social justice but a fine line in convivial conversation as he descends into a surprisingly efficient mass murder spree.

 

 

That initial spree at least is all but over, though there’s always room for one more, don’t you think?

“Stairs are actually not that effective for killing people, in case you were wondering.
“Too many variables. You can never know for sure how someone’s going to land…
“Or if they’re going to break their neck.”

You may have to step in and finish the business on foot.

“I get away with this, by the way.”

The narrative is as charming as disarming as ever: even the chapter breaks (originally the ends to each monthly issue) add to the illusion of this being an off-the-cuff account.

“Shit, I completely forgot.
“Sorry.
“We’ll have to talk about that next time.”

In KILL OR BE KILLED VOLUME 3.I wrote about the disconnect between Dylan’s wretched preoccupations and the beauty which surrounds him which he, cruelly, has no mental access to, and it is only accentuated further on the first two pages here.

 

 

It’s something that comics can do ever so well under the right creators: when the words and the pictures ‘disagree’. Jon Klassen has made a career out of this for comedic, Young Readers purposes. This is tragic instead.

Look at the exquisite silver livery on these idyllic snow-swept scenes and the rapture being relished by those able to fully inhabit those landscapes by being in the moment and sharing between them its gift!

 

 

Now read the words of a perceived grinding life and the fall of the world into geopolitical disorder. “Sad” doesn’t begin to cover it. In volume three of KILL OR BE KILLED Dylan consciously castigated himself thus:

“I’d been so stupid… We’re all so stupid all the time.”
“We stop noticing our miracles.”

Yet within that same volume he almost immediately failed to retain that self-knowledge. It wasn’t wilful, it wasn’t negligent. It was because he was trapped, in his own head and his immediate circumstances of needing to act or the love of his life would be dead. Now he is shackled once again, even further removed from this extraordinary, ordinary joy, and the windows through which he is looking are barred.

The cover may give you a clue, but only on reading this will you understand how he got himself sectioned. It has nothing to do with volume three whatsoever. This is an entirely new development, and, to begin with, Dylan is quite content to be locked up, for it means that the outside world should be safe from him.

It isn’t. Nor is he, from what he has left behind him outside.

 

 

Expect Breitweiser blizzards so dense that they will all but obliterate your vision, which will give Dylan ample opportunity to talk about climate change, industry, government, and the war between wealth and accountability. It will also give the unexpected ample opportunity to sneak unseen upon the unwary.

Sorry…? Oh, you’re halfway through this book and just remembered that sentence. You think I’m referring to that snow storm! Haha!

I’m not.

I’ve run out of time, but it’s also worth studying all the different hair treatments throughout the series. Yes, hair!

 

 

Dylan’s mother’s is completely different from the others’ not only in style but in its method of rendition, far closer to Kira’s. Phillips goes to great lengths to draw identifiable, individual strands of hair for both women and men, whereas Dylan’s mum’s is lifted by mousse to look like a meringue or Mr Whippy.

For far longer, more in-depth reviews, please see previous editions of KILL OR BE KILLED.

SLH

Buy Kill Or Be Killed vol 4 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Idle Days (£14-99, FirstSecond) by Thomas Desaulniers-Brousseau & Simon Leclerc.

“It would only be a matter of minutes.
“You’re alone here.
“By the time the flames are seen, there would be nothing to be done.
“And then… oblivion.”

Two hundred and sixty pages lit by fire and heavy with death, few from natural causes.

It’s happening all over Europe on the landing shores and battlefields of World War II, news seeping over the airwaves and out of radio speakers crackling with static and hundreds of thousands of fatalities. Canada promised there would be no conscription, but reneged. So Jerome deserted and now hides in his grandfather’s remote and rickety old house, sequestered in a forest in Quebec. His grandfather is grumpy and the house needs renovating, for it’s been through several degrees of trauma.

It has an unsettling, opaque history which Jerome becomes increasingly obsessed with uncovering. And, in the night, alone in the barn or out in the woods, Jerome’s mind becomes plagued with startling visions of even more death.

 

 

The art is haunting. The cows at night are silent, wide-eyed and eerie.

The thick textures on the cover refuse to let your eyes settle, while inside the lines and black shadows have evidently been superimposed upon boards separately ‘painted’ in oil pastels and gouache which gives them an unconstrained freedom to roam and bleed out behind, to dance around hair and faces like flame. The forest too shimmers with autumnal light or burning sunset colours in rays across purple evening snow.

 

 

The grandfather’s drawn with a line and looseness reminiscent of those similarly acting their socks off in Dave McKean’s CAGES. He is turn kind, stern and highly evasive, especially when talk turns to digging the garden. They talk while they renovate and they talk round the bonfires at night.

“You know, your father… that hunting accident…
“When something like that happens… it moves to the centre of your mind… and, whether you realise it or not… it can grown to leave little room for anything else.”

At which point, like the mind, the entire panel is consumed by fire.

 

 

Except for brief visits from his mother or Mathilde whom Jerome’s gently courting, their only constant companion is the grandfather’s dog Jack who finds more to bark at than can be seen. That sense of threat pierces what is otherwise a densely claustrophobic sensation throughout, thick with oranges during both night and day. The radio broadcasts add to that claustrophobia and threat, for there are posters splattered about town encouraging folks to dob-in deserters.

 

 

With so much time for solitary thought, there is, throughout, a brooding intensity.

And a house with a history of fire.

SLH

Buy Idle Days and read the Page 45 review here

Spill Zone vol 2 h/c (£17-99, FirstSecond) by Scott Westerfeld & Alex Puvilland with Hilary Sycamore.

 

 

Hats off to Hilary Sycamore, because the colours are phenomenal.

Even before you break into the Spill Zone, the photographs in the gallery glow against its grey walls.

 

 

It’s those colours on Puvilland’s extraordinary geometrical extravagance that give the Spill Zone its sense of the alien and otherness, so when they’re brought outside, the results are thrilling.

But even on the very first page the skyscraper’s been drawn so that its windows play tricks on your eyes, almost moving alive.

And we’ve only just begun…

 

 

“Why do I feel so strange? What’s happening to me?”
“Short version? You bit off more than you can chew.”

How true.

In SPILL ZONE VOL 1 h/c (much longer review with heaps of outstanding interior art) we learned that Addison once worked in secret, photographing the spectacular living art within the deadly, quarantined Spill Zone which erupted one night, three years ago, to swallow the small city of Poughkeepsie.

 

 

It killed every living soul within reach of its transdimensional touch, transforming them into dangling corpses called meat puppets, including Addison’s parents who worked in its hospital which now seems the epicentre of its spectral activities. Addison only survived because she had abandoned her younger sister Lexa, whom she was supposed to be babysitting, to go on a binge-drink outside the city, so she feels pretty bad about that. Lexa only survived because Vespertina, her doll who’s possessed, led her unharmed from the carnage. But Lexa feels pretty bad too, because she harbours a terrible secret, which is why she went schtum for three years.

But now Addison’s ventured too far into the Spill Zone, risking everything for an art collector (and one million dollars paid for by the North Korean government) to extricate an item from the hospital’s radiology department. What if she bumped into her meat-puppet parents, for example?

 

 

She hasn’t, yet. But she did come away touched by what she found within the hospital’s re-jumbled rooms, and now every faction in action is going to converge on Addison: the US army, Don Jae – the sole survivor of North Korea’s own Spill Zone – the American Secret Service, the North Korean Secret Service and the strange new inhabitants of the Spill Zone itself.

For although North Korea’s Spill Zone went inert almost immediately – and you will learn why – Poughkeepsie’s still simmering, beginning to bubble and boil.

It’s about to spill over and out.

 

 

SPILL ZONE VOL 1 h/c was a visual feast of multicoloured questions and so many secrets which were only beginning to be answered, whereas this second half swiftly delivers its key revelations, punches its way through some astonishingly harsh, bonfire reactions (Addison!!!!), then mercilessly administers the repercussions before unleashing its lupine fury on a woodland in which tree trunks are shattered into translucent, crystalline shards.

I loved how Addison rips off her original, corrupt art dealer in precisely the same way in which he used to screw with her (and I love that it’s not sign-posted; thanks for trusting your readership), and there’s a substantial epilogue set another three years later which reunites some of the survivors so satisfyingly, and in quite unexpected ways.

More extensive epilogues, please, certainly for longer works.

 

 

SPILL ZONE VOL 1 is also now out as a s/c but in all honesty that cover is bland, betraying the beauty within for the sake of looking like an Image trade paperback, and if you can’t wait another six months to read volume 2 then I recommend you buying both matching hardcovers for they make a sweet, stylish and metallically enhanced set which reflects the majesty of what you’ll find inside.

SLH

Buy Spill Zone vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Vs vol 1: Front Towards Enemy s/c (£14-99, Image) by Ivan Brandon & Esad Ribic…

“Is that them?”
“It’s not. WAIT…”
“It IS! Do you see him?”
“Praise the Oversight!”
“FLYNN!”
“FLYNN!”

Ahhh… do you love Rollerball with James Caan? If you do, then this is for you without any doubt whatsoever. Here’s the Corporations’ infomercial to educate you further… Just imagine a little Toccata and Fugue in D minor playing away merrily on a pipe organ in the background whilst you allow yourself to be indoctrinated…

“War has become a spectator sport. Privately funded armies of superstar soldiers march into battle for fame, profit, and the glory of their sponsor nations. When a new generation of soldiers arrive, top gladiator Satta Flynn is about to discover how fleeting the limelight can be. From writer Ivan Brandon (BLACK CLOUD, DRIFTER) and superstar artist Esad Ribic (SECRET WARS, UNCANNY X-FORCE) in his creator-owned Image debut, with painted colour by Nic Klein and designs by Tom Muller, VS delivers spectacular action, darkly humorous satire and explores our hunger for fame and our penchant for self-destruction.”

 

 

And also how our future will be shaped by those in charge of our entertainment…

This is indeed a gloriously brutal glimpse of a world where our apparent innate need for combative sport, and therefore of course visceral violence, is being sated by sponsored lunatics attempting to blast each other to smithereens and saturated with corporate logos and blipverts for all manner of inane must-have products. War ain’t cheap, you know. It’s like Robot Wars made real, except played out on an actual battlefield with human combatants. Though without Craig Charles prattling hyperbolically away on commentary duties. So not all negative, then…

 

 

Behind the scenes there’s a lot more going on, of course, as the powers that be plot the storylines and trajectories of the militias and characters to maximise their ratings and keep the masses so emotionally engaged that it leaves no time for individual thought never mind serious social or political discourse, let alone dissent.

Ivan VIKING Brandon crafts a bleakly dystopian yet vibrantly alive world here which is portrayed beautifully by Esad THOR Ribic and coloured equally perfectly by Nic Klein. I first seriously clocked onto Ribic’s work during on Rick Remender’s brilliant UNCANNY X-FORCE run which felt, and looked, much more like sci-fi than superheroes.

 

 

So… the greatest and most celebrated gladiator of them is all is Satta Flynn, but no one can stay on top forever… particularly when it’s been decided that your demise might make a compelling story arc.  But don’t count Flynn out just yet, particularly when he has the love of his adoring public on his side to sway the producers and controllers. We all love a good comeback story!

 

 

Let me complete the excerpt I started above…

“The people asked you to stand for them. You have to go out there and STAND.”
“Make some noise for HISTORY!
“New sponsors! Top secret gear head to toe! Satta Flynn has had a wartime makeover!
“What’s OLD is NEW again!”

Yeah, but Satta Flynn is finally starting to wise up to the bigger game at play. So it’s a real shame his comeback is intended to be a very short one…

JR

Buy Vs vol 1: Front Towards Enemy s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ghost Money: Death In Durbai h/c (£19-99, Lion Forge) by Thierry Smolden & Dominique Bertail…

“These kids reference Rummy and Dick like they taught them how to cheat at poker. So tell me, Google. Do you regret our time in Iraq?”
“What? No way! Shit, Kendricks, I still remember the four of us talking about what we’d do with Al-Qaeda’s fortune if we ever found it… You? How are things since you bought the team?”
“Honestly? Caesar’s Hand has never been better!”
“Yeah? Tell me!”

I tell you what, I’ll let the publisher give you a need-to-know briefing instead. And trust me, you do need to know about this work, because it’s a hugely captivating, very believable espionage escapade set in 2020 replete with hi-tech upgrades and killer Euro-style ligne claire art, all contributing to making it an absolute belter.  It’s full of odious characters, all with their own agendas, plus the odd innocent thrown into the New World Order blender for good measure.

 

 

Here we go, just remember your wallet will self-destruct in five seconds if you don’t head straight to the Page 45 website after reading this…

“Intriguing characters and plotlines intertwine in a near-future political thriller drawing on contemporary world events and actual growing technology contributing to a cyberwar in both reality and virtual reality. When Lindsey, a young student in London, is rescued from a riot by Chamza, a young woman from the Arab world, they begin a relationship based on both fascination and convenience.

 

 

 

“Before she knows it, Lindsey is drawn into a world of vast wealth and intrigue; her new friend seems to have ties to political movements and revolutionaries throughout the Islamic world, but it is not clear what their agenda might be, or where her great wealth comes from. Could it be the fabled legendary lost treasure of Al-Qaeda, supposedly amassed through insider trading prior to 9/11?

 

 

 

“Unbeknownst to either Lindsey or Chamza, a set of US contractors called Caesar’s Hand, all veterans of war in Iraq and the CIA’s rendition program, are focusing their sites on Chamza, believing her wealth is indeed the key to a larger threat to the entire world economy. The series looks at surveillance, clandestine military action, and class warfare in the twilight of the current War on Terror, all within the context of a thriller that ultimately seeks to find out what controls the global economy.”

 

 

If they can manage to find Al-Qaeda’s lost treasure, I’m calling in Caesar’s Hand to sort out Brexit before the British economy self-destructs completely… In meanwhile why not enjoy ten absorbing issues of high-octane excitement bound in a very presentable chunky hardback for the exceedingly reasonable price of £19-99? Go on, I’m watching you…

JR

Buy Ghost Money: Death In Durbai h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Crowded #1 (£3-25, Image) by Christopher Sebela & Ro Stein.

Originally this was going to have been called CROWDFUNDEAD, which amused me greatly.

I’ll tell you why in a while. This is ever so clever and fresh.

As the cover to SOMETHING CITY made comically clear, we really should share our lawnmowers. Given how modest most of our lawns are, there are a ridiculous number of lawnmowers per suburban square mile.

But we are learning to share more: carpools for school have long been common; now some rent out their homes while on holiday themselves. Then there’s the multiple job front whereby students take part-time work while studying and others take on a second and even third job to supplement their primary wages. Plus, there is now an app for everything.

Sebela has combined all three phenomena and pushed them along the trajectory they look like heading, towards their logical conclusions.

 

 

So imagine an imminent future with even more flexibility in which we rent out, while we’re not using them, our houses, our cars (they don’t half sit idle for most of the day, even week!) and even our best clothes which we wear only to weddings. It does make sense, yes? We probably still won’t share that packet of Maltesers: some things are sacred, after all. Then we take out bit-jobs – a bash at babysitting, a dash of dog walking, a few hours ferrying folks about as a taxi service – all bid for and booked via cell-phone apps called Dogstroll, CitySitter, Kloset for clothes and ‘Palrent’ for when you want some idle company.

Charlotte Ellison embarks on all manner of such innocent yet lucrative activities on a daily basis. So why has someone trying to kill her?

 

 

Ah, well, they’re not exactly. Instead they’ve Kickstarted a campaign on Reapr, raising a not inconsiderable $1,257,642, with 2,249 backers committed to kill Charlotte Ellison. Someone’s popular – or unpopular.

And remember, in a world where any of us might try our hands at anything for a couple of hours if the money’s right, who knows what sort of amateur assassins might take the gig at the right bid? You’ll not see them coming.

Fortunately you can hire bodyguards with equal ease and that’s where Vita Slatter comes in. She may have the lowest rating on Dfend, but she too is wondering why someone might want Charlotte dead.

“Did you cut a guy off in traffic? Act rude to cashier? [Please don’t do that.] Borrow something years ago and forget to return it?”

Structured so that the past day’s recollection is split between action, this clapped along at a cracking pace, with an assured sense of off-hand humour and expressive outrage reminiscent of GIANT DAYS. I loved Ro Stein’s cross-section of Vita’s hopefully safe house, using its rooms, stairs and landing as panels, with an ever so clever about-turn to keep the left-to-right reading flow.

 

 

Lastly, there’s a subtle little clue as the TV screen goes blank and plenty of pictures which betray the lies on people’s lips. That’s good comics, that is.

SLH

Buy Crowded #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Pearl #1 (£3-25, Jinxworld) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos…

“I came to work. I thought… I thought that is what you’d want me to do.”
“Mr. Mike didn’t know about this talent of yours. I sure as shit didn’t.”
“Oh no. No. It just happened.”
““It just happened.” You may have started a war of the Yakuza bigger than the Yama-Ichi feud.”

Well, that’s what happens when you shoot dead several gun-toting assassins, including one riding a motorcycle firing an Uzi, with the apparent ease of… errr… a highly skilled assassin…

Except Pearl is in fact a tattoo artist, albeit a very, very good one. So good, that local gang boss Mr. Mike wouldn’t dream of going to anyone else. Now, though, Mr. Mike sees a new career path opening up for his shining Pearl. Indeed, he’s about to make her the traditional offer she can’t refuse. Start to put her hidden talents involving a very steady hand to good use, or… well… Mr. Mike is pretty convinced she’s not going to refuse. Me either, frankly.

 

 

Excellent opener, of apparently six, from a certain well known continuity-hopping writer of superheroes. Who had a pretty reasonable prior track record writing crime too! Plus of course, combining the two a la JESSICA JONES and DAREDEVIL. Along with artistic cohort Michael Gaydos, his fellow co-creator of JESSICA JONES, Bendis is back breaking the law. Well, his characters at least. I’m sure Brian himself is as honest as the day is long; it’s just his imagination that’s more than a bit dodgy, which is fantastic for us.

 

 

Beyond informing you that there’s the usual snappy dialogue we’ve come to expect from Bendis – he does love a good colloquy our Brian – and typically intriguing cast members, plus sublime fine-lined, deeply, dramatically washed effect coloured art from Gaydos – including a superb Yakuza full body tattoo on Mr. Mike – there’s not a great deal more I can tell you.

Well, aside from the fact that Pearl seems to derive her nomenclature from her alabaster white skin. There’s that.

 

 

Oh, and she also has a solitary tattoo herself, of an insanely detailed spider that looks like it’s about a million megapixel definition, by the Michelangelo of body ink himself, the mysterious Iriguci. Why do I have a sneaking suspicion we may return to that particular arachnid…?

JR

Buy Pearl #1 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’.

XTC69 (£8-99, Koyama Press) by Jessica Campbell

A Western World (£16-99, Koyama Press) by Michael DeForge

Alone (£14-99, Faber & Faber) by Chaboute

Corpse Talk Queens & Kings And Other Royal Rotters (£9-99, David Fickling Books) by Adam Murphy, Lisa Murphy

Estranged s/c (£11-99, Harper) by Ethan M. Aldridge

Giant Days (Prose Novel) h/c (£13-99, Amulet) by Non Pratt

Giant Days vol 8 (£13-99, Boom) by John Allison & Max Sarin, Lissa Treiman

Nowhere vol 1 (£16-99, Caliber) by JSB

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

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

Somnambulance (£21-99, Koyama Press) by Fiona Smyth

Stairway vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Image) by Matt Hawkins & Raffaele Ienco

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

Vern And Lettuce (£8-99, Bog Eyed Books) by Sarah McIntyre

Bram Stoker’s Dracula h/c (£26-99, IDW) by Bram Stoker, Roy Thomas & Mike Mignola, John Nyberg

Deadly Class vol 7: Love Like Blood s/c (£14-99, Image) by Rick Remender & Wes Craig

The Omega Men: The End Is Here s/c (£22-99, DC) by Tom King & Barnaby Bagenda

Superman Action Comics vol 5: Booster Shot s/c (Rebirth) (£16-99, DC) by Dan Jurgens & Brett Booth, Will Conrad, Norm Rapmund

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

Venom: Dark Origin s/c (£13-99, Marvel) by Zeb Wells & Angel Medina

Black Torch vol 1 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsuyoshi Takaki

Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction vol 2 (£9-99, Viz) by Inio Asano

My Hero Academia vol 14 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

One Piece vol 87 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Platinum End vol 6 (£6-99, Viz) by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Tokyo Ghoul re: vol 6 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida

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