Page 45 Comic & Graphic Novel Reviews December 2019 week three

Featuring Brian Blomerth, Richard Marazano, Christophe Ferreira, Gilbert Hernandez, Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, Jiro Taniguchi, Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith, Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John, Grant Morrison, Liam Sharp.

Bicycle Day (£20-00, Anthology Editions) by Brian Blomerth…

“Fire up the Bunsen burner, Susi!
“We’re gonna try something unorthodox… revisit an old friend…
““Usually we strike experimental substances from the research program if they lack pharmacological interest…” Those are your words, not mine!”
“You’re right… however… this compound LSD-25 has bugged me…”

Good old Albert Hoffman, for if it weren’t for him and his curious cerebral itch of some five years, we might not have had the opportunity to turn on, tune in and drop out in quite so colourful fashion with the delights of Lysergic acid diethylamide…

Though as Dennis McKenna posits in his excellent four page foreword, “… does one create, or discover a compound like LSD? I think it is more the case that one incarnates such a molecule.”

Maybe… I do know it was certainly an interesting set of circumstances which first allowed Albert to experience the ‘delights’ of an LSD trip, initially astride his trusty velocipedal steed, hence the book’s title.

 

 

Thus for those in the know, April 19th has long been celebrated as ‘Bicycle Day’. In fact, Albert was actually accidentally exposed to a much, much smaller amount of LSD-25 three days earlier, the mild effects of which sufficiently piqued his curiosity to go against all established common sense for those working in the pharmaceutical industry and consciously ingest what, shall we say, would be an extremely sizeable dose three days later. Thus taking the first ever deliberate acid trip…

 

 

Oh boy, was he in for a wild ride! Which is portrayed in all its glorious insanity here for us to safely and a little, but only a little mind you, more sedately enjoy…

 

 

If you’ve ever imagined what early 20th century animation master Max Fleischer would have been able to do with infinite colour in his majestic pomp, under the influence of LSD or otherwise, well then this might just be the book for you!

 

 

A truly psychedelic riot of colour combined with rubber-limbed antics, and believe you me, it’s very tricky to ride a bike with rubbery legs. If you have any interest whatsoever in this most marvellous of molecules, I think this will truly hit the proverbial spot. Right in the hypothalamus…

JR

Buy Bicycle Day and read the Page 45 review here

Milo’s World Book 2: The Black Queen h/c (£17-99, Magnetic Press) by Richard Marazano & Christophe Ferreira…

“This search party could be dangerous, Milo. You should probably learn to control your gift. Do you think you can do that?”
“My… my gift?”
“Yes, your gift! You have powers!”
“But… I thought my gift was just being able to travel between worlds…?”
“Well, of course you can do that, but you have another gift… a special power! We all have more than one. It’s hereditary.”
“Hereditary?”
“Yes, meaning inherited from both parents.”
“Well, maybe I only have one gift since my father is just a normal human being…”
“Sigh. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re bound to have another gift, and you must find it as soon as possible…”

Those of you who read MILO’S WORLD BOOK ONE: THE LAND UNDER THE LAKE might be just as surprised as our eponymous hero to see the villainous sorcerer return seemingly from the dead.  Though this time around the psychopathic spellcaster has had the proverbial change of heart and healing of mind and is now desperately seeking Milo’s help rather than attempting to disintegrate him on sight…

 

 

For since Milo’s last sojourn through the magical tunnel to the enchanted village on the underside of the lake… via the now terminally ailing giant goldfish… his bristly adventuring chum Valia, the sorceror’s sassy daughter, has succumbed to the dark side herself and become the titular Black Queen, intent on destroying the hamlet’s newly found peace and tranquillity and generally slaughtering all and sundry with her giant spider army. What is it with her family?!

Given the sorcerer is expecting Milo to step up and save the day with a power he doesn’t even believe he possesses, it might be useful and more than a little considerate of him to explain that [REDACTED]. But, seeing as semi-anarchic action-based blundering is Milo’s chief mode form of engaging with a tricky situation, rather than careful, thoughtful strategic problem solving…

“Oh boy… what kind of trap have I gotten myself into…?”

… it’s perhaps not that surprising he hasn’t put two and two together…

I’m sure you may well have by now dear reader, even from that parsimonious presentation. Still, perhaps the paternal penny might finally drop with Milo by the finale of volume three…

Anyway, expect more Hayao Miyazaki-esque hi-jinks as our accident prone protagonist attempts to rescue the children of the village in his trademark ham-fisted haphazard fashion and convince Valia that a career as a mass murderer isn’t going to win her any popularity contests.

 

 

Don’t expect Milo to work out who his dad is though…

As before Milo’s three witchy aunts pop up regularly with delightfully reassuring absurdly blithe asides to no one but themselves and the reader to steal every single scene they’re in.

 

 

They contribute wonderfully to the gentle humour of it all which so enjoyably helps convey this frenetic crackpot tale along to its conclusion.

“Ooo, a fancy ceremony! It’s been so long!”
“And maybe a ball!”
“Maybe with some strapping firemen!”

JR

Buy Milo’s World Book 2: The Black Queen h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Maria M h/c Complete Ed (£26-99, Fantagraphics) by Gilbert Hernandez.

Crime and punishment executed with rapid-fire, bullet-point precision.

You’ve not read anything like it! Here are three one-panel snapshot scenes featuring three different men wooing Maria:

“I love you, Maria.”
“I – I love you, Maria.”
“I love you, Maria.” *phone rings* “That’ll be my wife.”

Before we go any further, you may have read something like it – the first half, published some ten years ago. Alas, the second half was never published separately, an increasingly common phenomenon, I’m afraid to say, which penalizes those who invest early on and so undermines confidence in the market. The culprits are some of my favourite publishers, too: Top Shelf was the first with the final instalment of Dylan Horrocks’s HICKSVILLE, then Drawn & Quarterly with Seth’s CLYDE FANS, and now Fantagraphics. I understand the financial arguments, honestly, I do. It is, however, completely dishonourable.

Anyway, of the first half I wrote:

Maria arrives in the U.S. and gradually learns the language as she begins to understand the country, taking and getting fired from a succession of very dreadful jobs while demonstrating even worse taste in men. She’s neither afraid nor ashamed to use her two greatest assets, which are enormous. Eventually she settles down as the doll of drug-peddling mob boss Cienfuegos whose ostensive family business is in ladies’ lingerie, and he treats her well, while one of his two sons, Gorgo, secretly falls in love and silently protects her.

 

 

But Cienfuegos has plenty of enemies out to get him for good – largely, because he won’t condemn communism! – and Gorgo himself comes under continual attack. Fortunately he is as formidable as he is efficient as he is ruthless; unfortunately he’s not the only target.

 

 

With one notable exception involving a full bowl of steaming noodles, Maria is a predominantly passive participant in events which take place around her, and – given the style of storytelling – a great deal does happen during these 136 pages. And remember, this is but the first of two volumes – do remember that, because I didn’t! [Oh, the irony of it all – ed.]

The cartooning is, as ever, an immaculately clean and balanced black and white joy, the expressions are exquisite and the breasts, they are humungous. Nudity abounds.

You need know nothing of LOVE & ROCKETS but as an added bonus for those who do…. Here’s Fantagraphics.

“Long-time LOVE & ROCKETS readers will find the storyline familiar… and that’s because, in a meta twist, MARIA M is actually the B-movie film adaptation of the life story of Luba’s mother Maria, as previously seen in its ‘real’ version in the classic graphic novel Poison River (available in the BEYOND PALOMAR collection) starring Maria’s own daughter playing her own mother. Confused? Don’t be! MARIA M will work perfectly on its own terms as the kind of violent, sexy pulp tale that Gilbert Hernandez has proven so adept at these past several years, and the ‘source material’ for the story will just provide an extra layer of delight for the cognoscenti.”

SLH

Buy Maria M h/c Complete Ed and read the Page 45 review here

Black Orchid s/c (£16-99, DC) by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean.

This is a book of impressions: of memories, shadows and echoes.

So many songs evoke a past much missed, misremembered or barely recalled at all.

There is a wreck of man out there called Carl; a drunken, washed up, one-time player full of hot-air and an acrid obsession with the ex-wife who had the audacity to leave him for another, less violent man, and then testify against him. Her name was Susan Linden and he killed her for it. Or he thought he had; he’s in for a bit of a surprise.

For then there was the other Susan. An effective, solitary agent, undercover and on the brink of exposing a criminal organisation and the mastermind behind it. They caught her, they shot her, they set her on fire and then bombed the inferno for good measure. She was the Black Orchid, named after a flower that doesn’t exist and she is quite, quite dead.

 

 

So who is this new Susan of radiant purple, grown in a greenhouse, and cast adrift in a world she’s had no time to comprehend? She has no idea. She doesn’t know who she is, what she is, or what she should do now. The only clues lie in a dead man’s past, in his contemporaries at college: Dr. Jason Woodrue, Pamela Isley and Alec Holland. Her only brief ally is a man in a mask who hides in the shadows of Gotham, and he says:

“Most of the things that “everyone knows” are wrong. The rest are merely unreliable.”

Now, several of those names may sound surprisingly familiar for a Neil Gaiman book. What one forgets is the Vertigo line originally had far stronger ties to the DC universe and its superhero community; what one may also have forgotten is that this was created long before the Vertigo line even existed. It’s a far more ethereal read than most DC Universe books – it’s far more of a child of Alan Moore’s SWAMP THING – but a DC Universe book it most certainly is. It’s just… going to do things differently.

“I’ve seen, y’know, the movies, James Bond, all that. I’ve read the comics. So you know what I’m not going to do? I’m not going to lock up in the basement before interrogating you. I’m not going to set up some kind of complicated laser beam death-trap, then leave you alone to escape. That stuff is so dumb. But you know what I am going to do? I’m going to kill you. Now.”

That was within the first six pages, and it was quite the arresting development.

Returning to the legacy of Alan Moore, the early segues and black humour owe much to THE KILLING JOKE. “You’re fired” was inspired. But it quickly establishes its own tone which, as I say, is far more ethereal, far more impressionistic, as our newly bloomed Orchid struggles with the genetically implanted memories she shares with her dead sister, and reacts to the world empathically. Here, for example, is Arkham.

“This is the bedlam. The jungle of despair. I watch their expressions: milky eyes peering from frozen faces, mouths unsmiling wounds in ruined flesh. I spy a skull-faced man who lies unsleeping; his nightmares pool and puddle on the floor around him. In a glass cell a blazing x-ray sits and smoulders and weeps. His tears burn as they fall… then his out on the pocked glass floor.”

Another marked departure from the superhero genre is that the only hunting being done apart from the peripheral predators – domestic and child abuse both play a part here – is by the antagonists and the only one out for revenge is the bitter ex-husband and resentful ex-employee. Some people really don’t handle rejection well. In other authors’ hands it would be the Black Orchid out to avenge her predecessors’ murders – particularly given their shared memories – but no, that is the instinct of the animal. A plant has quite different priorities.

 

 

It’s a beautiful book, rich in green and purples, by a Dave McKean in his photorealistic phase, much inspired at the time by Bill Sienkiewicz. The computer has yet to be embraced and the only element of photographic collage I registered was the psychotic grin. Instead it employs pencils – sometimes coloured – and paint, some chalk and maybe, I think, oil pastels. There’s a terrific sense of light. It’s also thoroughly accessible to new readers, McKean splitting the page in half horizontally then working with three or four columns across. The occasional break into tumbling panels and the larger compositions in the Amazon jungle are all the more spectacular for it.

 

 

This new deluxe edition also boasts those rarest of extras: handwritten early jottings from Neil Gaiman’s notebook, Karen Berger’s first, detailed reactions to Neil’s draft proposal, Neil’s own proposal and promotional marketing text,  preliminary notes and dialogue sketches for the second of the three original issues, its page-by-page, one-line breakdowns and an excerpt from its draft script.

“Winter is coming. The leaves are beginning to fall.”

SLH

Buy Black Orchid s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Walking Man (Expanded Edition) h/c (£25-00, Fanfare / Pontent Mon) by Jiro Taniguchi.

Do you go walking?

Every time I cross the River Trent on my way to work, something magical happens. I can’t explain it, but it makes all the difference: a sensation of space and light and beauty heightened several-fold when I cross it on foot. Eye-candy. We all need eye-candy.

And that’s the simple premise behind this book: one man, sometimes with the dog his wife found under their house, takes eighteen different walks round the Japanese suburbs and occasionally out into the countryside.

It’s clean and it’s beautiful and the word that keeps springing to mind is indeed ‘magical’. The amount of work that has gone into some of these landscapes is staggering: line after delicate line tracing the structure of trees, roofs and fencing.

 

 

A quiet book of exploration which will cure any brief bout of the blues.

All previous editions’ covers are included, along with three additional short stories.  There are also now several pages in colour where they existed in the original material.

SLH

Buy The Walking Man (Expanded Edition) h/c  and read the Page 45 review here

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection h/c (£29-99, Archaia) by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John.

Collected for the first time in one oversized edition.

Many years ago, Tom wrote of volume one:

Has it really been thirty years since this beautiful fantasy first came to the cinema?

Brian Froud’s designs for this film gave the story a weight the technical skill of the Jim Henson Co. couldn’t carry alone. While in the film we see a dying world populated by mysterious characters, the world they inhabited was by far the most intriguing aspect the whole. Its ruined structures hinted at past prowess through the undergrowth, and a lot of thought went into what exactly they meant. The strange glyphs and diagrams carved into the buildings and stones weren’t just throwaway aesthetic garnish, but based upon an understanding of the astronomical knowledge of this fictional world’s tri-star system. Which if you remember from the film, orbited the planet Thra and “sung” to the Crystal deep in its bowels. This is symbolised by a series of concentric circles encasing an inverted triangle. From this emblem Henson & Co created not only a world, but a religion, a complex society. Then they destroyed it, leaving us with arcane hints in the fantastic dystopia of Thra.”

 

 

In lieu of a review for volume two, I wrote (decidedly off-topic, feel free to ignore):

One of my many nicknames over the years was Gelflin. I know it’s hard to believe these days, what with me looking like the sickly child of Uncle Fester and Nosferatu but with my ski-slope nose I was pretty once… after the artful application of much slap and kohl.

My primary pseudonym is Peter. It endures to this day in post-punk circles, possibly because it doesn’t sound like a nickname. It was so prevalent in the ’80s that even the closest of friends sometimes took ten years to realise that my real name was Beelzebub. Peter also owes itself to my ski-slope nose and consequent youthful demeanour: it was Peter as in Peter Pan.

“IT WAS NEVER YOUR NOSE: IT WAS YOUR OBLIVIOUS SELF-ABSORBTION, STEPHEN!”

Shut up.

 

 

Other nicknames have included Jimmy Dean (must be pronounced in a broad Glaswegian accent), “boss” (no one has actually ever regarded me as their boss – it was pure mockery on Tom’s part) and, when my mother is so often infuriated with me, it’s Herbert Henry Arthur George.

You have to really bellow that one.

All the above is true.

SLH

Buy Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection h/c  and read the Page 45 review here

Green Lantern vol 1: Intergalactic Lawman s/c (£15-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Liam Sharp.

Original 2000AD run through with Douglas Adams – that’s how I’d characterise so much of this.

It’s highly inventive and very, very funny. Even mid-mass-arrest, there are so many stop-for-a-moment-to-laughs.

“Ye’ll never catch us now, copper!” boasts an 8-legged fiend.
“I won’t have to. My partner, Green Lantern Floozle Flem, is a super-intelligent all-purpose virus. Replicating in your bloodstream as we speak. Floozle Flem doesn’t catch you… You catch Floozle Flem.”

The police-patrol Green Lantern Corps’ pro-diversity recruitment drive knows no blinkers. You can’t expect to patrol then control the full range of a cosmos’s criminal manifestations if you don’t have an equally unorthodox armoury of agents. So yes, one Green Lantern is a virulent, sentient flu germ; another is a walking, talking, bi-pedal volcano.

No more a superhero series than Hickman and Aja’s HAWKEYE – which was instead a slickly designed, contemporary comedy of manners, therefore infinitely more accessible to a far broader audience – this is cosmic cop-crime whose precinct and jurisdiction are both set in space.

 

 

You can tell by its structure, which begins with a disciplined demand for a sit-rep update from HQ (a great big green-lantern-shaped space station) while at ground-level (somewhere similarly suspended but less lime-coloured) all is barely contained chaos. A spider’s just bitten a Green Lantern’s ring off.

“That was my favourite finger, you savage!
“Arachno-Sapiens! So bitey all the time!”

 

 

So yes, bursting with playful mischief to be sure, but if fingers can be cropped then so can entire individuals as – this being crime an’ all – it also comes with abrupt, contrasting (and so much more arresting) casualties.

You need know nothing of this title’s past to enjoy the opener to this first season (because that is what I sense this is, very much mapped out like a television show), for I’ve read fewer than dozen GREEN LANTERN issues in my life; only enough to recognise this as hilariously faithful yet totally fresh, with Liam Sharp art that is ridiculously detailed and full of authority.

 

 

To tell you more, plot-wise, would be to spoil the surprise, while the same goes for its structure which isn’t above slipping in memories like a meandering and meditative road journey.

Liam Sharp has brought his all – which is considerable – and I do hope he’s on double time for all the detail. The following need mean nothing to you, it is merely an observational self-indulgence based on my own historical comics-history bias:

On different pages yet sometimes in the same panels, I sensed serious amounts of neo-classical Neal Adams in the figure work, forearms and faces, enough Alan Davis to keep me amused in the background Glaswegian gamblers betting on a battle’s outcome, HR Giger – appropriately enough – in the mechanics during the discovery of a crashed spaceship, Jim Starlin rendering attending Hal’s ribcage and stomach muscles, bites of early Sir Bazza Windsor-Smythe in the biceps, Herb Trimpe female faces and forearms, a sizzle of Bill Sienkiewicz during an arm-spread lift-off, and Jim Steranko during what I’d call “assembly”, reciting the customary bright / night / sight / might / light riff.

 

 

I’d only add that if you like your heroes not necessarily anti- but perhaps more ambivalent, then Hal Jordan will prove as pragmatic as he is dogmatic and determined in his Green Lantern role, unintimidated when going up against an entity bearing a suspicious resemblance to the Biblical God (and all cops are inherently suspicious – it’s part of their job description and arsenal), not above some judicious deception of his own, and never comes close to dropping his guard by turning the other cheek.

“Nurse, I’d call a doctor if I were you.
“But tell them this man killed 2.5 billion people.
“Tell them there’s no need to hurry.”

Also, since I did mention 2000AD in my first paragraph, does this ambition and audacity remind you of Judge Dredd?

“Planet Earth – you are gamma-intoxicated and clearly no longer in control of your decisions or actions.
“I’m placing all of you under arrest until you come to your senses.”

Are we all allowed one phone call each?

 

 

SLH

Buy Green Lantern vol 1: Intergalactic Lawman 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’.

Heavenly Delusion vol 1 (£11-99, Den Pa) by Masakazu Ishiguro

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths Complete Collection h/c (£29-99, Archaia) by Brian Froud, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith & Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John

Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Sirens h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by various

Sonata vol 1: The Valley Of The Gods s/c (£17-99, Image) by David Hine & Brian Haberlin

Death’s Head: Clone Drive s/c (£14-50, Marvel) by Tini Howard & Kei Zama

Loki: Agent Of Asgard – The Complete Collection s/c (£35-99, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Lee Garbett, others

The Superior Spider-Man vol 2: Otto-matic s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by Christos Gage & Lan Medina, Mike Hawthorne

Batman vol 11: The Fall And The Fallen s/c (£15-99, DC) by Tom King, various & Mikel Janin, various

Batman: Hush s/c (£24-00, DC) by Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee

Green Lantern vol 1: Intergalactic Lawman s/c (£15-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Liam Sharp

Green Lantern vol 2: The Day The Stars Fell h/c (£24-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Liam Sharp

Watchmen (Lenticular Cover Edition) s/c (£25-00, DC) by Alan & Dave Gibbons

Our Dreams At Dusk Shimanami Tasogare vol 2 (£11-99, Seven Seas) by Shimanari Tasogare

My Hero Academia vol 22 (£6-99, Viz) by Kohei Horikoshi

Saint Young Men vol 1 h/c (£21-00, Kodansha) by Hikaru Nakamura

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