Featuring Jason, Joan Cornella, David Lapham, Emma Rios, Will Kirby, Simon Roy, Brandon Graham, Grant Morrison, Frazer Irving, Ludroe, Ethan Young, Andre Sirangelo, Gabriel Iumazark and Hiroya Oku, the creator of GANTZ…
Island #2 (£5-99, Image) by Brandon Graham, Emma Rios, Will Kirkby, Simon Roy, Ludroe, Robin Bougie.
ISLAND #1 reviewed by our J45 is back in stock after multiple reorders. I’ve never known an anthology to be this popular but the proof is in the pudding and the chefs are all top-tier talents bringing their very best to the table.
Because it’s a monthly some strips are serialised every four issues or so and honesty dictates that I concede there’s just the one page of Brandon Graham this time round but Emma Rios is back with this glorious cover and the second instalment of her silky, salmon pink series ‘I.D.’ about three individuals so uncomfortable with their bodies that they’re prepared to undergo a radical and somewhat controversial new medical procedure not all recover from: they’re going to have their brains transplanted into a donor’s body. Here they attend the clinic and learn exactly how the process works and what the risks involved are, after which we fast-forward and ooohhh…
The art is sublime with feathery hair and deliciously sinuous finger forms. The aerial shots above them sleeping are exquisitely lit, but then there are the leaves of the trees under which our pioneer patients meet up and if I could find that particular park I’d probably never leave.
It’s been meticulously researched with the help of Miguel Alberte Woodward MD who provides the prose this issue which further considers the implications and practicalities of the potential processes.
Will Kirby’s vast purple pages of wordless, fantastical cityscapes, mythical birds and a giant, fire-eyed wolf are nothing short of gobsmacking.
No less detailed are Simon Roy’s futuristic yet at the same time ancient-civilisation-based full-page masterpieces for part one of ‘Habitat’ and if you’re missing Moebius and / or adore PROPHET then I’d call this absolutely essential reading. I was entranced from start to finish and stared at the perspective of one shot in particular for half an hour. I have no idea whatsoever how one first sees that in one’s head let alone commit it so successfully to paper.
Love the colouring on the lichen-covered or moss-strewn stone.
Oh look, Jonathan’s reviewed this too! That’s how much we love it…
Island #2 (£5-99, Image) by Brandon Graham, Emma Rios, Simon Roy, Ludroe, Will Kirkby, others…
“Forward. If you take what is printed, boy… there is no turning back.
“(Where’s that damned punch-card. Ah!)
“By accepting the blade, you swear an oath.
“To forsake your family for the Brotherhood of the Habsec (…which-button-uh-“3D PRINT”…)
“To kill the few so that the many might live; to obey and enforce the emergency measures; even if it means your death.
“And most of importantly: to put the needs of the Habitat above all else.”
Well, the thing I was most waiting for in this second issue of this Brandon Graham-curated anthology was the concluding part of Emma Rios’ I.D. But as brilliant as that was, and it was, I was blown away by the opening part of this three-part sci-fi caper by Simon Roy, set aboard an orbiting habitat where society has long since degenerated into little more than a tribal fight for survival amongst the overgrown ruins of mostly abandoned or partially functional technology.
One of the few pieces of technology that does remain operational, if not remotely understood, is a 3D-printer, activated by a punchcard which has a set template on it. The Brotherhood of Habsec only has one punchcard template which prints out a sword, presented to each new trooper as part of their initiation rites. And what are the main functions of a trooper? To hunt down members of other tribes as food. Yep, cannibalism is rife, and there are some stomach-churning scenes as bodies are processed and the merits of eating spinal columns discussed. This yarn is very much like the first volume of PROPHET, which Roy contributed to art-wise, where one clone of John Prophet is engaged in a struggle for survival on an inhospitable world, as here we follow the exploits of neophyte trooper Cho and his Habsec brothers on the hunt for food. Trooper Cho, however, finds a little more than bargained for, which is all well and good until his curiosity gets the better of him…
Meanwhile, following the pattern of ISLAND #1 we have six beautiful, wordless pages of art as a pre-index opener, which is actually a comic as well this time from Will Kirkby. I would seriously love to see Will do a full strip in this style, it is magnificent stuff. Then a very humorous one-page telephone discussion between Brandon himself and God, who has the temerity to point out that issue two is due and gets very short shrift in return.
There are another couple of essays, one from a neurologist immediately following the concluding part of Rios’s I.D. discussing the scientific aspects of her strip and also the feasibilities of actually undertaking brain transplants. Then there’s an excellent short essay all about a real-life person once again, but rather than a much missed friend, this time it’s about a skyjacker who almost became a spaghetti western star! Fleshing out this second issue of the archipelago is the concluding part of Ludroe’s undead skate-punk shenanigans.
If You Steal (£22-50, Fantagraphics) by Jason.
From the king – nay, knave – of anthropomorphic absurdity come eleven new short stories to give you much pause for thought.
Indeed the finale, ‘Nothing’ will stop you dead in your tracks. Nothing will prepare you for ‘Nothing’, especially not Jason’s customarily clever nonsense. In it an old lady in a retirement home sees wizened vultures steal a fork from her hand, her bed from her bedroom and a painting of a tree which you will by then be familiar with from the wall… just as Alzheimer’s Disease has stolen all the labels for these objects from her brain. That one cut me to pieces and the final panel is [redacted]. “Redacted” says it all, I’m afraid.
The storytelling throughout is as deadpan and laconic as ever (this is the man responsible for ALMOST SILENT, after all) which works equal wonders whether the scenes are wistful, leaving you to think, or ludicrous, leading you to laugh.
There’s plenty that’s ludicrous here, like ‘Karma Chameleon’ in which a 50-foot-long incarnation of the googly-eyed lizard manages so improbably to escape being spotted in a small dessert town with very few features, picking off punters one by one with its giant, whiplash tongue (acceleration 500 metres per second), bobbing up and down behind those sent to investigate in scenes reminiscent of a pantomime when your instinct is to scream “It’s behind you!”
There’s such a lot going on with its punchline focussed on the onanism-obsessed professor that it may initially baffle but that’s the thing to beware of with Jason: there’s no hand-holding attendant and you will need to think. Much is implied but still more is left for you to infer. Or in some instances there may not even be concrete answers. Rationalism is overrated, I say, and when I wrote ‘absurdist’ I meant it in its theatrical sense.
On the subject of absurdism there’s ‘Waiting For Bardot’, a riff on Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting For Godot’ in which the traditional two men meet up in the middle of nowhere and wonder where on earth the woman they’re waiting for has got to. Shopping for shoes or painting her nails? Women are an enigma to them. They’re as baffled as Laurel and Hardy. They’re dressed like Laurel and Hardy. Women are almost entirely absent from the script of ‘Waiting For Godot’.
At a particular juncture in one story I will not name it gradually becomes clear that the visual narrative has bifurcated from the literary language – that was is being said is not what’s being drawn. Haha! It happened waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay before then.
Two more of the eleven and then I leave it to you.
‘Ask Not’ begins in Stonehenge Britain in 2583 BC where a druid experiences an epiphany. Fast-forward to Salon De Provence, 1554 AD, and Nostradamus has a more specific vision of the same shooting in Dallas during 1963. He writes it all down only for the scripture to be stolen. That which follows throughout time will lead you right up the wrong garden paths, I promise you. What’s key and clever is this: most of the increasingly brief bursts of “history” begin on the final panel of a page and end on the first of a new one and often the next one. What does this do? It undercuts your oh-so-encouraged expectations, answering them with a rebuff or rejoinder, my favourite being September 11 in 2001. Easter Island was downright hilarious. Marilyn Monroe did not die in 1975.
Lastly, ‘If You Steal’ manages to be both absurdist and surrealist at the same time. The clues are in the cues which are all René Magritte, Jason doing riffs on ‘Empire of Light’, ‘Golconda’, ‘La Grande Famille’ and I think the tree which you’ll see not just in front of the safe may be a reference to ‘The Human Condition’. Magritte was an iconoclast, provoking people into rethinking what they are witnessing when viewing an image, his most famous painting perhaps being ‘The Treachery Of Images’ (“Ceci n’est pas une pipe”). Jason doesn’t go in for a great deal of this but there is the scale of the gun being carried.
Told in four-panel, single-page bursts which go backwards and forwards in time, you’re left to join the dots and fill in the blanks for yourself. Again, it’s all implication with more room than ever for inference but one of those bursts goes much further back than the others when the protagonist as a child visits an art gallery with his dad, and I’m sure you can guess whose work he becomes fixated upon.
Unlike ‘Ask Not’ the episodes aren’t dated so you can decide for yourself if you want a happy ending, but I’d suggest that if you steal you won’t have one.
So I guess it’s existentialist as well.
Stray Bullets vol 3: Other People (£14-99, Image) by David Lapham.
STRAY BULLETS is the best crime series by several prison blocks outside of Brubaker and Phillips’ CRIMINAL and THE FADE OUT. Each of those books has been reviewed extensively so I’m going to keep this one relatively brief.
In this particular car crash of self-contained but cunningly linked short stories set in Los Angeles moving backwards and forwards in time, it’s all about adults having affairs except ‘While Ricky Fish Was Sleeping’ in which you fear an affair is about to be thrust on a woman unwillingly.
It is absolutely terrifying.
Our homes are our castles where we’re supposed to feel safest, but when Ricky Fish collapses drunk as a skunk outside his, Kathy makes the mistake of opening the door to drag her husband inside, only to find another man’s got his foot in it. Roger forces his way in, claiming Ricky owes him big bucks which they need in order to go out dancing, and brings with him another barely conscious inebriate, Puncher, and a girl who’s all over the dozer. Roger careers from seemingly reasonable and complimentary to volcanically furious, bellowing and bullying and, more worryingly still, Kathy spots a gun under his jacket. He claims to be a policeman but that’s far from reassuring. It’s as tense as hell, but you wait until it’s reprised in ‘Little Love Tragedy’ during which some of the cast have moved on.
If “the real secret of being a writer is learning to be a convincing liar” as Nicholas Hardiman posits in Posy Simmonds’ TAMARA DREWE then David Lapham is the most convincing liar I’ve ever read. He will mess with your mind something rotten there and yet you will love him for it. You’ll see!
In ‘Two Week Vacation’ hen-packed Hank, a middle-aged mouse of a man, stupidly steps into the road between cars without looking left or right and is almost knocked down. He then makes the mistake of “retaliating” for his own carelessness by throwing a broken bottle through the car’s rear window and the driver gets out.
“Man, that was the worst thing you ever done.”
Like letting Roger in through that door, those opening pages are the ultimate in regret, that terrible feeling of “If only I hadn’t done that”. How this fits in with affairs I don’t want to spoil for you but that tale too is reprised (everything is connected in STRAY BULLETS), this time in ‘Live Nude Girls’ where we meet Amanda, a serial marriage-wrecker. She’s a textbook case of jealousy, insecurity and self-delusion right to the end.
This volume also features the very finest Amy Racecar episode, and if you marvel as I do at how intricately Lapham links everything up in this series (it’s a chronological cat’s cradle on its 250th twist) you will be staggered further still at this private-eye spoof in which Amy is hired to spy on a wife by her husband. Simple enough you might think, but nothing – absolutely nothing – is what it seems as one reveal leads to another then another, each successively bigger reveal upending the previous pair until the dozen or so characters have back-stabbed the others too many times to be true.
Well of course it’s not true, but that’s the whole point of the Amy Racecar interludes. Have you guessed why yet?
The Last Broadcast (£22-50, Archaia) by Andre Sirangelo & Gabriel Iumazark
I think the art said BEDLAM to her and she loves her Bedlam, does Dee. There’s a bit of Ben Templesmith going on too, only more angular. Ashley Wood – those sorts of comparisons.
There’s a cracking full-page shot of urban-exploring 100 feet below San Francisco, looking up from ankle level at gas-masked Niko and Harumi, the two on the cover.
“Look at that crazy door. I think the map is legit after all.”
“If the map is accurate, crazy door is just the beginning.”
It is indeed. Cogs whirr and the metal hatch – the sort of thing you’d find on a submarine – opens, and there’s quite the room inside. The sequence puts me in mind of Riven or Myst. Not stylistically, but in its overall effect of haunting strangeness and thrilling discovery.
What’s uncovered is not unconnected to Ivan The Intrepid, a young escapologist with confidence issues. He’s about to bugger up an audition during which he relates the doomed career of Blachall The Incredible, “a master of shock and awe” who hit it big in 1925 at the Paris World’s Fair. Then he bit the bullet in London, 1934, after a staged game of Russian Roulette went wonky.
This too is about to go wonky but with less catastrophic consequences… so far. Ivan doesn’t lose his life; he loses Alex, his business partner whom Ivan treats as his assistant. It’s partly because of that and partly because Alex has stopped taking his meds. They were making him sluggish, which is bad news for an escapologist. I anticipate further bad news nonetheless: he’s been off them for 48 hours.
With his income teetering on the non-existent Ivan begs magazine publisher Dmitri for work, but Dmitri has lost his last sponsor. What he gains is something altogether unexpected.
In precisely which ways this all fits together remains a mystery, but in any case all this takes place 8 weeks before the explosion at a funfair in San Francisco…
Thus read Stephen’s review of #1. What follows in the next six issues is a magical multiple misdirection of urban exploration, double cross, illusion, hallucinogens, secret societies, mind control, triple cross, voices from beyond the grave and mayhem. Lots of mayhem. Dominique and I stuck with this right through the single monthly issues and we both loved it.
It’s a real rollercoaster ride where the true intentions of most of the protagonists, including the long deceased (or is he?) Blachall, are hidden behind a veritable grand concert hall of mirrors the size of Sydney Opera House and enough smoke to rival a forest fire half the size of California. If you’re in the mood for a modern mystery with its roots in the past, would like to be mesmerised and bemused by the plot before the final grand reveal, I would highly recommend it. Just check underneath your seat before you sit down to read in case you’ve been marked out to be pulled up on-stage to assist in the act!
SLH & JR
Inuyashiki vol 1 (£9-99, Kodansha) by Hiroya Oku…
“Nothing here. However… we did destroy two of the planet’s intelligent life forms…”
“Can we rebuild them?”
“I’m afraid not…”
“Then at least recreate their outer appearances as quickly as you can.”
“Convincing enough that they don’t realise we tampered with them.”
“But we only have weapons grade units in stock.”
“Wait, no! They’ll destroy the entire planet!!”
“That’s not our problem! We need to disengage at once!!
Poor old Ichiro. He’s 58 going on 78. He looks like an OAP and even his daughter pretends he’s her granddad to avoid embarrassment in social situations. Starved of affection and emotionally cut-off from his family, absolutely the last thing he needs is to be told is that he has inoperable stomach cancer which is going to kill him in a matter of weeks.
Which is unfortunate, because after being called in by his doctor that’s precisely the news he receives. Unable even to tell his family, mainly because they won’t pay attention to him long enough for him to get the words out, choked up as he is, he turns to the family pet, a recently purchased Shiba Inu (almost as cute as these ones on the greetings cards drawn by our Jodie wearing a fez, a crown, a top hat and a feathered cap respectively!) called Hana-Ko for solace and comfort. At least he can rely on his canine chum for some consoling licks and wags of the tail!
During a late-night walk through the park, he and a stranger stop to look at a brilliant bright light in the sky, which promptly turns out to be a crashing spaceship that kills them. Much to his surprise Ichiro wakes up in the park the next morning with precisely zero recollection of the events of the previous night. Very quickly, though, he starts to realise something has changed, and before long begins to understand that he is now, to all intents and purposes, a consciousness in a robotic body. A highly weaponised robotic body that whilst it looks exactly like the 58-year-old geriatric Ichiro is anything but. And, of course, he’s no longer dying from cancer.
Unable to turn to his family for support during this rather puzzling yet exhilarating experience he finds himself becoming ever more withdrawn and solitary, taking more late-night walks, as he tries to understand what on earth (ho ho) has happened to him. Which is how he happens to be just in the right place at the right time to save a homeless man from being beaten to death by a gang of teenage kids. It seems as though he might now be able to be the sort of man he always wanted to be. He needs answers, though, clearly. So what of the other person who was in the park that night? Ichiro begins to wonder if they too have been changed in the same way?
Intriguing and hilarious opener from the creator of GANTZ (of which there is a great little in-joke towards the end of this volume, as we finally see what happened to the other person in the park that night). So far so good, this novel twist on the classic bodysnatching theme has the potential to be a great story, much like the sadly out of print 7 BILLION NEEDLES. And, as with GANTZ, there’s a lot of ridiculous humour to off-set the hard sci-fi element.
I love the main protagonist Ichiro, he’s such a downtrodden fellow you can’t help but take to him instantly, and I’m looking forward to seeing what crazy situations I’m certain the creator, Hiroya Oku, is going to put him through, and precisely how his family reacts to their new dad, though I’m quite sure he’s going to keep them in the dark about his robotic makeover. I’m certain we haven’t seen the last of those aliens, either. I wonder precisely why they were in such a rush to depart the scene so quickly…?
Nanjing The Burning City (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Ethan Young…
“Captain, do you really think we can win this war?”
“Is there any reason to think we’re going to lose?”
“This isn’t the first time we’ve fought the Japs. And now they’ve only gotten stronger. Better tanks, better guns, better plans. I fear… I fear that the next generation of Chinese children will grow up speaking Japanese.”
“They are not going to win. China will prevail. Our nation has been here for thousands of years. Japan might have stronger guns and stronger tanks, but we have a stronger spirit. That is what counts in the end.”
Most people believe that WW2 began in 1939. From a purely western perspective that’s correct, I suppose, but then they may not be aware that Japan and China had been involved in full-blown conflict for nearly two full years preceding that, with all-out hostilities commencing in July of 1937. Indeed, Japan had been occupying parts of north-east China since 1931, a situation which the nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek was reluctantly forced to accept due to a lack of resources and military might to reverse the situation. But no one in the region was in any doubt that the intended Japanese Imperial expansionism was considerably wider in scope than that.
So, by the end of 1937 Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing, which was then the capital, had fallen to the Japanese. Chiang Kai-shek had no choice but to retreat and reconsolidate in the west of China, whilst his erstwhile political rival in the nationalist party, Wang Jingwei, was installed as a puppet leader in Nanjing. Before that happened, though, there was a six-week period of unprecedented brutality which is widely regarded as the single worst atrocity of the World War II era.
Starting on December 13th 1937, the day Nanjing fell, Japanese soldiers ran amok killing and raping seemingly without restraint. The Rape of Nanjing, as it’s become known, remains a contentious political issue and stumbling block in Sino-Japanese relations to this day. This work barely scratches even the surface of what happened during that period and so on at level at least has to be regarded as a complete failure in my eyes, even though I think it’s an excellent work in other ways.
I’ve read quite a few articles over the last few weeks, around the 70th anniversary of the deployment of the two atomic bombs on Hirosoma and Nagasakai, all decrying their use from our modern ‘civilised’ perspective, and the complete bewilderment to this day by survivors that such an ‘atrocity’ was even necessary. I would consider myself extremely well read about World War II compared to most (China’s War with Japan, 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival by Rana Mitter being one of the works you really need to read to understand what went on in this particular theatre of war) and whilst I wouldn’t dispute that America would have taken the Japanese islands eventually by conventional means, the two atomic bombs did undoubtedly greatly shorten the war, probably by some considerable length of time, months if not years.
The difficulties the Americans had had earlier that year in simply taking the isolated Pacific island of Iwo Jima against a mere twenty thousand Japanese soldiers I’m sure factored into their decision to deploy the atomic bombs. Along with two other important factors. Firstly, given the Japanese decision to attack Pearl Habour without warning, there was little public or military sentiment in the US for treating the Japanese ‘fairly’. But secondly – and this is where we come back to what took place in Nanjing – the American military was well aware of the Japanese military code of honour that meant surrender was cowardice, unthinkable to the point of being completely and totally unacceptable.
Thus Chinese military prisoners of war, and by extension the Chinese population, given the Japanese penchant for believing themselves to be the superior Oriental race on the peninsula, were regarded as not worthy of honour and less than human. I just do not personally believe the Japanese military would have ever surrendered without the atomic bombs dropping on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as tragic as those events were, and the prospect of the total atomic annihilation of their homeland if they did not do so. I suspect, given what we have seen of asymmetric guerrilla warfare and insurgency since WW2 in Vietnam then more recently in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria etc., the war might have been a rather more protracted affair. Instead, you have a nation who some seventy years on, are still, for the overwhelming majority, happily to be constitutionally bound that their military will be not be involved in an overseas offensive combat role. Just an opinion.
I’m not going to get into precisely what did happen during those six weeks in Nanjing, it’s well documented in extremely upsetting detail elsewhere, unless you are one of the people who much like the Holocaust deniers choose to believe it didn’t happen at all, or at least not on that scale, but I can’t see how you can do a graphic novel based during that period and barely touch upon it. The story, of two Chinese soldiers trying to escape the city already occupied by the Japanese, doesn’t remotely convey the magnitude of the suffering and vile atrocities that were committed.
Instead we have a cat and mouse chase story that briefly touches upon rape and starvation, with some Confucian proverbs regarding steadfastness in the face of adversity thrown in for good measure. It just feels like a massive opportunity missed. There is an extremely brief one-page afterword that mentions the barest facts but I just can’t see anyone being minded to pick up something like ‘China’s War with Japan, 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival’ by Rana Mitter after reading this. The foreword from the creator states it is for the forgotten ones, the people who died, yet surely telling the story from the perspective of an ordinary family would have had far more impact?
I just feel the author had a chance to do something that could have stood alongside PALESTINE, PERSEPOLIS, MAUS and yes BAREFOOT GEN (currently out of print), amongst many others as a testament to man’s inhumanity to man, helping to ensure events that mustn’t be forgotten are remembered correctly by future generations and not erased from the popular narrative of history.
From a perspective of pre-, during and post-war Japan, particularly to help get inside the peculiar fascistic nationalistic psyche that prevailed before and during the era of conflict, I would strongly suggest, from a graphic novel perspective, reading Shigeru Mizuki’s exceptional SHOWA treatise:
SHOWA 1926-1939: A HISTORY OF JAPAN, SHOWA 1926-1939: A HISTORY OF JAPAN and SHOWA 1926-1939: A HISTORY OF JAPAN (and the shortly to be published final volume SHOWA 1953-1989). Plus his fictionalised autobiographical material about time served in the Pacific during WW2, which again, perfectly captures the ‘no surrender’ mentality of the Japanese military high command ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS.
The irony is, for all that I have said above, I think this is a great read. If it were to be set against another backdrop, I would regard it as an excellent war story, precisely comparable with Garth Ennis’ WAR STORIES material in terms of tone and content. Plus art-wise, I thought it was extremely accomplished. Some of the action scenes minded me of DONG XOAI by Joe Kubert, though that is pure rough pencils, and this is considerably more polished. If you just want a good war yarn, this is well worth reading. If you want to learn something of what really happened in Nanjing during those horrific six weeks, I would look elsewhere.
Annihilator h/c (£18-99, Legendary) by Grant Morrison & Frazer Irving…
Once again Grant Morrison returns to his favourite device of metafiction to craft a weird, warped, time-shifting, modern gothic tale that will amuse as much as amaze. He’s still got it, I have to say, and I do think Frazer Irving is the perfect foil for this dysphasian tale, following on from their collaboration on the Klarion sections of THE SEVEN SOLIDERS OF VICTORY which were the artistic stand-out sections on that equally head-spinning title for me. By the end of this yarn, you’ll be wondering if Grant Morrison has a brain injury or just induced one in yourself, in addition to the equally implausibly named screenwriter (and creator of Max Nomax) Ray Spass’ inoperable brain tumour. And somewhere along the way, the Universe will be saved, of course.
Its classic Morrison, weaving a tortuous tale from a jumble of parts and somehow making it semi-coherent, entertaining nonsense, sometimes even with a few salient philosophical, perhaps even spiritual points to make along the way. I’m thinking FLEX MENTALLO in particular there. This isn’t quite on that level in terms of storytelling, I don’t actually think it’s trying to be, but it’s an extremely enjoyable romp, and Fraser’s particular art style and palette perfectly engenders an almost cinematic rendering of two men and their intertwined melodramas.
So… Max Nomax has been sentenced to life, indeed solitary confinement, in a rather gloomy space station called Dis, which I am presuming is a Dante’s Inferno reference to the city which encompassed the sixth down to the ninth circles of hell; the ninth being rather chilly, much like the vacuum of outer space. And, just for dramatic effect, the space station is orbiting the Great Annihilator, the colloquial name for the supermassive black hole which sits at the centre of our galaxy.
Max’s crime? Breaking the heart of Olympia – the daughter of the ruler of the Universe, Vada – who’s gone and put herself in an irreversible, self-induced coma simply because Max told her “I never loved you”. He was lying, of course, for reasons which become moderately less unclear later on, but just to make his punishment that bit more sanity-bending, they’ve left the comatose Olympia on the station with him to ensure in his quiet moments of contemplation he won’t forget just what a naughty boy he’s been.
Max has no intention of forgetting what he’s done. In fact he vows to reverse the natural order of creation and find a cure for death by bringing Olympia back to life. Errr… it does just occur to me here as I type, and I might possibly be being slightly pedantic, but Olympia is in a coma, not dead, so it’s not actually quite as complicated as he’s making it for himself, but then Max does like his grand, self-important pronouncements. Well, you do tend to, don’t you, when you’re the lead in a film?
Which brings us neatly back to Ray Spass. He doesn’t know he has an inoperable brain tumour yet. He just thinks he’s suffering from acute writer’s block and desperately needs a follow-up to his last smash hit before the studio drops him for that next hot young writer. So he decides a house move – always one of the least stressful things you can do to yourself when you’re in the midst of a drug-assisted nervous breakdown – to a Hollywood mansion with a supernatural history might do the job…
“So what’s it about? Your new movie?”
“It’s for a big studio. I can’t say a thing about the plot… but imagine a haunted house story. The ultimate haunted house story. In space.”
“Aw-kay. Very exciting. Now I understand why you’d to live in this place…”
“See, it’s all making sense.”
It really isn’t. But it will before Grant has finished as, much to Ray’s surprise, Max Nomax appears in his living room one night, apparently having travelled from his dimension to ours by means as yet unknown; in fact, as of yet unwritten since he’s demanding that Ray finishes his story. Not that Max seems entirely clueless as to what is going on. In fact, I’m not entirely sure he needs Ray at all, other than as a comedic foil for his leading man routine.
That the FBI who soon come-a-calling seem to know of the existence of Max Nomax is another part of the puzzle and hints that this Möbius Strip entanglement of writer and fictional character – of Ray and Max, of dimensions overlapping and interpenetrating – might not be so implausible as it first seems. But then Ray does have an inoperable brain tumour in his head… Max, meanwhile, claims it’s a data bullet with his own history he’s fired through dimensions direct into Ray’s head to help him complete his story…
Also… we really mustn’t forget this is a haunted house story after all…
Mox Nox (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by Joan Cornella.
Looking for happiness is all the wrong places, these six-panel, single-page, full colour comic strips make CYANIDE & HAPPINESS look like good, clean fun.
Innocence is such an anathema to Joan Cornella that I can only compare her to Ivan Brunetti whose HO! we keep bagged at all times.
Clothed in the brightest, most child-friendly colours, truly this is transgressive, crossing all boundaries of common decency and good taste, and if there aren’t multiple mutilations on any given page it’s only because something even more awful is happening.
There’s a man with a Colgate, rictus grin, handing out leaflets on a lovely, sunny day. He gives one to a young man with red hair and a broad smile. “Jesus Loves You” says the flier. The third panel focussed on the pamphleteer’s shirt breast pocket is the punchline (clipped to the pocket is his name badge, “Jesus”), the next three acting as its elliptical dots.
A lot of the strips involve this sort of lingering worry, like the one with the dog fucking a chicken from behind. It’s not really a dog, it’s a man in a dog suit. He takes off his dog head with a chirpy smile. The chicken does not. The man stops smiling. We close in on the chicken’s fixed, blank eyes stare unblinkingly into his…
There’s a cautionary tale about answering your mobile phone while driving, and indeed surfing. Don’t do that.
My favourite involving an engagement ring and an erection isn’t reprinted in the book, but there are plenty of other body parts – a lot of them where they shouldn’t be. Some strips present the wonkiest of solutions to problematic situations and most make those situations a great deal worse. Extreme Problem Solving, you could call it.
Many of them involve skewed priorities and play on what is considered customary behaviour, upending it, and the unacceptable is accepted with all those gleeful grins.
The book is quarter bound but perversely – and so appropriately – the spine and its adjacent half inch is that of a softcover book, to which two boards have been attached.
That’s not the actual cover by the way. I think there may have been a wise change of heart pre-publication!
Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!
Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews.
Space Dumplins (£10-99, Scholastic) by Craig Thompson
Hip Hop Family Tree vol 3 (£19-99, Fantagraphics) by Ed Piskor
Little Robot (£11-99, FirstSecond) by Ben Hatke
Snowden (£12-99, Seven Stories) by Ted Rall
Sunny Side Up (£9-99, Scholastic) by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
Walking Dead vol 24: Life And Death (£10-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard
Sunstone vol 3 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Stejpan Sejic
IXth Generation vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Image) by Matt Hawkins & Stjepan Sejic
Wayward vol 2: Ties That Bind (£12-99, Image) by Jim Zub & Steven Cummings
C.O.W.L. vol 2: The Greater Good s/c (£10-99, Image) by Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel & Rod Reis
Amazing Spider-Man vol 4: Graveyard Shift s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Humberto Ramos
Inhumans s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee
Nextwave: Agents Of H.A.T.E. Complete Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Warren Ellis & Stuart Immonen
Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Omnibus Edition Book 1 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Eiji Otsuka & Housui Yamazaki
One Piece vol 75 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda
Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire vol 5 (£8-99, Viz) by Naoki Serizawa
Tokyo Ghoul vol 2 (£8-99, Viz) by Sui Ishida
Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol 4 (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Stan Sakai
ITEM! Interview with Seth, soon to appear at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival. We made Seth’s GEORGE SPROTT a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. Pop him into our search engine! His work’s immediately recognisable!
ITEM! We’re constantly asked for cyberpunk graphic novels so here’s one on Kickstarter that looks lush: METAL MADE FLESH: BLOOD AND OIL.
ITEM! I leave you with a reminder of Page 45’s 21st Birthday Party on Saturday 3rd October with an all-evening bar brawl (there will be a bar; I doubt we will brawl) preceded by a signing with FLUFFY’s Simone Lia and ADAMTINE’s Hannah Berry.
This is going to be our last public party in a very long time so I hope that you’ll come. It’s open to all and we’re not above bribing you with free booze! Please click on the link above.
Page 45 Reviews written by Stephen & Jonathan then edited by…
Do you even read these jokes at the bottom?!?! x