Reviews February 2014 week two

February 12th, 2014

Thus, over time, the train has evolved to become a tarnished mirror of the pre-existing society where the rich have it all and the poor are left entirely to fend for themselves.

- Jonathan on Snowpiercer vol 1: The Escape. Vol 2 in stock now!

Alone Forever (£7-50, Top Shelf) by Liz Prince.

Brief bursts of autobiographical self-denigration as Liz Prince plays the dating game, pitching woo at boys with beards, and loses 13-nil.

Comedic gold, she mines both her disasters and non-starters for all their considerable worth, whether it’s online with OK Cupid or hanging out in bars with male mate Farhad, effectively cock-blocking each other. Of course people think they’re a couple. It seems she can’t win, even when approached by one of her readers – one of her bearded readers! – in an art store while obsessing over sketchbooks and pens with one of her female friends who has a flash-thought:

“Oh no! Do you think I’m dyking this up?”
“Hmm.”

That’s a beautiful piece of cartooning, Liz frowning, fingers on chin, giving the matter the most careful consideration. So is this, with poor Liz left lank at the bar, shouting after a woman who’s already made her mind up.

“You remind me of my gay friend Jess: she’s short, has glasses, dresses like you… She only falls for straight girls, though.”
“Oh, then she’d probably love me.”
“No, I said she likes straight girls.
“I… but I am… HEY! CAN’T YOU AT LEAST HAVE THE DECENCY TO STAND HERE WHILE I WEAKLY DEFEND MY SEXUALITY?!”

 

Men, of course, prove utterly useless, either full of their own self-importance or utterly unable to make decisions, conversation or even the first move. Actually that first move thing seems more like a power-play.

Here, however, is the shocking truth: Liz Prince actually gets some! She gets quite a lot! She gets, dates, snogs and shags! And they may take six minutes of hilarious, hair-tearing wait, but she also gets knock-out replies to flirty texts. Every second of that sequence is emotionally infectious for Prince’s lines are as expressive as anyone’s in the business, her body language adorable whether she’s feeling foolish, deflated or glowing with girly glee.

She doesn’t give up, either. There’s an absolute champion of a strip in which she appropriates Charles Schultz’s famous American football routine whose humour grows cumulatively on each reprise. In it Lucy cajoles a reluctant Charlie Brown into kicking the ball she’s holding up for him. He’s reluctant because he remembers that each time he gives in to her temptation and has a go against his better judgement, Lucy whips the ball away like someone pulling the rug from under you. Here the roles are reversed, for it is Liz being goaded by Charlie Brown as Cupid.

“Don’t you want a chance at love?”
“Every time I take a kick at love you pull it out from under me!”
“Eventually you’ll make contact. Everyone does. Odds are this next kick will be the one. I’ll do my part and hold it down.”
“He’s right. This has to be the time I kick that old ball. Lucky at love! SO HERE I GO!”

Hahahaha! Yup.

What makes this book is that there is, of course, a great deal of truth behind all this mirth – the recognition factor. But also it’s the wit in its deployment as above, and so below.

After yet another unsatisfactory and this time quite protracted courtship crushed by unanswered emails and texts, Liz Prince is reading The Book of Love while considering her options.

“It is hard to say Bye when someone asks you to give them a second chance. But part of growing up is learning to remove yourself from undesirable situations.”

At the same time her bleating heart is far from still, fighting the wastrel’s corner by reminding Liz of how good it once was. She snaps the book shut on it, silencing it, then opens it up to reveal her heart, dead as a doornail.

“When you’re not on the same page, it’s best to just tear that page out and move on.”

As she tears that page out there is a sound effect that doubles as a death knell: “RIP”

And that’s why I love Liz Prince.

SLH

Buy Alone Forever and read the Page 45 review here

Snowpiercer vol 1: The Escape h/c (£14-99, Random House / Vertical) by Lob & Jean-Marc Rochette…

‘Across the white immensity of an eternal winter, from one end of the frozen planet to the other, there travels a train that never stops. This is the Snowpiercer, one thousand and one carriages long. This is the last bastion of civilisation…’

“You lousy tail-fucker. I’m gonna break you!! You’re gonna regret leaving your shitty carriage.”

Yes, sadly the Snowpiercer does reflect our civilisation in microcosm all too well. A global catastrophe has occurred, probably man-made though that isn’t made entirely clear, resulting in a huge drop in global temperatures and ushering in a new ice age. A luxury train, fitted out with all the mod cons imaginable, powered by a revolutionary, near-perpetual motion device, stood ready to receive the good and the great, plus the obscenely wealthy, obviously, to ensure those worthy fellows at least survived this apocalypse. At the last moment, in an apparent act of conscience, several hundred rather more basic carriages were added at the back for the working class, or the Third Class, in true locomotive convention.

Thus, over time, the train has evolved to become a tarnished mirror of the pre-existing society where the rich have it all and the poor are left entirely to fend for themselves. Very much representative of the current First World and Third World. An attempted revolt by the masses was quickly and violently suppressed and then all contact with the rear carriages was completely cut off, the doors welded shut and barricaded. Interesting immigration policy! Nothing was heard from the rear until now, when someone has managed the unthinkable, and breached Second Class by going outside of the train in the truly ferocious conditions to enter by breaking a toilet window with a hammer. The top brass, including the President, at the front of the train, are intrigued to know what conditions are now like in the tail and demand the man is brought to the very front of the train for them to interrogate. Maybe though, that’s exactly what he wants…?

What follows during the man’s journey through the endless compartments is an examination of the darker side of human morality, and I don’t doubt much of what we see is probably exactly what would happen in that sort of situation.

It’s truly Orwellian in nature, touching upon how politics, religion and all of societies’ structures and niceties would probably start to fail and break down in such a situation, and indeed be used against the masses, as the selfish nature of mankind completely takes over. You’d like to think altruism would come into play, and indeed there are those on the train who do care about the conditions people must be enduring back in the tail, but they’re not in charge. Unsurprisingly those that are in power consider these do-gooders just as potentially seditious and dangerous as the Third Class, and they have a rather unpleasant plan for dealing with them…

The black and white art put me in mind of both Jacques Tardi and Joe Colquhon, with the heavy and chunky use of black ink. It’s bleakly drawn stuff which is entirely appropriate in capturing both the decimated world at large and the claustrophobic nature of life on the train. Some of you may be aware this has been made into a film starring, amongst others, John Hurt. Not entirely sure if it’s been released yet or if they are still negotiating distribution, but have a look at this trailer if you are interested. There is some talk of a director’s cut for DVD too.

Meanwhile, given the ending, and I am giving nothing away, I am perplexed / intrigued / delighted to report there is already a second volume entitled Snowpiecer: The Explorers.

JR

Buy Snowpiercer vol 1: The Escape h/c and read the Page 45 review here

I Want My Hat Back s/c (£6-99, Walker Books) by Jon Klassen.

A bear hath not his hat on.

He misses his hat and wants to know where it’s at. To that end he wanders through the forest and enquires of his fellow creatures as to its location. Alas, no one has seen it, but he always thanks them anyway.

“Have you seen my hat?”
“What is a hat?”
“Thank you anyway.”

“Have you seen my hat?”
“No. Why are you asking me.
I haven’t seen it.
I haven’t seen any hats anywhere.
I would not steal a hat.
Don’t ask me any more questions.”
“OK. Thank you anyway.”

Hmmm. Something slightly suspicious about that rabbit.

It’s only when one animal asks for a description of the hat that alarm bells of recollection ring.

With dead-pan delivery, utilising the very same, obliviously straight-faced image of the bear right up until the wake-up call, this is an exceptional children’s storybook which is, most emphatically, a comic. It’s a comic because without the pictures it simply couldn’t work: the key moment halfway through is visual.

But the genius of the punchline lies in the dialogue and, like the rest, in repetition. Specifically it lies in reprising the lie which, given that you’ll be buying this for your young ‘uns rather than yourself (possibly – I bought it for myself!), I for once feel free to partially give away. Here the shoe is on the other foot and the hat now on another head as a squirrel approaches a much mollified bear.

“Excuse me, have you seen a rabbit wearing a hat?”
“No, Why are you asking me.
I haven’t seen him.
I haven’t seen any rabbits anywhere.
I would not eat a rabbit.
Don’t ask me any more questions.”
“OK. Thank you anyway.”

For more Jon Klassen head-wear hilarity, please see THIS IS NOT MY HAT. It really isn’t.

Do not steal other people’s hats! There will be repercussions.

SLH

Buy I Want My Hat Back s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Locke & Key vol 6 Alpha & Omega h/c (£22-50, IDW) by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez…

Impressively cataclysmic conclusion to Joe and Gabriel’s sotto voce horror masterpiece. The school year is winding to an end, graduation looms for many of our cast, and the kids of Lovecraft are preparing for their after prom party, a rave in a cave, yes that particular cave, which you might think by now everyone would be trying really hard to avoid… though I suppose everyone thinks the villain has already been vanquished at the end of volume five. OH NO HE HASN’T! As we well know…

The dastardly miscreant in question has been secretly going about his business in the possessed body of [SPOILER] and now has almost everything he needs to execute his apocalyptic plan and bring the rest of his kind through the portal into our world. There’s just one more of the Keyhouse’s keys he needs to get his hands on, and he’s knows Kinsey Locke will be bringing that particular item to the party, which just so happens to be taking place where he needs it most… in that cave! Fortunately for the Locke family, the residents of Lovecraft and indeed the entire world, Tyler Locke has finally realised precisely what his lucky charm gifted by deceased father actually is, and more importantly, how it can be weaponised. He also has a sneaking suspicion everything isn’t over just yet. Clever boy.

Tyler won’t be the ultimate hero of the piece, though. No, that prize is reserved for someone else: someone, who after all he has been put through already in a very, very difficult life, truly deserves it, bless his cotton socks. It’s time for the pure of heart and simple of mind to take centre stage at last as Rufus and his toys undertake their final mission for the highest of stakes.

Joe Hill has created a brilliant set of characters within this work, but Rufus has easily been my favourite. He now knows exactly who the villain is and exactly what needs to be done to stop  him, but when you’ve the mental capabilities of barely more than a toddler, and you’re locked up in a secure hospital several miles from where the action is going to go down, what can you do? The answer? Whatever it takes soldier! Go, Rufus!

When you’ve put so much time and effort into following a series, you obviously want it to conclude in a befitting and satisfactory manner. Happily Joe Hill achieves that with aplomb and I believe this will be a series that continues to sell for a good number of years to come. It has everything you could possibly want in a good horror yearn: creepy locations, a fabulous cast of fully realised primary and secondary characters, plus an evil menace beyond measure. Also Gabriel Rodriguez has provided stellar art throughout. My initial impression was the art style was going to be incongruous with horror writing, but it just works perfectly in conveying the more fantastical elements of the story whilst dissembling the occasional burst of shocking violence. So, when all is settled are there happy endings for everyone? Certainly not, but suffice to say, some people get the endings they certainly deserve…

JR

Buy Locke & Key vol 6 Alpha & Omega h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Sherlock Holmes And The Vampires Of London h/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Sylvain Cordurie & Laci, Axel Gonzalbo, Jean-Sebastien Rossbach…

Always a tricky one, writing a new story around an established and extremely well known literary character. Succeed and you’ve a receptive audience eager for such material. Fail, and well, ignominy and opprobrium await. Happily, this falls into the former category, albeit liberties are obviously taken with the introduction of vampires into the Holmes universe. For vampires they really are, this is no simple case of fraud or misdirection, make no mistake.

This certainly has the typical feel of a Holmes case, and setting it after his supposed death at the Reichenbach Falls, freeing it further from the constraints of typical Holmes continuity, probably allows the supernatural conceit more freedom to play out with complete believability. I suspect Sherlock fans will find little to complain about in terms of the writing though there is certainly more action than deduction. Watson fans may find themselves disappointed that he doesn’t feature more heavily; in fact he is entirely unaware his good friend is still alive, which does deprive us of any of their usual back-and-forth repartee and banter which is always a highlight of a Holmes work for me.

The art, though, is a wonderful bonus. My first thought upon viewing the cover was how much Sherlock Holmes looked like Michael Caine, but the interior art is completely different: ligne claire and European in nature, reminiscent of much of the Humanoids output. The architecture of Paris in particular, which provides the backdrop for much of the case, is spectacular. Humanoids fans should definitely give this a look therefore, as of course should aficionados of the world’s premier consulting detective.

JR

Buy Sherlock Holmes And The Vampires Of London h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Awkward Silence Vol 2 (£8-99, Sublime) by Hinako Takanaga.

“What is this difficult obstacle that stands between you two?”
“It’s an obstacle called a “fence”, Mom. I lost to a fence.”

And this is where the comedy kicks in. If you think Satoru is backwards in coming forwards, you should try to read his mother’s stone-faced expressions. Whether hereditary or learned behaviour, the inability to communicate certainly runs in the family.

As I declared of AWKWARD SILENCE VOL 1 this has a heart of gold – a marked departure from the decidedly less healthy one-sided yaoi of pervasive power-play, however funny I find some.

Poor Satoru! Keigo’s been called away on a baseball practice weekend. He’s the school team’s captain and his reign has stopped play. Their play. Satoru isn’t jealous that his boyf’s into baseball: he’d filled an entire sketchbook of Keigo on the pitch long before they’d exchanged a word. It’s just that their relationship is young and every second spent apart is spent desperately yearning for the next spent together. Plus Satoru’s not very good at expressing himself at the best of times, let alone on the phone, and he’s anxious lest Keigo didn’t think him enthusiastic enough. See, he didn’t have time to say anything himself because Keigo’s mates had caught him on the mobile and were making a grab for it presuming that Keigo was calling a girlfriend. Yeah, however ideal their relationship seems, they’re not exactly out – this is school, after all!

Now although there is no real wall between them, alas there is a fence. It is physical, it is tall and Satoru failed to scale it the first time round, coming home in bruises. Still, if at first you don’t succeed…

Satoru’s parents aren’t aware of the strength of the boys’ bond, either. They think Satoru really is showing Keigo his sketches. But they both admire Satoru’s resolve to set things right tonight. I’m not convinced that they’d be quite so enthusiastic if they knew what will ensue once he gets there, bless.

“That’s my boy. So dependable… You made the choice and decided to take action quickly. How wonderful.”
“Ah!” beams his Dad. “Her smiling face has returned!”

Not so you’d notice.

SLH

Buy Awkward Silence Vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Ms. Marvel #1 (£2-25, Marvel) by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona.

“Abu?”
“Hmm?”
“Can I go a party tonight?”
“Where?”
“On the waterfront.”
“With boys?”
“Yeah…”
“Very funny.”

Oh, how I love this comic, and particularly its family. Unlike most superhero comics, this is genuinely mainstream with mass appeal. “Abu”, the father, is dead-pan and dry but unlike Jane Austen’s Mr. Bennet (Pride And Prejudice) he is so full of love – as is this comic and author G. Willow Wilson herself.

Starring sixteen-year-old Kamala, an American-born Pakistani, it confounds stereotypes and is instead packed full of genuine individuals like Kamala’s stylish friend Nakia (don’t call her Kiki!), thoroughly modern and savvy yet still proud of her Turkish heritage. For although Kamala can’t go to the party because there will be alcohol, Nakia won’t go to the party because there is alcohol. She knows her own mind, is what I’m saying.

That’s not to say that some of the other cast members don’t fail to see beyond those stereotypes, like over-privileged social butterfly and “concern troll” Zoe.

“Your headscarf is so pretty, Kiki. I love that colour.”
Nakia.”
“But I mean… nobody pressured you to start wearing it, right? Your father or somebody? Nobody’s going to, like, honour kill you? I’m just concerned.”
“Actually, my dad wants me to take it off. He thinks it’s a phase.”
“Really? Wow, cultures are so interesting.”

Kamala thinks Zoe “nice”, “happy” and even “adorable” but she’ll be disabused of that naïve notion before too long. Unlike Nakia, Kamala doesn’t yet know her own mind or other people; and when she sneaks out at night to go to the waterfront the drink which she insists must be alcohol-free is spiked then she’s laughed at. As she stomps off a mist descends and Kamala passes out. She has a vision. And did I mention that she’s ever so slightly obsessed with Avengers? She writes online fan fic and everything!

So from On High through billowing clouds, winged sloths and bobble-hatted doves descend her Holy Trinity of Iron Man, Captain America and Captain Marvel, the blonde goddess Kamala adores. Is she having a religious experience?!

Adrian Alphona’s art is adorable throughout. It’s soft and sweet and full of comedic expressions, but it is on this particular page that he shows his real wit, transposing Iron Man and the couple of Captains gesturing beatifically into a traditional religious tableau complete with scrolling ribbons and… is that a hedgehog giving the victory salute?

“You thought that if you disobeyed your parents – your culture, your religion – your classmates would accept you. What happened instead?”
“They – they laughed at me. Zoe thought that because I snuck out, it was okay for her to make fun of my family. Like, Kamala’s finally seen the light and kicked the dumb inferior brown people and their rules to the curb. But that’s not why I snuck out! It’s not that I think Ammi and Abu are dumb, it’s just – I grew up here! I’m from Jersey not Karachi! I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t know who I’m supposed to be.”

It’s then that the vision of Captain Marvel – Carol Danvers – asks a key question:

“Who do you want to be?”
“Right now? I want to be beautiful and awesome and butt-kicking and less complicated.
“I want to be you.
“Except I would wear the classic, politically incorrect costume and kick butt in giant wedge heels.”

The punchline is hilarious, and if they’re aren’t already shrieks of outraged horror deafening the internet from those who cannot wait, read, or comprehend a comic correctly, I would be very much surprised. Kamala has a lot of growing up to do, and I’m going to love watching her do so.

Like YOUNG AVENGERS and HAWKEYE, this is another fresh face for superhero comics, broadening their appeal through diversity. And I don’t even mean racial, sexual or gender diversity – though that is important too – I mean Willow G. Wilson has brought with her a different voice which is far from “worthily” earnest, but genuine, sympathetic and understanding of young hearts instead.

“Delicious, delicious, infidel meat…”

Mmm… You can’t have everything you want. And you should be careful what you wish for.

SLH

Buy Ms Marvel #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Loki, Agent Of Asgard #1 (£2-25, Marvel) by Al Ewing & Lee Garbett.

“Trust me. I know what I’m doing.”

If Loki is the Norse God of Mischief, then Al Ewing is his British counterpart.

Yay for gratuitous shower scenes! Lee Garbett’s teenage Loki is hot! Also wet. And steamy.

Yay for a pair of Seven League Boots enabling Loki to dash up waterfalls, over rainbows and scale Avengers Tower! Yay for stolen Shadow Thread and Cheshire Cat grins!

And yay for trouble-magnet Clint Barton AKA Hawkeye with his perpetually plastered nose, who can get himself into the unlikeliest of muddles even when playing console games.

“Clint.”
“I know – “
“You have the army after you and no health and you’re falling out of a crashing plane.”
I know, Nat – “
“It’s a bass fishing simulator, Clint.”
I know! It just – it just happens!”

Oh, this is a most worthy successor to Gillen and McKelvie’s YOUNG AVENGERS towards the end of which Loki enjoyed a sudden growth spurt and now wears black nail varnish. Teenagers! Also, like Fraction and Aja’s HAWKEYE, it kicks off right in the middle when it’s already gone horribly wrong with Loki stabbing Thor in the back with a very big energy sword. I thought they were getting along so much better these days?

But if Loki is the God of Lies, Mischief and Deceit, it probably stands to reason that all is not as it seems. For a start, there is the little question of this series’ sub-title, but who precisely is he working for?

This is fast, fresh and funny as hell with plenty of action to boot. Gone is the old, predictable God of Evil with his crooked nose, his goblin eyes and nasty row of teeth. Gone, I say, gone!

Would Al Ewing lie to you?

SLH

Buy Loki, Agent Of Asgard #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Infinity h/c and Infinity vol 1 s/c, vol 2 s/c (£55-99 or £15-99 each, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman with Nick Spencer, Jason Latour & Leinil Frances Yu, Mike Deodato, Jimmy Cheung, more.

“Is it a distress signal? A tracking beacon? A reconnaissance transmission? We need strategy maps for every possibility. And that’s the softer side. Our real concern, big picture – it may not matter what these things are saying… so much as who they’re saying it to.”

“Go back and tell the Avengers – they have not done enough. The machine is not complete. To protect a world you must possess the power to destroy a world. Go now – use words they will understand… They have to get bigger.”

“Hope for the best, Tony. Plan for the worst.”

“If this fleet reaches this system, the next step in human evolution is extinction.”

Holy hell, this is enormous! In scale, in scope and in actuality: I calculate 600 pages at least.

It is also beautiful to behold: Jimmy Cheung has a sheen and shine of his own, there are few artists whose neo-classicism is as dark, brooding and foreboding as Mike Deodato; and as for the core visual creator, Leinil Francis Yu, he has exceeded himself. Enhanced by both inkers and colourists, the lighting on the Skrull portraits and the chiselled cheeks and jaw of Ex Nihilo are glorious. So much work has gone into even those brief moments which are so shown to be far from incidental, but wait until you behold what beckons in space.

 

Scientifically sophisticated and philosophically exceptional for any genre in comics, this blistering, outer-space confrontation and Earth-bound conflagration is an exceptional climax to Hickman’s run, with the promise of much more to come.

He’s been building towards this in AVENGERS VOL 1: AVENGERS WORLD, AVENGERS VOL 2: THE LAST WHITE EVENT AVENGERS VOL 3: INFINITY PRELUDE and NEW AVENGERS VOL 1: EVERYTHING DIES and those titles’ fourth and second volumes, respectively, are incorporated here in the right reading order. It is seamlessly choreographed, even though it is a battle on multiple fronts with inextricably linked subplots.

It’s also incredibly clever once you puzzle out all the pieces. It’s incredibly clever once each strike and counter-strike is thrown in your face. There are some ingenious minds at work here: the fictional tacticians because of the creative minds behind them i.e. writers Hickman with Spencer. And so, here we go:

The biggest permanent assembly of Avengers has been gathered for they know that something is coming.

Meanwhile a covert offshoot, the Illuminati – consisting of the Black Panther, Reed Richards, Iron Man, the Beast, Namor of Atlantis, Black Bolt of the Inhumans and Dr. Stephen Strange – have taken desperate measures to fend off an escalating series of incursions: the intrusion of planet Earth from one parallel universe to another. From up in the sky they descend on a collision course, and there can only be two outcomes: one of those Earths is sacrificed in order to save those universes… or everything dies in both.

The Illuminati are working on it, but this is their dilemma: they want to preserve this Earth that they live on with those they hold dear but, in order to do so, they must destroy another Earth equally as valid as theirs. They must commit global genocide – the obliteration of billions of individual human beings with loved ones of their own – and I’m afraid they have built the weapons to do so. They have already destroyed all but one of the Infinity Gems in the process. And you know who has a history of coveting those Infinity Gems, right?

Meanwhile Black Bolt harbours secrets of his own – a plan he has hatched out with his mad brother Maximus – driving a wedge between him and his wife Medusa. An alien Outrider has been dispatched to steal a secret from Black Bolt’s mind, but that one isn’t it. Nor is it the existence of the Illuminati. Or, really, the destruction of the Infinity Gems. So what secret will cause Thanos to demand, as Tribute of subservience and surrender, the heads of every Inhuman between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two?

What does that death-obsessed demi-god want?

Now: just as the Avengers uncover a cadre of alien, shape-shifting Skrulls on Earth without a single warrior-class member which makes no sense, they receive verified data that a distant Kree moon has been destroyed. It came via an unprecedented Kree distress signal. The Kree don’t do distress or distressed: they do battle. But a force of destruction so massive it blocked out its sun is on the move and every space empire is scrambling. Enemies unite but everything folds in the armada’s inexorable wake.

Extrapolating the trajectory of this universal Armageddon, its target is indisputably Earth.

Captain America rallies the Avengers, newly enhanced with beings so meta that one is the universe herself, and, leaving only Iron Man behind, declares that the only hope mankind has is to take the battle to the stars. To join forces with the Shi’Ar Empire, Skrull Empire, the Kree, the Brood, Annihilus and even that creep of a king from Bendis’ GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY in order to ensure that the armada doesn’t even come close to planet Earth. To head it off before more damage is done. I’m afraid that they lose and lose badly.

And, on the dark, stark starlit moon of Titan, Thanos smiles.

His strategy has worked for the bait has been taken, and the Avengers have just made the most gigantic and appalling tactical error:

“Brothers. sisters. Sharpen your teeth, prepare to consume a great meal. Earth you see… she has no Avengers.”

Collects INFINITY #1-6, current NEW AVENGERS #7-12, current AVENGERS #12-23, and INFINITY INFINITE COMIC #1-2 which were never previously printed at all.

SLH

Buy Infinity h/c and read the Page 45 review here
Buy Infinity s/c vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here
Buy Infinity s/c vol 2 and read the Page 45 review here

Captain America: Living Legend s/c (£9-99, Marvel) by Andy Diggle, Eddie Robson & Adi Granov, Agustin Alessio.

From the writer of the exceptional SNAPSHOT and HELLBLAZER: JOYRIDE, and begun by and the artist on Warren Ellis’ IRON MAN: EXTREMIS, I can assure you that Agustin Alessio doesn’t let the side down. His Siberia, which is where the majority of the story plays itself out, is freezing – you’ve never seen such a pale superhero comic. Or do I mean a war comic? I mean a horror comic.

My favourite page was the exterior shot of the present-day space station as it undergoes a terrifying transmogrification – Adi Granov excels at technology – but it kicks off in April 1945 on the Bavarian Alps with Russian soldiers closing in on a Nazi bunker housing a prize which they seek. America’s after the very same thing and it is a matter of historical fact that they acquired it, if not here: Nazi rocket science via the scientists behind it.

Sergeant Volkov is the most zealous of all, disobeying his critically wounded Captain behind his back in ordering the final, suicidal assault against tanks when they have nothing in their arsenal to penetrate them. Which is where our good Captain comes in: there is a veritable team-up. What happens within the bunker, however, is far from predictable, nor the ramifications in Siberia, Soviet Union 1968. And I don’t just mean scientific ramifications, I mean personal ramifications. Basically, I mean ramifications, a word that now looks weird to me. In 1968 Comrade Volkov is successfully launched into space, but what happens next is classified.

Immediately thereafter for we jump to the present on board a space station experimenting in Dark Energy as a source of free and indeed pollution-free energy for Earth. Which is where the transmogriphication comes in. Whoops.

Cut to Captain America and Sharon Carter aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier Odyssey. The lab has lost orbit, telemetry disappearing somewhere over Siberia. It should have burned up on re-entry but didn’t. Plus there’s no sign of ballistics: the space station was pulled down. Russian troops are mobilising fast and heading in its direction.

Then there’s the emergency signal and a single word transmitted from the space station, a word Captain America has not heard since the Bavarian Alps during WWII: “VOLKOV”.

You can almost feel the hairs on the back of the Captain’s neck stand on end.

SLH

Buy Captain America: Living Legend s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Star Wars Origami s/c (£13-00, Workman) by Chris Alexander…

Ever fancied wowing the Ewoks who live at the bottom of your garden next time you have a barbeque? Or if you need a handy distraction when you get into a confrontation with a bounty hunter at your local cantina? Then this could be the book for you, truly! Learn how to fold paper into Yoda, the Millennium Falcon, Darth Vader, R2-D2 and 32 other galactically astonishing shapes using only the power of the Force… and your hands.

The shapes are ranged into five levels of difficulty from Padawan right up to Jedi Master. A mixture of all your favourite Star Wars characters, weapons such as lightsabers, and pretty much every ship ever flown throughout the entire Empire provide a test for all abilities. Plus there are two fully coloured versions of each shape provided, allowing for at least one Chewbecca style ripped up in rage practice attempt at each. All that remains is for me to say, good luck and May The Folds Be With You…

JR

Buy Star Wars Origami s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 

Just So Happens h/c (£16-99, Jonathan Cape) by Fumio Obata

Fatale vol 4: Pray For Rain (£10-99, Image) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Line Of Fire: Diary Of An Unknown Soldier (August, September 1914) (£10-99, Phoenix Yard Books) by Barroux

Beautiful Darkness h/c (£16-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Jason Vehlmann & Kerascoet

Snowpiercer vol 2: The Explorers h/c (£19-99, Titan) by Benjamin Legrand & Jean-Marc Rochette

In A Flat Land (£5-00, Moon Underground) by Richard Swan

Jane, The Fox & Me h/c (UK Edition) (£15-00, Walker Books) by Britt Fanny & Isabelle Arsenault

Lobster Johnson vol 3: Satan Smells A Rat (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Kevin Nowlan, various

Prophet vol 3: Empire (£10-99, Image) by Brandon Graham & Simon Roy, Giannis Milogiannis, various

Bravest Warriors vol 2 s/c (£10-99, kaboom!) by Joey Comeau & Mike Holmes

Spaceman s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso

Batman: Dark Victory s/c (£18-99, DC) by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale

Constantine vol 1: The Spark And The Flame s/c (£10-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes & Renato Guedes, Fabiano Neves

Flash vol 3: Gorilla Warfare h/c (£18-99, DC) by Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato & various

 

ITEM! Preview of Liz Prince’s FOREVER ALONE (reviewed above) is available on the Top Shelf website!

ITEM! Check out this short comic by NIMONA’s Noelle about the least helfpful comic shops in the world. What a rubbish way to behave! Helping customers sells comics AND IS MUCH MORE FUN! Please ask questions whenever you’re in – that’s what we’re here for!

ITEM! Check out the grey and butter cats by Dan Berry (bottom left). Beautiful use of negative space. Butter, mmm…

ITEM! Preview of Ben Katke’s ZITA THE SPACEGIRL vol 3! Interview too! This series is huge with Younger Readers here – and their parents! Read the reviews for ZITA THE SPACEGIRL and LEGENDS OF ZITA THE SPACEGIRL, always in stock! Please ask me for a show-and-tell next time you’re in.

ITEM! Warren Ellis’ MOON KNIGHT coming to your standing order files any day now because you pre-ordered it. Very wise. You didn’t? Very foolish. Good luck on the shelves.

ITEM! Comic exposing Serco’s practices in Australian Detention Centres. Pretty nasty stuff. Cheers to Neal Curtis for the find.

ITEM! Jodie Paterson’s gorgeous display of intricately handcut images – geckoes, birds, beetles, flowers. I popped down to Nottingham’s Malt Cross on Saturday to see for myself and I beg you to do the same. Astounding work. Go up the stairs, turn left and walk through the door in the wall. “WHERE ELSE WOULD IT BE?!” Err, quite.

ITEM! A bookshelf crammed full of zine heaven!

ITEM! From the creators of one of favourite graphic novels, SKIM, a preview of Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki’s new book THIS ONE SUMMER!

ITEM! This thrillingly violent landscape by Claudia Massie took my breath away!

ITEM! Sally-Anne Hickman’s as-ever entertaining comicbook account of Angoulême

ITEM! Lastly, this! Latest instalment of Paul Duffield’s THE FIRELIGHT ISLE whose design is gorgeous, utilising the scroll-down format to all maximum advantage. It’s my favourite web comic!

*swoon*

- Stephen

Reviews February 2014 week one

February 5th, 2014

Wouldn’t you just die to star in a full page of Terry Moore’s RACHEL RISING? Well, now you can, but I’m afraid that you’ll have to. Die, that is!

Stephen on the Kill Me, Zoe! Competition. Please see our regular news section below!

RASL h/c (£29-99, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith.

Complete, in full colour, with sublime, monochromatic chapter breaks!

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 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 pandimensional 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 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.

£29-99 for all four volumes? This is a steal, but please don’t.

SLH

Buy RASL h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Lost At Sea 10th Anniversary h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

“This is hard to admit but I am terrified of everything.”

Raleigh doesn’t have a soul. A cat stole it – or at least that’s what she tells people – or at least that’s what she would tell people if she told people anything. But that would mean talking to people, and the mere thought of social interaction is terrifying.

“Maybe I’ll waste away. That would be very literary.”

Raleigh accidentally gets invited along on a road trip. Never the biggest socialite in her year she slowly realises, as do they, that it’s an accident that she’s there, in the car, watching the world speed by. Or pretending to be asleep. Sometimes that’s easier, but lying awake in a motel bed is hard.

“All my stupid little thoughts beget stupid little thoughts, rampantly speculating every possible outcome of every possible situation until they’re all done to death and none of them could ever be true.”

Does that sound familiar?

So much will ring bells: the feeling that you’re the only person who thinks they’re fucked up or at the very least clueless. Rudderless. Drifting aimlessly, especially when young. It’ll all make sense in the end.

It’s such a beautiful summer, California doing what it does best, and Ian, Dave and Steph turn out to be good travelling companions. They turn out to be what Raleigh hasn’t had for four years since her best mate left: friends she can actually related to, trust and enjoy.

There’s a fabulous passage which demonstrates this bond during which the four of them catch cats in the middle of the night in the hope that they can find Raleigh’s soul. There are an awful lots of cats: they seem to follow Raleigh everywhere she goes. Each is presented to her in turn, some scrabbling frantically, hilariously, others just hanging limp as Raleigh stares into their big, inky, dilated pupils to see if her soul is inside. Where O’Malley succeeds where others might fail is that Raleigh’s new-found friends take the task seriously: they don’t think she’s crazy or an attention-seeking idiot, nor are they boozed-up or high on drugs. It’s magical.

Gradually Raleigh’s real story unfolds: why she was away from home and what she was doing the moment before the call came through inviting her on the road.

O’Malley’s art ten years ago met at a perfect point in between Andi Watson and early Kochalka and his story is somewhere near those two as well. It’s coloured in a deep salmon pink which makes the blacks look blue – oh wait, they are!

There’s one great panel early on where Raleigh is in the back seat of the car and Bryan’s got the light just right as it fall on her face, as she stares out of the window. More accurately it’s two great big panels set at slightly different angles which would ordinarily form an impossible wide-angled double-page spread, but the gutter in between isolates Raleigh, introspective and mournful, from Steph who is equally lost in her own little world, but it’s a loud one as she belts out a tune, eyes scrunched up, mouth wider than a train tunnel.

And he draws good cats. Bryan draws very good cats. Do you like cats? You will love this!

Includes previously uncollected LOST AT SEA short scenes at the back.

SLH after MAS

Buy Lost At Sea h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Awkward Silence Vol 1 (£8-99, Sublime) by Hinako Takanaga.

“I-I don’t mind… going out with you.”

Hurrah for ringing endorsements!

Against all shy Satoru’s meagre expectations and beyond his wildest daydreams, crush-worthy Keigo – captain of the school baseball team whom he has been doting on for terms at a time – has actually asked Satoru out!

It’s not a trick, a predatory power-play nor a dare. (All three of those have popped their ugly heads up in yaoi before now.) It’s not even a case of “Will they? Won’t they?” which can go on for entire series. Theirs is a genuine, mutual, healthy and wholeheartedly requited love, plus the shy guy gets asked out on page two! It’s just as well since Satoru was never going to be the one doing the pulling.

“Ahh… Why am I… so terrible at sharing my feelings?”

And why am I so late to this series? At the time of typing there are already four books and it’s the most popular yaoi in years! It’s not as if its fanbase – male and female alike – is remotely as reticent as Satoru. I am pestered months in advance for each new volume.

I credit some of its popularity to an empathy with Satoru, not to the extent of vocal paralysis, but in worrying about whether you are adequately expressing yourself, whether you’ve just said the wrong thing so early in a relationship and whether the strength of your love is indeed reciprocated. Clue: here at least, it really, really is and neither of our dreamboats is remotely tempted to stray. The rocky roads come from misunderstandings due to an endearing lack of presumption, a yearning during time spent apart, a little understandable jealousy about others’ attentions, and umm, yes, there is a certain degree of danger from without.

I’m a big fan of the art. It’s neither fey nor flowery and Hinako Takanaga’s body language is adorable especially during the canoodling for Satoru is very willing putty in Keigo’s manly hands but, hey, we have already established the guy is easily embarrassed. (Canoodling is a euphemism, yes.) Takanaga’s also nailed Satoru’s doe-eyed dithering: he does look pretty vacant even though there is a great big butterfly in his stomach and a lot going on in his tufty-haired head.

Brilliant! This is what yaoi should be about: actual love. However, if I have made this sound all-too plain sailing, I can assure you that there is enough dramatic irony to have you on the edge of your seats.

Also on the popularity front: who doesn’t love a dream come true?

SLH

Buy Awkward Silence Vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Weapons Of The Metabarons new edition h/c (£18-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Travis Charest, Zoran Janjetov…

“For a Metabaron, defeat is not an option.
“Victory or death. And if I die in battle, my death will be a triumph!”

Errr… not quite sure how that works, but there’s certainly no doubt the Metabaron with no name is a glass-half-full kinda guy. Still, when you’ve never been defeated by any foe, indeed when no Metabaron has ever been defeated, optimism is bound to be running high. And maybe a smidgeon of high-octane hubris to boot! This time around though, our wandering warrior has a tough task ahead of him if he’s to acquire the four secret weapons that will allow him to drive the reptilian Hulzgeminis back into their own Universe.

It’s been a while since the last new Metabaron material so “Was it worth the wait?” is the big question. For fans of the series almost certainly, as this work picks up right where the others left off, though special mention must be made of Travis Charest’s (and also Zoran Janjetov’s) exquisite and intricately detailed art. It’s hard to comprehend how this is the same artist who used to illustrate Jim Lee’s WILDCATS back in the proverbial day, and it would be remiss of me not to observe that his skills have clearly continued to improve in the interim to a now truly exceptional level.

Those new to the whole Metabaron saga might be a little non-plussed by this work, especially given the somewhat thin nature of Jodorowsky’s plot, but that’s never really been the point with this series in many ways. If this piques your interest though, I do highly recommend the METABARONS ULTIMATE COLLECTED EDITION.

JR

Buy Weapons Of The Metabarons new edition h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Marvel Masterworks: X-Men vol 6 (£18-99, Marvel) by Roy Thomas & Neal Adams with Don Heck.

The first of this title’s golden ages, this reprints #54-66, the final issues of original material before it retreated to reprints then was eventually being cancelled. Low sales. I know, right…? Oh, sales grew almost as soon as Neal Adams came on board with #56 but they had a long way to climb and the course proved too steep.

So why was this a golden age? Neal Adams. It’s really that simple.

After reading the first two issues here, Neal Adams’ very first page with its revolutionary neo-classicism is as startling as if the two-dimensional cartoon characters had come to three-dimensional, photographic life and jumped out of the page to live alongside you.

Whoosh: there’s your foreshortening, propelling your eye across the sky to your right in search of the X-Men’s objective! Whoa, look below! There’s the most enormous Egyptian archaeological dig above which tower gigantic stone statues of ancient Pharaohs set in the rock face behind them! A few feet below you and blasting ahead in their sleek, shallow, futuristic jet, sit the original X-Men: Iceman, Marvel Girl, The Beast leaping up and pointing to the distance excitedly; Cyclops and his newly discovered brother Alex on either side of their captive. But dead in the centre, directly in front of you, right on your eye line and flying through the sky on his very own wings is The Angel. His arms are spread wide to steer his flight path, his stomach is taut, his legs kick up from behind, and as for those wings… they are the wings of a swan!

Check out page 150, top-left-hand panel, and the way those enormous, bright-white wings fold round to the front in order to break in mid-air! There is so much movement here, as Iceman swoops down under the upraised arm of a killer Sentinel, freezing his ice-bridge as fast as he can. Panels lurch vertiginously as characters plummet from the sky. Cyclops braces his muscular back to counter the kick as he lets everything loose, pouring ever ounce of energy he can muster into his optic blast. It’s all so physical: you can feel their struggles!

Flashbacks become psychedelic scenes where all is line and colour, Adams’ rich shadows bleached of black and, as to the covers, I could cry. The composition of #59’s (“Do Or Die, Baby!”) is right up there with Caravaggio’s most famous of the three ‘David With The Head Of Goliath’s – another satisfying rhombus created by Cyclops’ back braced against the right-hand frame, his eye beams blasting diagonally down to the left on the same line of perspective as a Sentinel’s outstretched hand reaches towards Cyclops’ head; the two left-hand Sentinels’ torsos and legs drawing your eye back down to Cyclops’ leg on the left which takes you back up to where you started at his bright yellow crotch.

It should be noted that Don Heck together with Tom Palmer who is correctly credited as “embellisher” rather than mere inker here, do an extraordinary job of imitating Neal Adams in #64, and there are some fascinating colour guides in the back along with black and white pages, an unused cover (shame!) and some later covers for later collections not one of which matches the originals also reproduced here.

So are you curious to learn what happened before the original X-Men were relegated to guest stars in other titles? It’s really quite epic: The Living Monolith, Sentinels, Sauron, Ka-Zar, Magneto, Sunfire and a wholesale alien invasion. Introduces Havok, reprises Polaris and bids you good night.

SLH

Buy Marvel Masterworks: X-Men vol 6 and read the Page 45 review here

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 2: Angela h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli, Francesco Francavilla.

“The Brotherhood of the Badoon!”
“There is a Sisterhood as well.”
“How do you know if this is the Brotherhood or the Sisterhood?”
“I guess one would have to look under their snvarnak.”
“Well, I’m not doing that.”

No, not very lady-like. Certainly not the proper behaviour of an angel from Heven, which must be missing one right now. Neil Gaiman’s Angela is a little off course, but we will get to that momentarily.

Ah, Sara Pichelli! You are aware of Sarah Pichelli, of course? Possibly her highest profile comic so far has been the Miles Morales ULTIMATE COMICS: SPIDER-MAN VOL 1, also written by Bendis, and there I swooned over the subtlety and humanity of her expressions. It’s still the scene I first show anyone new to that title: Miles and his Dad in the park. Highly recommended.

Sara brings a grace and elegance to every page she touches and, here, a great deal of humour and sass. Well, she does have Tony Stark to work with. Also, Thanos. My, but her Thanos is monumental and imposing, looming over Star-Lord like the Titan he is during the private conversation they probably shouldn’t have been having. Not with Thanos’ estranged daughter Gamora on the team, although it will prove vital later on.

Previously on GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 1: please see GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 1.

Now Star-Lord has had a vision. More accurately, he has experienced echoes of a rift in the space-time continuum catalysed by events in the AGE OF ULTRON, and is lucky to be here at all. Less fortunate is Angela, a character created by Neil Gaiman for Todd McFarlane’s SPAWN which Todd McFarlane created after a rift with Marvel over creator rights which he then proceeded to stamp all over. Neil Gaiman took him to court and successfully sued the hypocrite. Jonathan did ask me, “What is Angela even doing in a Marvel Comic?” I would suggest it’s a strain of poetic-justice revenge about as mature as thumbing your nose and sticking your tongue out at someone. I approve!

So Angela is no longer creator-owned but copyright Marvel and has found herself in the Marvel Universe. I don’t really approve of that first bit but this was the ideal opportunity to slip her in here if you were going to do so. There are misunderstandings. Fisticuffs even. Fisticuffs with laser sabres and a Watcher appears. That’s always ominous.

“Her presence here is most concerning.”

I’m not sure which bit of this The Watcher disapproves of.

Anyway, Angela eventually proves a new ally and just in time for Thanos is about to launch himself at Earth for the INIFINITY event and this does tie into it tangentially. The bits on either side are infinitely preferable and dappled with wit, as when Angela goes to Earth, perhaps in search of Heven’s place there.

“You know it’s not really on Earth.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Heaven. It’s not on Earth. That was just some crap Belinda Carlisle tried to sell us to make us feel better about the Go-Go’s breaking up.”

For much more Thanos (background and best-ever appearances, by his original creator), please see WARLOCK BY JIM STARLIN COMPLETE COLLECTION S/C.

SLH

Buy Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 2: Angela h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Warlock By Jim Starlin Complete Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin.

Following his run on CAPTAIN MARVEL in which he created Thanos, the craggy-chin Titan besotted by Death, this is Starlin’s most significant contribution to comics, and one of those rare, enormously satisfying, self-fulfilling time loops.

Never has butterscotch been so attractive as it is on Adam Warlock’s skin. The colour, I mean. Fans of Bryan Talbot’s ADVENTURES OF LUTHER ARKWRIGHT will relish the art as much as the introspection and the adversarial role of The Universal Church of Truth with all the ruthless repression, hypocrisy and indoctrination that comes with our own organised religions. So here we go, the cosmic saga:

Warlock is a star traveller with a Soul Gem which sits on his forehead ready to rip out opponents’ life force like a glistening vampire. But it comes with a cost – a burden of guilt – for very early on Adam comes into contact with The Universal Church Of Truth’s handiwork, learns that it’s headed by The Magus, and discovers that this Magus is his future self corrupted and driven insane by his experiences. From that moment on he sees but one course of action: he has to cauterise the future by terminating his own lifeline before it’s too late. And that’s precisely what he achieves when he’s confronted by a bloody, broken version of himself lying in the ruins of some future battle:

“You… So my time has really come.”
“You know why I am here?! Then you must also realise I’ve no desire to do what I must now do!”
“Of course I understand, you idealistic buffoon! Are not you and I one and the same person? My final moments are upon me! I am dying and you have come to steal my soul so that it will never become the foe I defeated those long months ago!”
“Months… I didn’t realise it had happened such a short time ago!”
“Short time?! You fool, it’s been an eternity! During that time, everything I’ve ever cared for or accomplished has fallen into ruin! Everyone I’ve ever loved now lies dead! My life has been a failure! I welcome its end.”

That takes place approximately one-third of the way through. It’s only then that the rough stuff starts happening and Adam has to endure all that was promised until, in a final battle against Thanos alongside Captain Marvel and the Avengers, Adam Warlock falls, and you see precisely the same scene played out in a new perspective.

It is gutting.

A tonne of extras at the back include the “lost” issue of WARLOCK pencilled by Alan Weiss. I don’t know why I use inverted commas because it was indeed well and truly lost, left like some civil servant’s State Secrets in a New York City taxi cab.

Fortunately embellishing artist Steve Leialoha saved photocopies of those pencils and exceedingly beautiful they are too, easily matching the neo-classical figure work of Jim Starlin who himself is at his very pinnacle on these pages, although they really have made a dog’s dinner of “updating” the colouring on this collected edition’s cover.

Shudders.

Look: much cleaner, much fresher, more impact!

SLH

Buy Warlock By Jim Starlin Complete Collection s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man vol 5 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez.

Love the cover’s homage to John Romita Sr’s classic interior page in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #50!

The insides are pretty gorgeous too: Justin Ponsor provides some delicate, dappled light under the trees in the college park, while David Marquez’s body language shows everyone still tentative around each other a whole year after the catastrophic events in ULTIMATE COMICS: SPIDER-MAN VOL 4.

My review there is entirely spoiler-free, and this one will be brief in order to ensure that stays so, but the fact that an entire year has passed should give you some indication of its severity. I repeat: I never saw it coming.

Guest stars include Gwen Stacy and Jessica Drew, there’s more surreptitious shenanigans in Roxxon’s Laboratories for the Pathologically Unethical, plus Cloak and Dagger make their first Ultimate appearances and dear god but no one here is allowed a moment’s happiness, are they?

Lastly, strong hints about the future post-CATACLYSM are first laid here.

Miles Morales’ tenure as Spider-Man has been every bit as thrilling as Peter Parker’s – so much happens so fast, and implore to start at this fresh beginning with ULTIMATE COMICS: SPIDER-MAN  VOL 1.

SLH

Buy Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 5 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman And Son s/c repackaged edition (£14-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Andy Kubert, J.H. Williams III, Tony S. Daniel.

Softcover edition of BATMAN: BLACK GLOVE DELUXE h/c which was in fact a collection of Both BATMAN & SON and BLACK GLOVE softcovers. Hahahahaha! *thunk*

In any case, this is the starting point of the Grant Morrison run and is ridiculously good value for money.

Batman learns he may have a son, and a fairly brattish one at that. Raised by his mother, Talia al Ghul, amongst international terrorists, he is of course just another weapon in Talia’s silo, and you wouldn’t normally take a ticking time bomb home with you, would you? It’s not good news for Robin (“He was my rival.”), but it does give Alfred further opportunity for arched eyebrows and the odd bon mot.

Then there are the other two Batmen which Bruce has encountered, with a threat of a third later on in the book, tied somehow to the Black Book which Wayne composed of all the weird stuff he’s encountered that he couldn’t logically explain (see BATMAN: BLACK CASEBOOK) Both so far were cops, one berserk on steroids, and there’s a cover-up in progress.

Kubert’s art is some of the most attractive I’ve seen on this title. In some ways he’s a straightforward superhero artist with enormous panache, and so succeeds here in opening up and reinvigorating the tired and murky proceedings, just as Morrison has done with his flash and brash James Bond approach. This isn’t the “difficult” Morrison some enjoy of SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY or INVISIBLES. It’s just as confident, not at all “lite” and certainly not lacking in surprises as evidenced by part seven set in the future, and that grotesque gothic prelude set in Arkham Asylum. Instead, it’s as slick and clipped as an Ellis script, only slightly more reasonable and with room for a little tenderness.

Together, Grant and Andy created something rather sexy but you wait until J.H. Williams III, the Lord Of Innovative Layouts to rival Neal Adams, comes along for what is essentially an Agatha Christie murder spree set on The Island Of Mister Mayhew. For this Grant resurrects yet more arcane Bat-lore, this time involving “Johnny Foreigner” Batman variants (and possibly deviants) from all over the globe.

It’s creepy, claustrophobic, tense and explosive, JH Williams modulating the atmosphere with art styles and homages galore, as the story of The Black Glove unfolds and we hurtle ever forward towards BATMAN: RIP.

SLH

Buy Batman And Son s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Page 45 Tote Bag (£2-99, Page 45) by Mark & Stephen.

Oh, this has come out beautifully – beyond our wildest dreams!

Printed black on calico, and in the richest detail on the sturdiest of soft fabrics, Page 45 presents its 20th Anniversary Tote Bag, a variation on our classic carrier bag design which has long been a fashion statement and status symbol!

It measures 15” across and 16” deep, and I’ve just slipped in forty comics with ease and slung it over my shoulder – nor did it bite into my palm when carried by hand. You could easily fit in another dozen, or a whole bunch of graphic novels.

No one can remember who designed what any longer, though the leaves were definitely Mark’s flourish a few years after we opened. Blown up this large, you can really see the slight bite I couldn’t get rid of at the bottom of the oval, but I rather like it!

The lettering’s been rearranged to form a satisfying composition for these new dimensions, but even I can’t waffle on any longer about something which is basically a bag, so I end with a big tip of the hat to Oversolve for such a pristine print and speedy delivery. Yippee!

SLH

Buy Page 45 Tote Bag and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 

Alone Forever (£7-50, Top Shelf) by Liz Prince

Atomic Sheep (£14-99, Markosia) by Sally Jane Thompson

Pachyderme h/c (£14-99, SelfMadeHero) by Frederik Peeters

Star Wars Origami s/c (£13-00, Workman) by Chris Alexander

Locke & Key vol 6: Alpha & Omega h/c (£22-50, IDW) by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

My Little Pony: Pony Tales vol 2 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by various

Axe Cop vol 5: Axe Cop Gets Married (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Malachai Nicolle & Ethan Nicolle

Sherlock Holmes And The Vampires Of London h/c (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Sylvain Cordurie & Laci, Axel Gonzalbo, Jean-sebastien Rossbach

Mass Effect Foundation vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Mac Walters & Tony Parker, Omar Francia

Blade Of The Immortal vol 28: Raining Chaos (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Hiroaki Samura

Dial H vol 2: Exchange s/c (£12-99, DC) by China Mieville & various

JLA vol 4 s/c (£18-99, DC) by Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, various & Howard Porter, Mark Pajarillo, Walden Wong, Mark Propst

Superman: Family Adventures vol 2 s/c (£9-99, DC) by Franco Baltazar & Art Baltazar

Flash vol 2: Rogues Revolution s/c (£12-99, DC) by Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato & Francis Manapul, Marcus To, Ray McCarthy

The Batman Judge Dredd Collection s/c (£17-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner, Alan Grant & Simon Bisley, Glenn Fabry, Val Semeiks, Cam Kennedy, more

Captain America: Living Legend s/c (£9-99, Marvel) by Andy Diggle & Adi Granov

Infinity h/c (£55-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer, Jason Latour & various

Indestructible Hulk vol 3: S.M.A.S.H. Time (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Matteo Scalera, Kim Jacinto, Mahmud Asrar

Bleach vol 59 (£6-99, Viz) by Tite Kubo

Negima! Omnibus 4: vols 10-12 (£14-99, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

Negima! Omnibus 5: vols 13-15 (£14-99, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

Negima! Omnibus 6: vols 16-18 (£14-99, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

Negima! Omnibus 7: vols 19-21 (£14-99, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

Negima! Omnibus 8: vols 22-24 (£14-99, Kodansha) by Ken Akamatsu

Peepo Choo vol 1 (£9-99, Vertical) by Felipe Smith

 

ITEM! Here’s a reasonable new photo of Page 45: the comedy, young adult and manga sections, anyway. About a tenth of our shop floor. The rest of the graphic novels have been moved around quite dramatically this weekend so that so many more are face-on! If all at disconcerted, please just ask at the counter!

ITEM! Swoonaway New Yorker cover by Tomer Hanuka. The line, light and colour are delicious! Here’s Tomer Hanuka’s website for you to drown in its beauty.

ITEM! More eye-candy: JUST SO HAPPENS coming from Jonathan Cape later this month.

ITEM! SALLY HEATHCOTE, SUFFRAGETTE  by Dr. Mary Talbot & Kate Charlesworth, Dr Bryan Talbot is on its way in May – May 1st to be precise! I’ve read it from cover to cover and it is a belter!

ITEM! Remember all those new creator-owned titles by the likes of Brubaker & Phillips, Gillen & McKelvie and Snyder & Jock announced at the Image Expo this other week? Here’s an interview with Image Publisher Eric Stephenson about the new series, including their covers or at least promo art. Have you notice how much he looks like music god Terry Hall?

ITEM! Craig Conlan’s GHOST CAT’S ABOMINABLE ADVENTURE is a feast of colour. Sunglasses advised.

ITEM! Hourly Comics Day was this Saturday, I think. Creators volunteer to create a comic every hour, on the hour, about that hour. I caught some beauties this year.

Hourly Comics Day 2014 by Dan Berry – scroll down!

Hourly Comics Day 2014 by Rebecca Tobin – scroll down!

Hourly Comics Day 2014 by Sally Jane Thompson – click “next” under each hour!

Hourly Comics Day 2014 by Joe Decie – oh god, I don’t know. Maybe click on the top-left page of the grid, then click on the black space to the right and then click on the next page along and repeat! Worth it, though!

ITEM! The British Comics Awards 2014 is up and running and open for you nominations! You can nominate as many comics and graphic novels as you like and as often as you like, so pop a few in now then more as you discover them! The poor Committee will then have to read every single one. Hahahahahaha!

ITEM! Finally, wouldn’t you just die to star in a full page of Terry Moore’s RACHEL RISING? Well, now you can, but I’m afraid that you’ll have to. Die, that is!

For almost 24 issues young, sweet, innocent Zoe has been murdering the townsfolk in all manner of inventive ways, and now she’ll go for your jugular too.

It’s the Kill me, Zoe, competition!

Here she is on the cover to RACHEL RISING VOL 4: WINTER GRAVES which will arrive shortly and complete the first story arc by taking you right up to and including #24. To avoid having to wait another year for book five you can then launch straight into RACHEL RISING #25 and even pop it on your Page 45 Standing Order so you don’t miss an issue!

Hurrah!

See you on the mortuary slab!

- Stephen

Reviews January 2014 week five

January 29th, 2014

Unlike many a space station full of free-standing stalls, the shopping streets are precisely that: streets with window-fronted shops, raised pavements and everything. This is all so familiar, creating a contrast all the more striking when you peer out of the passenger window to gawp at the sheer majesty of the five-mile-wide energy platform, shining in the night.

 - Stephen on The Fuse #1.

I was so knocked out that there is a rare preview below.

Grey Area: The Old Straight Track (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tim Bird…

“It’s slow going on the M6 too…
“The traffic inches forward like water cutting through rock”

“Bloody traffic.”

Ha ha, who hasn’t thought that! Hard to believe a homage to the great British institution that is the motorway could be, well, so moving if you’ll pardon the pun, but this really is! The veritably poetic narration over the comfortably relaxed black and white artwork gives life to what is, in a certain sense, the very backbone of our modern nation. As the creator Tim Bird tells us above a particular panel showing two signs reading ‘SOUTH M1’ and ‘NORTH M1’, perched one directly above the other, but pointing in polar opposite directions…

“The M1 is biography.”

Quite so, quite so. And yet, it wasn’t always there, our beloved-by-some and much-maligned-by-others motorway network, no. As the creator lyrically points out, in ancient times, before service stations were built on pagan sites, standing stones made small by swathes of electricity pylons, ours was truly a green and pleasant land. You… errr… just couldn’t get anywhere very quickly. This juxtaposition of ancient and present day reaches its very logical conclusion where the A303 joins the A344, and drivers pass right by that most celebrated of druidic monuments, Stonehenge, something which has also personally struck me as strange, almost blasphemous, on the couple of occasions I’ve driven that way myself. If there is another location where the Albion of old and our Great Britain of the present day so incongruously and egregiously overlap, I’m struggling to think of it off the top of my head.

This is such an emotional work, I would have scarcely believed someone could inject such… near baroque romance into such a topic! Our motorways do have a peculiar grandeur all of their own, with all the attendant ever changing dramas that unfold upon their tarmac surfaces day after day, unceasingly. Sometimes it truly is all about the journey and I heartily recommend you let Tim Bird take you along on this one. Just make sure you buckle up safely.

JR

Buy Grey Area Issue Two: The Old Straight Track and read the Page 45 review here

Seasons (£5-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Mike Medaglia…

Four vibrantly illustrated vignettes, each not only pertaining to a season in the meteorological sense, but also in the metaphorical seasons of life. They are actually a beautiful example of how concise need not necessarily be lacking in content or emotional punch, for taken together, these form an endearing and askance look at some of the emotional milestones we will probably all pass by on our journey through life. Some are uplifting, some tinged with slight sadness, but all are poignant, indeed all four scenes produced a smile for completely different reasons, which is probably exactly as intended.

Even the cover art is seasonally themed with a floral flourish and the comic also comes with a beautiful bookmark entitled ‘Stolen Season’ showing a rather bitter-sweet illustrated poem about a passionate love once known and now presumably lost. Aww. Adorned with apt quotations by poets and holy men throughout for added gravitas, including a personal favourite of mine by Sōtō Zen Master Ryōkan on the inside back cover, SEASONS is a pleasure to read from well crafted beginning to end.

Here is a link to an interview with the creator talking about the work http://www.averyhillpublishing.com/articles/seasons-the-movie/

JR

Buy Seasons and read the Page 45 review here

The Festival (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Jazz Greenhill…

“I wanna have a look around.”
“What! Now? It’s still dark!”
“Yeah, it’s late so no one will be around. We can just quickly look.”
“Now?”
“What if there’s like strange people around?”
“We can just quickly look!”
“Mum and Dad would kill us! I’m going back to sleep.”
“Fine! You stay here.”
“Whadya say Rob?”
“Yeah, well.”
“I knew you’d come through.”
“WAIT! I’m not staying here on my own.”

I am sure there are many of you out there who as a child had a sibling or indeed a friend like Ari. You know, the one who always started the trouble you all inevitably ended up in… So, Ari, Rob and their apparently unnamed sister have been taken to a big music festival by their parents. After a typically tedious car journey they’ve finally arrived on the evening before the festival proper, hurriedly pitched their tents in feverish excitement… then promptly been informed by their parents they all need to get a good night’s sleep.

Being energetic kids sharing a tent together, they’re obviously finding it difficult to get to sleep, unlike their weary parents in the adjoining tent, so when Ari decides he’s going to go for a midnight wander, he manages to coerce his reluctant siblings into accompanying him.

I did at this point wonder just how dark this was going to get, but happily whilst our trio have an adventure that does involving encountering acid-tripping geezers stargazing on a hillside and dreadlocked crusties raving it up in a big top, they do make it back unscathed, and perhaps most importantly of all, without their parents ever finding out.

Illustrated in black and white, in a style that made think me a little bit of Gareth Brookes (minus the embroidery) with maybe even the odd touch of Paul Pope here and there in the facial features, this just perfectly reminded me of some of the shenanigans and crazy fun my mates and I used to get up to as kids, when we would camp out in the fields near our houses, then go off wandering around the village in the dead of night. But then when you’re kids, an adventure like covertly sneaking through an entire street of back gardens in the fastest possible time, busting moves like urban ninjas, is simply hedge-hopping. Do it when you’re an adult, you’re likely to have some serious explaining to do to the long arm of the law. Anyway, THE FESTIVAL is a lovely little reminder of the secret (and fun) lives of kids which as time goes by seems more and more like a distant dream now. Read it and be transported back to when the only thing you really had to worry was your parents grounding you, cracking stuff.

JR

Buy The Festival and read the Page 45 review here

The Megatherium Club vol 1: The Great Ape (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Owen D. Pomery…

“If you reprobates have any scientific faculties whatsoever, you shall go forth and find this ‘yeti’ or at least the proof thereof. Succeed and I continue to tolerate The Megatherium Club under my roof, fail and this ‘gin, taxidermy and fucking about group’ will have to grace some other poor bastard’s premises.”
“Where…?”
“Fucked if I know, or indeed care!”
“You Sir, shall have your proof of the yeti in your very hands within a week, or my name is not William Simpson!”
“Yeah, it’ll be easy you nob!”

Sometimes, puerile is good. Sometimes… it’s very, very good. At first glance, I wasn’t entirely sure about the art style, but I quickly realised the faux woodcut effect is merely a vehicle for some uproarious lampoonery of the gentlemen explorers’ clubs of yesterday. The Megatherium Club (1857 – 1866) love nothing more than being louche wastrels at the heavily subsidised expense of the Smithsonian Institute. Exploring is all well and good, but holding forth after several decanters of vintage port is considerably less taxing and thus altogether more agreeable.

Alackaday, however, because Smithsonian custodian Joseph Henry has had enough of their juvenile antics, not to mention their repeated efforts to try to and cop off with his two daughters. Thus he’s issued them a challenge to mount an expedition worthy of scientific merit, to prove the existence of the yeti, which obviously he’s pretty sure they’re not going to be able to manage, or face eviction from their cushy number at the Institute.

The redoubtable members of the club aren’t going to go down without at least talking a good fight, though, and decide to split themselves into two distinct groups as they answer the clarion call to action. I’ll let the members themselves regale you with their plans…

“The yeti DOES indeed exist, in these very hills, and I will find him and skin him! Lock ‘n’ fuckin’ load!”
The second opinion was offered by Stimpson, eager to find a practical solution to the problem he had created…
“…Er… has anyone got a spare yeti costume and a camera?”

As I said, puerile, but very very good!

JR

Buy The Megatherium Club vol 1: The Great Ape and read the Page 45 review here

Empire Of The Dead #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by George A. Romero & Alex Maleev.

An original zombie comic by George A. Romero himself!

As in, he really did write this and did so for comics. I’ve no idea if it contains original ideas: outside of the successfully satirical NEW DEADWARDIANS, I’ve never read a zombie comic before, not even WALKING DEAD – which is shocking behaviour, I know! But since Dominique and Jonathan lap the series up, as did Mark and Tom before them, I don’t have to. I can’t read everything, let alone review it all, otherwise I’d have no time for prose!

I rather liked this, though, not least because of SCARLET’s Alex Maleev. It’s perpetually twilight or at least a deep-red sunset here, even mid-afternoon. His shadow-strewn cityscapes and downright dirty textures are perfect for a New York infested with blood-caked shamblers, where even rat meat is a black-marketeer’s pay packet. Picnics in Central Park are a thing of the past, although the rich do enjoy their private booths at the Circus Maximus Arena where they glory in zombies biting several shades of shit out of each other. Look, there’s the Mayor now along with his son who’s more intent on seducing a society belle. Zombies aren’t the only predators: we’ve always been pretty good at that ourselves.

Interestingly the lumbering ones with appalling dental hygiene aren’t forever on the prowl for fresh flesh. Some are municipally minded:

“This stinker is smarter than average.”
“Because he’s sweeping the sidewalk? Remembered behaviour. Now if he was playing chess…”
“Zombies can’t play chess.”
“There might be one out there who can. That’s the one I’m looking for.”

That’s Dr. Penny Jones from Columbia University being escorted round the city by Paul Barnum, himself under the protection of an off-duty SWAT team assigned to him by the Mayor. The Mayor, as I say, likes his own private performances at the Arena, and Barnum supplies the combatants. A couple of weeks ago Barnum lost an officer – a woman called Frances Xavier – bitten by a stinker and presumed dead. She’s not. She’s not playing chess, either, but nor is she entirely brain-dead…

The tension is terrific, not least because Jones and Barnum spend the first quarter of the comic observing the stinkers’ surprisingly passive behaviour mostly from afar, Romero wisely leaving the sudden surges until later, while Maleev shows the SWAT team continually looking over their shoulders left, right and even upwards in case they’re assaulted from above.

Unwisely, I suspect, Dr. Jones finds later herself on the Mayor’s radar after spying on his private box at the Arena through binoculars. She singles his son out for his curious dress sense but all will become a great deal clearer down in the subway. And Maleev’s subway is absolutely terrific, although his knock-out number is the double-page spread of what’s become of Central Park.

Meanwhile back at Battery Park, Dr. Jones gets a taste of what she’s searching for.

“You said they couldn’t do that.”
“I said they couldn’t play chess. That’s only checkers.”

SLH

Buy Empire Of The Dead #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Young Avengers vol 2: Alternative Culture s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie with Mike Norton, Kate Brown.

This is a book about breakfasts. It really is.

These Avengers are young and they are hungry. For adventure, yes, but also breakfast. And lunch. And supper. Led there by Loki, Norse God of Mischief, they spend so long in that diner it’s virtually their secret HQ. They’ll be voting in new members there next – new members like Prodigy. He knows stuff like where to find them: in the diner.

It’s also a book about love: about current boyfriends and rejected, dejected ex-girlfriends: “Hel hath no fury” etc. You’ll be meeting an awful lot of them, because the awful lot are in a meeting and Hulkling’s been invited. He’s in therapy, see.

He loves his boyfriend Billy very much indeed, but Billy is a reality warper. Such is his power that Billy/Wiccan brought Teddy/Hulkling’s mother back from the dead. More precisely, he swiped a version of Teddy’s mum from another dimension in which she hadn’t died. Or at least he thought he had but it proved a mistake and now they’re in a great deal of trouble. My point, however, is that Teddy’s got the idea into his head that Billy could be warping reality to make Teddy love him. I wonder who could have put it there?

There are revelations galore in this second of three books, including who is manipulating whom and it’s not as obvious as it looks, I assure you. You’ll have to read carefully, though; this is a series which demands and rewards it.

One revelation you’ll have to wait for is the identity and purpose of the new Patriot (the first Patriot used to lead this team), discovered by Prodigy in a warehouse where he works alongside Wiccan’s brother Speed. This ghostly manifestation appears hobbled and hunched like a zombie, yet he/she/it abducts lightning-fast Speed as if he were a tortoise in treacle. He leaves little more behind him than a puff of white smoke and a bunch of cryptic proclamations.

Which brings us full circle to Prodigy waiting for our friends in the diner. It’s also what propels the second volume: the search for Speed. It’s all connected, but how?

The art for that first chapter comes courtesy of FISH + CHOCOLATE’s Kate Brown. Her gleeful body language is a hoot and she plays the dour and doubtful Prodigy off against the hyperactive, shouty-shouty, up-for-anything Speed to perfection. Her line is much softer than McKelvie’s, the resulting forms more malleable yet I couldn’t imagine a more in-synch substitute, at least until Emma Vieceli’s oh-so sexy pages in volume three. The teenage proportions complement Jamie’s to perfection.

As to McKelvie himself, there are yet more innovative page layouts, a lot of glass shards, and Mother’s own alien dimension is, as in YOUNG AVENGERS VOL 1, a feast of thrilling new special effects while Matthew Wilson contrasts the brightly coloured characters with the crisp, white vacuum of their surroundings. This suggests infinite space (up and down too), into which McKelvie has inserted artfully arranged, geometrical wonders which play with empty panels and some tentacles of doom. All still using white space. You’ll see, but basically this: you’re not in Kansas anymore.

The visual star of the show, however, remains young Loki’s face. His expressions are to die for: gutted by a misordered plate of pancakes, furious at being proved right and “whoops” when it all goes wrong:

“You probably shouldn’t have seen that.”

Just like Jamie’s fashion sense, Gillen’s wit is thoroughly contemporary, whether it’s the language or the circumstances in which that language is employed. One of the funniest pages is a one-page, nine-panel pastiche of a Facebook/Twitter hybrid which I cannot quote here for it requires a certain degree of context, but it involves the cast members taking time out (and thereby indicating the passage of time) to communicate through online social media. There is a great deal of pic-tweeting, unfriending and reporting each other for spam. Specifically there is smooching, and Loki dislikes that a lot. Like any seeming 9-year-old, he doesn’t like anything icky, body fluids in particular.

“Conversations about saliva are henceforth out of bounds until I have breakfast before me! Can’t this spaceship go any faster? Breakfast! Give me breakfast! The Norse God of Mischief craves the congress of breakfast meat!”

Vegetarians will cry.

SLH

Buy Young Avengers vol 2: Alternative Culture s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Superior Spider-Man vol 4: Necessary Evil s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Ryan Stegman, Giuseppe Camuncoli.

The premise for SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN is relatively simple but its execution has proved surprisingly thorough: in SPIDER-MAN: DYING WISH one of Spider-Man’s oldest, ugliest foes, mop-topped minger Otto Octavius PhD, finally won the day by switching his consciousness with Peter Parker’s just before his own body expired.

Dr. Octopus has made maximum use of this fitter new body and inflicted maximum abuse on both Spider-Man’s villains and Peter’s own family and friends. He’s been very resourceful, and so it proves here as Peter’s employer, Horizon Labs, comes under temporal assault when they attempt to shake off a corporate take-over by Peter’s old friend Liz Allan (once married to Norman Osborn’s son and now with one of her own) and Tiberius Stone, Horizon Labs’ ex-employee and past saboteur. Cue Spider-Man 2099 comin’ atcha and possibly here to stay.

It’s complicated to describe here, but perfectly clear if you read the book itself, revel in its fireball, nail-biting, game-changing climax so well illustrated in all its time-bubble, eye-popping glory by Ryan Stegman, and then move on to part two involving one of Dr. Octopus’ old flames, newly rekindled, who believes he was killed by Spider-Man. Oh.

This is proceeding at a cracking pace and I can finally confirm that this series will be six volumes long before Peter finally wrestles his way back through Marvels’ revolving death’s-door, as was corporately inevitable. Make no mistake, though: for once this has been no mere gimmick and the journey has proved thoroughly entertaining, rammed to the rafters with dramatic irony and “Why didn’t Peter do that?” Plus I wonder what Peter will finally come back to? He can’t explain these months away to everyone: not everyone knows he is Spider-Man!

Two people do: Forensics Officer Carlie Cooper whom Peter once attempted to date with all the suave sophistication of a highly conflicted and emergency-afflicted Alice-In-Wonderland White Rabbit (it went tits-up, yeah) and Police Officer Yuri Someone-Or-Other AKA The Wraith. Suspicious of this supposedly superior Spider-Man with his bottomless resources and knowing that Peter was broke, they are following the money trail. Unfortunately Carlie is being followed by somebody else.

And, all this while, the Green Goblin lies in wait, biding his time and building…

Next: Venom. Then finally: the Green Goblin.

If Peter survived, then how? P.S. I DON’T KNOW!

SLH

Buy Superior Spider-Man vol 4: Necessary Evil s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Preview:

The Fuse is out on 12th February 2014. CAN WE HAVE YOUR PRE-ORDERS, PLEASE!

The Fuse #1 (£2-75, Image) by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood.

“Only two kinds of police volunteer for The Fuse. Guys who are fucked back on Earth and guys who are fucked back on Earth!”

Do you think Dietrich is fucked back on Earth?

From the writer of WASTELAND, UMBRAL and THE COLDEST CITY!

On paper Klem’s new partner in The Fuse’s Homicide Department is a catch. Aged 28 with a 75% clearance over three years in Munich, he would be shooting up the ranks back on Earth. So why has he volunteered for an understaffed police department in an underfunded, patched-up, makeshift steel city on an energy platform orbiting 22,000 miles above terra firma? We don’t know yet. Nor do we know when he’ll finally make friends with veteran Klem.

“Short for “Klementina”. You assumed I’d be a guy.”
“I assumed you would not be old enough to retire.”
“And I assumed you would be too old for High School.”

For a German, Dietrich can sure hold his own in a sharp-tongued bout of American verbal sabres. Let’s see how good he is at being thrown in at the deep end when a cabler – one of The Fuse’s homeless – staggers out of the darkness and falls dead in front of him. In her pocket are a phone card which cablers don’t use and an electronic card for a shuttleport locker which cablers can’t afford.

It’s a fast and frantic first issue, perfectly paced, which made me scour every inch of every panel for clues, for details: I couldn’t help myself. As for those details I loved them.

Aside from the term “cabler” which will no doubt prove contextual, there wasn’t a single piece of the neologistic slang which always make me wince. Nor was there much in the way of futuristic design for the sake of it. The space shuttle interior was identical to a regular passenger aircraft’s. Why wouldn’t it be? We’ve already spent decades perfecting its functionality and design. The only difference is in docking: passengers are advised to be awake when the airlock’s thrown open or they’re likely to throw up.

Similarly, unlike many a space station full of free-standing stalls, the shopping streets are precisely that: streets with window-fronted shops, raised pavements and everything. This is all so familiar, creating a contrast all the more striking when you peer out of the passenger window to gawp at the sheer majesty of the five-mile-wide energy platform, shining in the night.

Justin Greenwood and colourist Shari Chankhamma have made the most of that moment, just as Justin makes the most of the crowd scenes and different physicalities: handsome, sprightly, dark-skinned Dietrich partnered with silver-haired, duty-worn Klem who has evidently seen so little sunlight of late that she is virtually an albino.

Let’s not forget another of Johnston’s passions: design. This is a classily designed comic whose cover doubles as a quick lesson in orbital physics.

SLH

Buy The Fuse # 1 and read the Page 45 review here

For more on THE FUSE, please see the ITEM!s below the following list…

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 

Lost At Sea h/c (£18-99, Oni) by Bryan Lee O’Malley

RASL h/c (£29-99, Cartoon Books) by Jeff Smith

I Want My Hat Back s/c (£6-99, Walker Books) by Jon Klassen

Snowpiercer vol 1: The Escape h/c (£14-99, Random House / Vertical) by Lob & Jean-Marc Rochette

Green Lantern – New Guardians vol 2: Beyond Hope s/c (£10-99, DC) by Antony Bedard & Tyler Kirkham

Green Lantern – New Guardians vol 3: Love & Death h/c (£18-99, DC) by Antony Bedard & Aaron Kuder

Justice League Dark vol 3: Death Of Magic s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes & Mikel Janin

The Unwritten vol 8: Orpheus In The Underworlds (£12-99, DC) by Mike Carey & Peter Gorss, Dean Ormston, Yuko Shimizu

Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 2: Angela h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli, Francesco Francavilla

Marvel Masterworks: X-Men vol 6 (£18-99, Marvel) by Neal Adams, various

Superior Carnage s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Kevin Shinick & Stephen Segovia, Clayton Crain

Thunderbolts vol 3: Infinity s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by various

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 5 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli

Warlock By Jim Starlin Complete Collection s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin

Akira vol 4 (£19-99, Kodansha) by Katsuhiro Otomo

Attack On Titan vol 11 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

Bokurano Ours vol 10 (£9-99, Viz) by Mohiro Kitoh

Black Butler vol 16 (£9-99, Yen) by Yana Toboso

Deflower The Boss (£9-99, June) by Ayan Sakuragi

Durarara!! Saika vol 3 (£9-99, Yen) by Ryohgo Narita & Akiyo Satorigi

Gantz vol 30 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Soul Eater vol 18 (£9-99, Yen) by Atsushi Ohkubo

Assassin’s Creed: Brahman s/c (£14-99, Ubi Workshop) by Karl Kerschl, Brendan Fletcher & Karl Kerschl, Cameron Stewart

 

ITEM! Extraordinary design and breath-taking panels! Preview of THE MOTHERLESS OVEN by Rob Davis and I cannot bloody wait. Rob Davis was the mastermind behind British Comics Awards winner NELSON and the oh-so sublime DON QUIXOTE adaptation. The man is in possession of a powerful wit.

ITEM! Speaking of exceptional, I have just read the whole of THE FUSE #1 by Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood! Yowsa! So impressed I previewed it, above. Plenty of previews on THE FUSE tumblr.

ITEM! Interview with Eddie Campbell about his ALEC OMNIBUS which I still declare “the single finest body of work in comics”. You’ll see his diary/notebook for The King Canute Crowd segment alone, and it is virtually cylindrical after all the extra observations he stapled in. Never seen that before! Also: his own reasons for working in a 9-panel grid. Clever! So anyway: Eddie Campbell interviewed for Bleeding Cool.

ITEM! Holy moley will you look at this art book? If you’re into tech, mechs and orgasmic sci-fi scenarios then this by Ian McQue is a thriller. I know for a fact that Duncan Fegredo and Sean Phillips both ordered copies for themselves.

ITEM! Ian McQue also promoted these sterling sci-fi beauties by Theo Prins (whom I confess I have never heard of). I’m still studying them.

ITEM! Have I already run this item? I may have already run this item. Two covers (scroll down for the second, my favourite) for The New Yorker by Chris Ware.

ITEM! GENESIS by Nathan Edmondson and Alison Sampson looks amazing. And when I say it looks amazing, I’ve seen the whole thing: it is amazing! You can pre-order the GENESIS one-shot here. Please do: it’s a one-shot so you’ll only get one shot at it – there will never be a collection.

ITEM! Subtle and fascinating! BAD MACHINERY’s John Allison (we have so much more! Pop him in our search engine!) revisits an old page from five years ago and inks a panel from it with his current sensibility, then analyses the differences. Anyway, yes, fascinating hindsight process piece by John Allison.

ITEM! Jonathan discovered this: a map of the London Underground in 1914 as seen from above and envisaged as a Medieval walled town! Such exquisite colours and design!

ITEM! Sally Jane Thompson goes from strength to strength. This is her tumblr now.

ITEM! And our own Jodie Paterson is creating the most beautiful images of foxes and goldfish etc here. Please beg her to create a comic about them!

ITEM! Comics for kids should never be sexualised. I think this is incontrovertibly self-evident and, at seven words long, reasonably succinct. A retailer shouts out about the sexualisation of a POWERPUFF GIRLS cover – hurrah! – but does so in the longest-winded way possible.

- Stephen

Reviews January 2014 week four

January 22nd, 2014

Yet more yaoi that is wrong, wrong wrong!

Is it wrong for young men to canoodle? It is not! It is wrong for old men to canoodle? Don’t be so daft! Canoodling is cool, whoever is at it. Apart from your parents, obviously. Ewww.

 - Stephen on Lies Are A Gentleman’s Manners.

Jane, The Fox & Me h/c (£14-99, Groundwood) by Britt Fanny & Isabelle Arsenault.

“There was no possibility of hiding anywhere today.”

That opening sentence is a belter. The one word “today” is weighted with implication: of all the many days during which Hélène had hoped to hide, and all the many hours spent dreading each day that she can’t.

So many adults will remember them well, while many still at school will recognise this as an awful, terrifying, daily endurance test for which they revise far more thoroughly than any academic exam – in advance, in excruciating detail; over and over in their heads.

This cold, bleak and solitary existence is reflected in the predominantly monotone art, on the very first page of hard concrete and empty space before zooming in on the featureless, open playground (with no cover, no colour) where no one’s at play. They are ambling idly on their own or huddled in groups, waiting for their next victim. There’s a panel of them on the third page, empty shapes against a raw, black background, laughing like hyenas in the dark.

 

It wasn’t always this way. At one point Hélène was well-in with Geneviève, Anne-Julie, Chloé and Sarah, sharing their crush on crinoline dresses which were oh so very much the in-thing. They bought them at vintage stores, picking out the prettiest even though they smelled of mothballs. Well, Hélène didn’t. Hélène couldn’t: they cost money. But eventually, late one night, her loving mother stayed up late in the laundry room after having completed so many other domestic tasks and she made Hélène a dress of her very own, fresh and free from the whiff of mothballs. Hélène knows how weary her mother must have been.

“I imagine her running out of thread just before she’d done. I imagine her having to change the bobbin… and threading the needle for the twentieth time… saying to herself out loud so just maybe someone will hear her, even though by now everyone’s in bed, “I’m so tired I could die.””

It was, alas, that very dress which proved our narrator’s undoing.

And, you know, there are worse things than being laughed at behind your back. The worst is when the sniggering bullies do it right in front of you, gathering together just to one side, in groups or in pairs, then deliberately catching your eye so that you know they are bitching about you. Perhaps they have stood there waiting for you to spot the graffiti they’ve scrawled on the walls of a toilet cubicle: “Hélène weighs 216!” “She smells like B.O.!” Imagine being trapped on a bus with them, sitting alone, trying to look busy with a book but reading few lines because instead your head is filled with their intentionally just-loud-enough snipes.

Britt Fanny nails the way we self-conscious outsiders try not to look lonely or left-out: by busying ourselves reading or pretending to look for something important in our bags. Meanwhile Isabelle Arsenault time after time shows Hélène alone, surrounded by space, either in fact or out her depth in her mind. There are lots of lovely expressionistic flourishes like that: the sudden explosion of lush foliage behind a stark city bench as she sits with her mother eating an ice cream. A respite. Bliss.

There are also bursts of colour as Hélène immerses herself in Charlotte Brönte’s Jane Eyre from which she takes comfort and from which, later on, she is in danger of drawing the wrong conclusions. Alas, Hélène has already drawn all the wrong conclusions from the escalating jibes about her weight.

“Geneviève announces in her pinched voice for all to hear, “I stuck a fork in your butt, but you’re so fat you didn’t feel a thing!!” As everyone turns to look at me, the world – even the air itself – jerks to a standstill.
“My heart stops. And waits.
“For anything. Rescue. Reinforcements. The end of the world with any luck.”

As to the conclusions drawn…

“We ate with spoons this morning. But I can’t help wonder, I’ll wonder for the longest time, if Geneviève really did what she said.”

You may have noticed from the start that Arsenault’s depiction of Hélène is at odds with her brainwashed conviction that she is nothing but “a big fat sausage”. She never acts on her impulses, she never speaks her thoughts. For most of the book Hélène never speaks at all – to anyone. She has been effectively silenced, suffocated, paralysed. Will everyone always look away when she’s picked on? Is she doomed to her solitary silence, all drab and grey?

Well, there is the fox…

It’s an enormous powerful book, so attractively, vibrantly drawn. Arsenault’s trees bend beautifully, reaching for the sky. Her foliage is ever so lush, even in black, white and grey, occasionally putting me in mind of Tove Jansson’s very first MOOMIN book, THE MOOMINS AND THE GREAT FLOOD – you can even see it on Tove Jansson’s cover! And, oh, when the colour kicks in!

While reading this I hadn’t thought of it as a children’s book: I was thinking of it selling to those who bought the likes of SUSCEPTIBLE by Geneviève Castrée, and I’m positive it will. But as a graphic novel for Young Adults right into their teens I know it will resonate as sympathetically as Hope Larson’s CHIGGERS.

A big tip of the hat to NOW AND THEN’s Sally Jane Thompson for recommending this to me. We like to think we’ve been pretty thorough at spotting the very best books in advance over the last twenty years, but everyone needs a nudge now and then and I’m so enormously grateful to Sally!

SLH

Buy Jane, The Fox & Me h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Chloe Noonan #4.5 (£2-99, Great Beast) by Marc Ellerby.

Signed and limited to 200 copies worldwide, Page 45 had been lucky enough to secure 25, two of which have the most glorious colour sketches in them!

You will have to hunt for those on the shop floor: if you receive one by mail order it has been selected purely at random. It’s possible, though!

This is the best NOONAN nonsense so far, but just as ELLERBISMS’ Marc Ellerby was at great pains to be candid with me (bless ‘im), I warn you right now that this is just 12 pages long with 8 pages of comicbook content. It’s quality over quantity, though, and it boasts a brilliant back cover in full vibrant colour by THE SNOW QUEEN’s Isabel Greenberg who was responsible for my favourite graphic novel of 2013, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH. It may be Isabel’s only contemporary scene so far – complete with a very British, bright-red pillar box – but of course there is snow. Of course!

I would be a fool to give too much away about an eight-page short story, but I will tell you that it is immaculately choreographed with Zoe and Chloe appearing in almost every single panel together. Is this important? Of course it’s important! A conversation isn’t just “he said” and then “she said” or even “she shouted” “making her sigh from the deepest pits of her deeply despairing heart” – it’s about the relationship between the two as they do so.

(That’d be a top tip for new comicbook creators, then: show your characters interacting within the same panel more often, please!)

Also, Chloe and Zoe have a very physical relationship. In a completely different style but just like Dan Berry, Marc has mastered the movement. WOOSH! Indeed. Nor are there many artists whose line is so sharp and precise who can still make it an organic joy. Great grey tones too, giving a superb sense of depth.

“Oh dear God, Stephen, will you at least throw us a crumb? Anything at all!”

It’s “Chloe Noonan: monster hunter” turned “Chloe Noon: monster sitter”. The monster in this case being Zoe who should never have been allowed anywhere near the SUGAR-BUZZ PICK’N’MIX!

The Professor is away at a conference. Chloe needs to feed his captive monsters; Zoe evidently needs to stuff her silly face with Haribo Tangfastics. Dubstep is virtually inevitable.

“Ugh. Asda on a Saturday morning. I may have met my match.”

SLH

Buy Chloe Noonan #4.5 and read the Page 45 review here

The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde vol 3: The Birthday Of The Infanta s/c (£6-99, NBM) by P. Craig Russell.

“The ugliness of the dwarf is almost ostentatious… he would show much better taste if he looked sad.”

With this, the reprints are complete! All five of P. Craig Russell’s adaptations of Oscar Wilde’s socially scathing yet coruscating Fairy Tales – including the immaculately articulated HAPPY PRINCE – are freely available to make you beam at their splendour while giving you much pause for thought. You can find them in our Literary Adaptations.

Though fond of much finery himself, Wilde’s themes included the over-indulgence of the rich, mindless of the suffering on the poor; crafted opulence versus the beauty of nature; manners and the mannered in lieu of honesty, kindness and genuine good will; pomposity, self-regard and self-aggrandisement through the belittling of others on grounds that are always absurd. Birds and roses seem to feature quite heavily too.

So today is the twelfth birthday of the beautiful Infanta, the Princess of Spain, and what a splendid day it shall be! There will be music and dancing and performances galore! A bear in chains and Barbary Apes firing off guns and parading like soldiers with swords. The little children even enact a bullfight, right to the throat-slitting end!

“On ordinary says she was only allowed to play with children of her own rank… so she played alone. But her birthday was an exception… She walked slowly down the steps towards the garden, the other children following in strict order of precedence, those who had the longest names going first.”

Best of all, however, is the hideous, hunchbacked, young dwarf, newly bought from his father (who was glad to be rid of him), waddling around on his crooked legs. Oh, how they all shrieked with delight!

“Perhaps the most amusing thing about him was his complete unconsciousness of his own grotesque appearance. Indeed he seemed quite happy and full of the highest spirits. When the children laughed, he laughed as joyously and as any one of them, and freely.”

He revels in their joy and the knowledge he was perhaps responsible for it. But his day is made when the Infanta throws him the perfect white rose from her hair. She only did it in jest, and to tease her cold, sanctimonious guardians. It was a very funny thing to do!

But during the siesta before his second, hastily scheduled performance, the young man takes it completely to heart, imagining their life together in the forest where they could dance and play surrounded by nature, he standing guard outside her bedroom window at night, protecting her from the wolves. He understands her; she would be free and delighted. What a fabulous future!

With all the courtiers asleep he is left to wander round the palace alone, exploring the chapel, the throne room and more… before encountering his first-ever mirror.

SLH

Buy The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde vol 3: The Birthday Of The Infanta s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Ten Grand vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by J. Michael Straczynski & Ben Templesmith, C.P. Smith…

“I try to tell myself it was just a dream. Laura’s safe on the other side of the veil. But I taste the ash of the lie even as I try to swallow it.
“Since I signed up for this job, I don’t get normal dreams anymore. The only dreams I get are those that mean something. And I know in my heart that this one…
“… this one means something real bad.”

Amazing how many people will pick something up purely on the strength of Ben Templesmith’s name alone. Which is fair enough, he is an excellent artist and his style certainly complements the story J. Michael Straczynski has come up with here.

Former mob heavy Joe Fitzgerald, having sold his soul to an angelic force, whilst dying in the aftermath of a demonic attack that killed his wife Laura, when his ‘I promise you honey this is my last job and I’m out’ target turned out to have quite a bit more literal firepower backing him up than Joe expected, now finds himself in the service of an apparently higher power. He’s still undertaking missions of a very dubious moral nature, mind you, but now instead of money it’s for the heartrending reward that every time he dies in the service of the cause, he’ll get five minutes with Laura before he is forcibly resurrected once more. But is that arrangement exactly what it seems?

To pay for his earthly needs, however, Joe obviously requires hard cash as well, so he also takes bizarre and supernatural-related cases as a private investigator, always for a flat fee of ten grand, which is sufficient to put off the timewasters and nutjobs, leaving merely the desperate. One particular case put forward by the sister of a missing girl who has got involved with a cult called Divine Will seemingly touches Joe’s altruistic side, as he offers to take the job for free. In actual fact, he’s more than a little disturbed by the fact he knows he put a bullet in the cult leader’s head himself two years ago. Oh, and that he’s the man who killed Joe’s wife…

I am enjoying TEN GRAND, I must say: it is a title I am reading issue by issue as it comes out. Yes, whenever there are demons and angels involved it can all be a little ‘the higher powers of good versus evil’, but rest assured there are plenty of devious sub-plots, copious smoke and mirrors, plus more than a dash of ‘maybe all’s not as it seems misdirection’ going on that’s keeping TEN GRAND rather interesting, so far at least. It’s got a not dissimilar feel to certain arcs of HELLBLAZER, I suppose, and Straczynski has some previous supernatural form with MIDNIGHT NATION which was so enjoyable and different at the time that our Mark adored it. The dialogue is excellent, rather amusing as well as macabre in places, though one would expect no less from as slick a writer than Straczynski.

Overall it is a very solid horror / thriller book, illustrated in exceptional fashion. I should also add that C.P. Smith, who takes over from Templesmith after four issues, is equally fantastic, and to my eye is a blend of Templesmith and Fraser Irving, which is perfect for this book. It’s not a jarring change of art style at all and in fact works extremely well in terms of the context of the plot at that point…

JR

Buy Ten Grand vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Lies Are A Gentleman’s Manners (£9-99, DMP) by Marta Matsuo.

Yet more yaoi that is wrong, wrong wrong!

Is it wrong for young men to canoodle? It is not! It is wrong for old men to canoodle? Don’t be so daft! Canoodling is cool, whoever is at it. Apart from your parents, obviously. Ewww.

It’s not even wrong to get your danglers out (preferably in private) and give your friend a helping hand.

No, what is wrong with so much of this hot-boy-on-boy action is that the relationships are generally so screwed up you could pop even the wettest of coal on top and still light a fire successfully. This, however, takes the soggy biscuit while potentially hitting upon a thrill-seeker’s truth and it is to my complete shame that I found it very, very funny.

Most of this book centres upon a preening professor and his penchant for one particular college student who really isn’t very interested although he has been caught stealing drugs from the campus medical supplies and selling them to those needing to stay up all night to meet deadlines. The professor has him over a barrel. And over a desk but anyway.

Wait, however, until you get to the flashback catalysed by a letter the professor receives in the post. It sets him reminiscing about a summer during which he visited an ex-flame called Daniel and Daniel’s new wife Stephanie. I should point out that Professor Paul is also married to a woman called Judy. Details, details, it seems. Polo practice proves thirsty work for Professor Paul but thankfully there’s a stable boy waiting in the wings with refreshments. Daniel secretly watches them lustfully, but makes the mistake of mentioning to Paul that it’s not very fair on Judy. At which point all their clothes fall off too.

Everyone comes to a head when Stephanie starts searching for Daniel, Paul goading him to shout out from the gazebo so that they might be caught in the very act! The nearer Stephanie gets the more Daniel panics yet the more he is aroused and there is an exquisite moment when Stephanie screams, “Nooooooo!” and the reader and Daniel both believe they are discovered. It’s actually a completely different sort of snake which Stephanie’s spied, but Daniel doesn’t know that and it proves the ultimate thrill, finishing him off quite spectacularly.

See? I told you: wrong, wrong, wrong! Infidelity is wrong.

But if it’s given you ideas, you could recreate this without cheating on anyone by enjoying straight or gay sex in your parents’ hallway just when they’re due back with the shopping.

Is that their car pulling up? I think it might be!

SLH

Buy Lies Are A Gentleman’s Manners and read the Page 45 review here

EGOs #1 (£2-25, Image) by Stuart Moore & Gus Storms.

Smile, grin, cackle.

This is delicious science fiction, playing in places on a standard superhero set-up only to mock it with throwaway glee. Here: have a team line-up complete with expository power sets! You won’t be needing them: gone.

Time after time the short narrative bursts – each with revelations of their each own – intrigued me with their set-up, confounded me halfway through, then delivered their knock-out punchlines. From the start I trusted Stuart but he teased me into doubting… before shaming me, red-faced, to repent.

It’s all in the narrator: laid-back, lackadaisical to the point of negligence, he’s not taking it seriously but he’ll get there in the end. You’ll discover who he is when you least expect it then it all makes crystal-clear sense – just like the final reveal.

 

 

Many moons ago a team of space-faring meta-men and wonder-women called The EGOs were assembled to fight the good fight, led by a dude called Deuce. Deuce was semi-short for Seduce. That was his power, the narcissistic, silver-tongued toad. He preened a lot. It’s here that I pop on my CD player Marc Almond’s ‘Blonde Boy’ and reference Donna Barr’s Dessert Peach. Whatever, shut up, I don’t care.

The titular EGOs did battle with a rogue called Replica whose own minions, however diverse they appeared, were revealed to be but clones of her daughter called Miri. They were legion. Their individuality was a mirage, and they were centrally controlled by Replica herself. At the very last moment Replica’s daughter Miri rebelled, won the day and married our Deuce the seducer.

Now: the EGOs have long disbanded but the universe is once more suddenly in peril. What can the aging Deuce do? Time to smear on the technological slap, address the camera and save the day by any means necessary. Someone will be deeply unhappy.

I liked Gus Storms’ art enormously for this. Drawn perhaps with a Sharpie, it is Liefeld gone lumpy, and it’s Liefeld that this partially parodies. In one panel the fleshy cyborg Norman Coordinate’s repulsive, wizened junk is virtually falling out of his equally repulsive metal nappy / chastity belt.

This is so very wrong it is right.

SLH

Buy Egos #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Miracleman #1 (£3-99, Marvel) by Alan Moore, Mick Anglo & Garry Leach, Mick Anglo, Don Lawrence.

“I’m Miracleman… I’m back!!”

Indeed. I really can’t be bothered to get into the whole ‘original writer’ shtick. It’s Uncle Alan Moore, for the one person in all of comicdom who doesn’t know. The first part was originally published in March 1982, in the very same issue of Warrior as the first part of V FOR VENDETTA, so Moore was already into his full creative flow and this was around the time he also was doing a fair few futureshocks for 2000AD (prior to THE BALLAD OF HALO JONES in 1984) and also some pretty seminal, and frankly pretty out there for the time, CAPTAIN BRITAIN stuff for Marvel UK with Alan Davis.

Re-reading this material for the first time in a good few years, as indeed whenever I re-read V FOR VENDETTA, you can easily forget what an expansive yet eloquent writer Alan was at the time. I’m not saying he isn’t now, but it’s hard to get away with being so verbose, so wordily dense, in comics yet here, as with much of his SWAMP THING run, he carries it off easily. It’s almost comics with an overtone of narrative prose in places. Perfect for setting the scene, or unsettling the reader… for whilst your eyes are telling you one thing with the artwork, Alan is in fact implanting something into your subconscious that is slightly different, a little deeper, and also darker with the narration.

In fact, this material does indeed have a mild flavour of horror to it, but that may also be with me knowing where the story is eventually going… Yes, it’s superheroes, but there’s an definite edge to it which is just as equally apparent as compared to the more overtly political V FOR VENDETTA. I do remember, though, when I first read the whole run, including the subsequent Neil Gaiman material, wondering if Alan had a clear idea of precisely what, if anything, he wanted to achieve in a wider sense with MIRACLEMAN when he started. Maybe he did have something in mind, though maybe he had more than enough going on in that respect with V FOR VENDETTA. I’m intrigued to see if I have that same sense this time around. Lovely art from Garry Leach too. Not sure why he didn’t go on to do a lot, lot more in comics. I have a strange recollection he did at least draw one issue of GLOBAL FREQUENCY.

Do you need to read this? Should you read this? The answer for me is definitely so. It is a seminal work in many ways, which clearly influenced much of what was to shortly follow in the rapidly darkening superhero genre (remember, Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN weren’t until 1986) but also in a wider comics sense. Superhero comics have often been, are, at their most interesting with heroes who are fundamentally flawed, riddled with doubts and insecurities and, most of all, that unforgiveable cardinal sin in the superhero credo, vulnerable instead of just plain, well, invulnerable. Yes, there were comics before this one that did that, but this work in my eyes does represent something of a turning point, however small, for the genre in and of itself. Anyway, read it for yourself and make up your own mind.

[Editor’s note: actual cover by Joe Quesada]

JR

Buy Miracleman #1 and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers vol 4: Infinity h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Leinil Yu.

“If this fleet reaches this system, the next step in human evolution is extinction.”

Exceptional! The climax to Hickman’s run on AVENGERS so far, this blistering, outer-space confrontation and conflagration is also part of 2013’s INFINITY event, the most seamlessly choreographed crossover in Marvel’s history. That it happened to be written in its entirety, including NEW AVENGERS VOL 2: INFINITY, by a single creator is no coincidence. It is still a neat trick to pull off. The only problem is that there is no sign of INFINITY itself being reprinted as a single volume, so you’re much better off waiting for the American hardcover or the two British softcovers which will reprint it all and in the right order, including the material here.

You’ll forgive me, then, if I wait until those are released to give this my full attention: otherwise I will be doubling up my time, just as you will be spending twice as much money, to no greater gain.

I will just say this: Leinil Francis Yu, both inkers and all four colourists, have exceeded themselves. The lighting on the Skrull portraits and the chiselled checks and jaw of Ex Nihilo are glorious. So much work has gone into them – and into the armada of spaceships on both sides.

Also: so well has Hickman thought it through that you can read this book without INFINITY itself as Captain America leads the Avengers, newly enhanced with beings so meta that one is the universe herself (you’ll see – unfortunately she’s in a coma) against an Armada so vast it’s a suicide mission. You can tell how desperate times are when the good Captain has no option but to join forces with the Skrull Empire, the Brood, Annihilus and even that creep of a king from Bendis’ GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

Worse still, Sunspot has caught his best mate Cannonball canoodling:

“This is a total betrayal… How could you go behind my back like this?”
“We’re standing right in front of you.”
“And that makes it even worse.”
“Aww, c’mon, Bobby. Can’t you be happy for me?”
“For us.”
“For us.”
“Yeah, Sam. I’m messing with you. Idiot. Oh… and you’re making a huge mistake, Izzy.”
“I know… Can we talk about it later? Maybe in my room?”
“Seriously?”
“No. I’m messing with you. Idiot.”

SLH

Buy Avengers vol 4: Infinity h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Superior Spider-Man vol 3: No Escape s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott with Christos Gage & Giuseppe Camuncoli, Humberto Ramos.

The premise for SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN is relatively simple but its execution has proved surprisingly thorough: in SPIDER-MAN: DYING WISH one of Spider-Man’s oldest, ugliest foes, Otto Octavius (PhD and at death’s door), finally won the day by switching his consciousness with Peter Parker’s just before his own body expired.

For a while Peter’s own memories lingered on as did his spirit, ever so slightly alarmed about what Dr Octopus was doing with his body, to his friends and even his vilest villains. This niggling nuisance was swiftly purged but not before Peter’s psyche had imprinted itself on Otto’s to the extent that, along with the power, he was indeed going to accept the responsibility of fighting on the other side of the law while ignoring even more of its letters. The villains weren’t just banged up, they were banged about first: the vulture was blinded, the Scorpion lost his lower jaw and J. Jonah Jameson was most impressed. To him this is indeed a far superior Spider-Man. Supercilious too, I might add, and although some have accepted this as maybe a mid-life crisis others have since grown suspicious.

Here we return to The Raft maximum security prison for supervillains in the process of being closed down but not before the Spider-Slayer has been sentenced to death there.

“Spider-Man. Come to supervise the slaying of the Spider-Slayer, eh? I’m sure you’re thoroughly enjoying the irony of that.”

He’s actually more preoccupied with his own past there, locked up as a criminal. These are the sorts of things this series has dealt with: Octavius’ fresh-found perspective on those he once allied himself with, and the irony of J. Jonah Jameson finally coming round to Spider-Man’s cause based on the actions of someone that isn’t even Peter. He’s going to regret that.

Where this moves on further, however, is Otto finally freeing himself of Peter’s private limitations. He’s already infested New York with thousands of miniature, mechanised arachnids, patrolling the city with far more efficiency than one man ever could and spying on all and sundry. Well, almost all and sundry. The Green Goblin who’s gone underground has already infected this infestation with his own virus, The Goblin Protocols which mean that any of his movements – or those of his tattooed acolytes – go undetected. He’s gradually building an army.

Now the superior Spider-Man hires his own private army and builds some bi-pedal tanks. But those who know that Spider-Man is – or was – Peter Parker wonder where the funds are coming from…

SLH

Buy Superior Spider-Man vol 3: No Escape s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 

The Festival (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Jazz Greenhill

Grey Area Issue Two: The Old Straight Track (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tim Bird

The Megatherium Club vol 1: The Great Ape (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Owen D. Pomery

Seasons (£5-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Mike Medaglia

Adventure Time: Pixel Princesses s/c (£7-99, Titan) by Danielle Corsetto & Zack Sterling

BPRD Hell On Earth vol 7 – A Cold Day In Hell (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Peter Snejbjerg, Laurence Campbell

Crossed: Wish You Were Here vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Simon Spurrier & Fernando Melek

Preacher Book vol 3 s/c (£14-99, Vertigo) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, Steve Pugh, Carlos Ezquerra

Star Wars Omnibus Dark Times vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Randy Stradley & Doug Wheatley

Green Arrow vol 1: The Midas Touch s/c (£11-99, DC) by Dan Jurgens, J.T. Krul, Keith Giffen & George Perez, Ray McCarthy, Ignacio Calero

X-Men: Battle Of The Atom (UK Edition) s/c (£15-99, Marvel) by various

Young Avengers vol 2: Alternative Culture s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie, Kate Brown

Indestructible Hulk vol 3: S.M.A.S.H. Time h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Matteo Scalera

Naruto vol 64 (£6-99, Viz) by Masahi Kishimoto

 

ITEM! I’m baaaaack!

ITEM! So you do read this bit! Cool and thank you for letting me know on Twitter! You probably want an Item now.

ITEM! This is the funniest, most elaborate piece of Art Terrorism I have encountered since Banksy! The London Underground with brand-new, oh-so-true signage!

ITEM! Coming back to comics, huge announcements for new Image Comics! Kieron Gillen! Jamie McKelvie! Ed Brubaker! Sean Phillips! You can pre-order any one of those since we already know their titles, particularly if you’re signed up for a standing order here. If you aren’t signed up already, this: Page 45’s standing order /pull list service!

ITEM! Ooh, look at these gorgeous Isabel Greenberg prints and plates! From the creator of my favourite graphic novel of 2013, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH and also our signed and sketched-in copies of THE SNOW QUEEN, they are exceptional value for money. Original, hand-painted plates! You would be paying at least £35 a pop for those mass-produced by Royal Dalton! Yet these will have individual quirks which will make them ever so cool!

ITEM! New artists, this is sound advice from The Guardian’s Stephen Collins on making a first impression: make it visual! Emails ain’t that visual but send out postcards and prints! Immediate impact, boom! It’s worked on me well. Emails, not so much. Facebook: forget it!

ITEM! Aww, Valentine’s Day approaches and look at this from our own Jodie Paterson, a Valentine’s message perfect to send to your loved one!

ITEM! From ourselves we recommend Philippa Rice’s SOPPY #1 and SOPPY #2, comics which double as cards – with envelopes – for Valentine’s Day!

ITEM! Oooh, look at this image by Sally Jane Thompson! Swoon at will!

ITEM! Also, not comics, but can you imagine a better evocation of arthritic hands? This, by Tim Benson. Neo-classical brilliance!

ITEM! Hilariously bad boy-on-boy chat-up line beautifully drawn by Emma Vieceli! You’ll be hearing a lot more about BREAKS, a webcomic to be launched with a limited-edition, printed first issue which will most definitely be available here!

ITEM! Well, if you insist: myself aged ten and my sister aged four. This is a very real photo, yes. https://twitter.com/AliBourne13/status/424302500016300032/photo/1

No, it is sweet. *sigh*

- Stephen

Reviews January 2014 week three

January 15th, 2014

What follows starts off as aggressive and confrontational part-psychoanalysis, part-interrogation of the subject, before turning distinctly philosophical and metaphysical through very close examination of the power of the cathode ray tube and a Chris Ware-esque, double-page, gaming walk-through interlude.

- Jonathan on Other Stories And The Horse You Rode In On 

Complete Multiple Warheads s/c (£13-50, Image) by Brandon Graham.

“Drawn with fire because paper burns.”

Design heaven and pun-haters’ hell, I’ve rarely read a comic in which its creator is having so much unapologetic, delirious, rip-roaring fun. Like Evan Dorkin, Brandon dashes off more ideas per page than most can muster in an entire mini-series. And, look, here is an entire mini-series!

From the creator of KING CITY, WALRUS and the writer of PROPHET, this a clean-lined, brightly coloured beauty which bleeds right to the ends of each page before crashing through your window and skewering your eye with its sword.

“I love the taste of drama.”

It’s lo-fi sci-fi with sweeping landscapes, toppled statues, call-a-flower seeds (whistle and they grow), mini-marts infested with strange little critters scampering ‘cross aisles, self-heating root vegetables like Turnip The Heat, a palace born on the back of a six-legged ‘saurus (its face a feudal façade) and, waiting within, a dandy of a duke who’s decadent, dotty and divine!

“Is this going to be a ransom sort of a thing, then?”
“I’m going to sell your body.”
“oOOOOoh. Prostitution!”
*clap-claps*

It’s all so very sexy – and I do mean sexy, for the original black-and-white one-shot has been inserted and it’s not the only thing! Adults only, please.

It has two main strands: a blue-haired bounty hunter called Nura out on the frozen plains, lobbing off heads whenever something sticks its neck out; and – negotiating the Northlandz, Southlands and Neither Landz in between – ex-organ smuggler Sexica and her wolf-tailed boyfriend / mechanic called Nikoli. By “tail”, I mean, you know… Yes, he has two, but we’ll get that. He also has very strange dreams.

At the centre of all this lies the Red or Dead City whose propaganda is direct and to the point:

“We are right!! You are wrong!! (and fat)”
“Also, don’t be too smart – Nobody likes that!!”

It is here that Nura brings her dragon’s head to trader Pumpkin Patch in the liver pool. She split opened a god-possessed Shov Puppet to harvest its lucrative organs, but a dragon gobbled them up so she cut off its head before it could swallow them. She’s been carrying it around ever since. Now she forces it to regurgitate the Shov Puppet’s organs and, boy, there are loads!

“The kid had a lot of heart. heh.”

Sexica and Nikoli, meanwhile, wend their way towards the Whaling Wall in their Mini-like Lenin powered by its Royal Boiler. Along a steep mountain pass they encounter a toll. I’ll spare you the pun about the So Be It Union.

“30 chips for just passing through. Mostly that’s the tacks tax. If no one pays us then we cover the road in tacks.”
“These mountain monks each pay 30 just to die?”
“They pay to jump off our cliff. If they jump anywhere else it’s punishable by death. We also take jars of magic or fingers as payment.”
“Do they give you the finger a lot?”
“No, but people like to flip us off. Just drive around these grateful dead. Pay the high hat at the booth. He only speaks alphabet.”

The heart of the book lies in Sexica and Nikoli, lolling about naked in hotel rooms, bottoms or boobs-up, ordering exotic room service, fetishising about food and discussing comics. It’s such a warm, gentle yet enthusiastic relationship. There aren’t many girlfriends who would smuggle a wolf’s willy for your birthday then sew it on you themselves.

There are diagrams, maps and menus, all riddled with wordplay, and the free-roaming narrative goes wherever it pleases. Its many excursions take in all manner of visual feasts. I don’t know which I loved most: the network of sky-high plumbing with its invisible “disbelief suspension bridge” or the semi-futuristic, medieval mountainside town where fur-snouted kitchen porter Moontoone dreams bad dreams about delivering food to the haunted Humming Tower while wrapped in the arms of his slumbering boyf who likes nothing more than repurposing magazine photos, snipping them out with scissors to make up stories then popping the best ones in his heart-shaped locket.

“I want to be tougher.”
“poo. you’re so tough. My Moontoone is the toughest. Let’s find some tough pictures you can wear in my heart to remind you.”
“I think that’d be nice.”

Aww. For maximum pleasure, read at leisure and soak in this eye-bath for hours. Marinade your minds!

SLH

Buy Complete Multiple Warheads s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Other Stories And The Horse You Rode In On (£13-50, Conundrum) by Dakota McFadzean…

“But how am I supposed to play the game when I am this close to the TV?”
“Are you sure you really just want to play a game? Anyone can do that. It is a trivial matter. Hopscotch is a game. Tag is a game. This is more.”
“I’m not sure if I understand. Aren’t I trying to finish the game? To beat it? To win?”
“If you like. Or you can realise that you are given extra lives in this game. And lives are meant to be lived.”

And thus a star is born. Make no mistake, if you are not already familiar with his work, I am sure before too long you will be, because this boy has talent in abundance. This collection of shorts, a mixture of contemporary fiction revolving around several characters in a dead-end town and other more surreal works shows exceptional promise. Dakota draws comics every day and it shows, both in his art and his storytelling. I know this fact because his website told me, and also because he posts what he draws pretty much every single day. They tend to be Tom Gauld-style gag strips and you can see them for yourself HERE.

Before I talk about the shorts in this book in a little more detail, I must just talk about his art style. You will undoubtedly see, as I did, influences from and subtle nods to, a number of modern masters: Chester Brown, Joe Matt, Adrian Tomine, Peter Bagge, Jason Lutes, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. I could go on, but there really is no need because ultimately his style is his own, he is that good. He manages to blend and vary such subtleties so smoothly into his default baseline style that they merely seem like masterful finishing touches and flourishes. Very impressive. Even the cover is a triumph, showing a fiery figure on the end of a jetty, flames reflected in the slightly choppy water of the lake.

Right, onto the stories themselves. I did enjoy the contemporary pieces revolving around small-town banality, he clearly has a handle on characters and interaction, but the more surreal ones involving such oddities as a ghost rabbit, a man with two birds nesting in the space where his face used to be, and a werewolf mask that seems to freeze time, show real imagination. Not as surreal as say, Hans Rickheit, but weird enough to give you pause for thought and disturb. The fractionally downbeat, slightly pessimistic tone to many of the works, straight and surreal alike, reminded me of things like Jeff Nicholson’s THROUGH THE HABITRAILS and Seth’s IT’S A GOOD LIFE IF YOU DON’T WEAKEN. I really feel Dakota has a longer form masterpiece just around the corner if he can draw a lot of these elements together à la Pirus and Mezzo’s KING OF THE FLIES, say.

In fact, you can see it already in what is for me (and Dominique) the standout story in this book, Leave Luck To Heaven, from which I took the quote above. A man arrives at a doorway and begins what we initially think might be a drug deal with the inhabitant of the room. It quickly becomes apparent that a Nintendo cartridge is involved, but this isn’t going to be a simple gaming session, no sir. What follows starts off as aggressive and confrontational part-psychoanalysis, part-interrogation of the subject, before turning distinctly philosophical and metaphysical through very close examination of the power of the cathode ray tube and a Chris Ware-esque, double-page spread, gaming walk-through interlude. Musings on the value of console versus contemplation of art push us further into uncertain mental territory, before the subject, who has possibly just been hypnotised or brainwashed, to unknown ends, is brought back to consciousness by his questioner, leaving him confused as whether what he just experienced was even real.

“Did you dream?”
“N-no. I don’t think so.”
“Did you make it to the end of the game?”
“N-no.”
“Ah. It’s just as well, I suppose. The ending reveals that the whole thing was just a dream. Some people are disappointed.
“On the other hand, all you did today was move your thumbs back and forth over a piece of plastic. But you won’t remember it that way, will you?
“If you return next week, make sure to bring further payment.”

If psychoanalysis was an entertaining as that, I’d be signing myself up, let me tell you!

JR

Buy Other Stories And The Horse You Rode In On and read the Page 45 review here

Ex Machina Book 1 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris.

Every bit as witty, pithy and compelling as the same author’s SAGA, I give you the finest political fiction infected with a nasty science-fiction virus and drawn with a smooth and sexy neo-classical realism with big, bold forms and the most voluptuous shadows.

This repackages the first two original softcovers with, umm, the first chapter of volume three. Which is weird. And unhelpful. Still, a long time has passed since I reviewed the first two books and I’ve since learned to enthuse about this series slightly differently (plus I now know how it ends – one of the most unexpected dénouements in comics’ history!) so it is time for a substantial rewrite.

I loved The West Wing: one of my three all-time favourite television series with snap-snap, deadpan dialogue and prices to be paid. But I am a liberal-leftie-feminist and The West Wing – let us be honest – was a liberal-leftie-feminist’s wet dream. President Bartlett and his fiercely intelligent, movingly compassionate, education-orientated speech writers, however flawed, had all the best lines. The corporate cronies on the right were a bunch of smug, initiative-stifling weasels. Or were they? Just like The West Wing, EX MACHINA gives some of the best lines and arguments to random Republicans and I love that; plus Mayor Mitchell Hundred is far from squeaky-clean.

The present:

Mitchell Hundred can talk to mechanical objects – he can order them about. He can make guns backfire, lights switch off, and disable bugging devices with a word. Which is handy if you’re a politician. Quite how this process came about, we don’t yet know. What we do know is that Mitchell decided that he could make a bigger difference to people’s lives as Mayor of New York City rather than some sort of superhero. He could make them easier. Unfortunately it’s making his life more difficult.

Here he is at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, subsidised by grants from his office, standing in front of an imposing painting of President Abraham Lincoln (the “Great Emancipator”) upon whose portrait has been stencilled the word “nigger”. It’s not graffiti; it’s the artist’s own statement. In that situation, what is the first question you would ask yourself?

“This artist. Is she…?”
“Is she what, Mr. Mayor?”
“Is she, you know…?”
“Is she black?”

Meanwhile, as a snowstorm threatens to engulf the city and bring it to a halt (since its snow ploughs and ploughmen are being targeted by a terrorist), we are given glimpses into how Mayor Hundred got elected in the first place, who stood in his way and the methods they used to do so. Also, I made mention of the nasty science-fiction strain and some really vicious horror comes home to roost even closer than you might expect.

But my favourite bits are the politics and the humour. As promised there are arguments here during which each side sounds equally convincing, and not everyone you’d expect to be cool is quite the cucumber you’d hope and not every lemon is as sour. For example, progressive Mayor Mitchell Hundred is determined to marry his right-hand-man Wylie’s equally black brother Todd to Todd’s white Republican boyfriend Bill in spite of the potential public and legal backlash. But Bill isn’t necessarily as grateful as you might imagine…

“Sometimes, you can be so hopelessly fucking naive.”
“Believe what you want. I’ve met the Mayor a few times. He’s good people. Hell, anyone who can put up with my brother on a daily basis is a saint.”
“Hundred’s just another homophobe with a title. If he were serious about same-sex marriage, he’d let us meet in his office, not outdoors like friggin’ animals.”

Cue Mayor Hundred strolling onto the scene:

“Sorry, I thought you two’d be familiar with City Hall Park from all your late night “cruising”. Kidding, of course. Everyone knows you people stick to The Rambles for that.”

Lastly, dogmatic atheist and all-round sceptic Hundred comes down pretty damn hard on a fortune teller and exits in a cowardly fashion. Here’s why she claims she predicted 9/11 but only told one soul she saved, yet didn’t alert the authorities:

“Who would have listened to me, Mr. Hundred? All I would done is set up my family and myself for a lengthy detention by federal authorities.”

And she isn’t wrong, is she?

Next volume: we return to that same-sex marriage and I have repeatedly promised you that not everything here will be as black and white as it seems. Nor as rose-tinted. I may also have mentioned that I like that.

SLH

Buy Ex Machina Book 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Swamp Thing by Brian K. Vaughan vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian K. Vaughan & Roger Petersen, Phil Hale…

I must have missed this attempted reboot at the time, which is surprising given I was reading most of the Vertigo output around 2000, and I am a big SWAMP THING fan. It’s rather good, actually; not sure why it didn’t find an audience, which is I presume why it was cancelled. The basic premise is Tefé, the daughter of Swamp Thing, Abigail Arcane… and… John Constantine (see HELLBLAZER vol 1 for more on that particularly bizarre ménage à trois) is having an unexpected identity crisis, primarily due to her unusual parentage, and events are rapidly spiralling out of her ability to control or indeed, initially at least, even comprehend them.

The identity crisis is unexpected because Abigail, in conjunction with Constantine, had suppressed Tefé’s memories and given her a new identity by swapping her body with that of a terminally ill teenager, who then made a miraculous ‘recovery’. However, years later, a confused Tefé has now spontaneously recovered some of her memories and is once again at large in the world causing chaos. Cue Abby and Constantine’s attempts to stop her.

I rather enjoyed this. It’s a very dense read, and I wonder whether new readers just found it all a bit much, but it’s actually not dissimilar in tone to Alan Moore’s early SWAMP THING. Weird, contemporary horror, basically. Some lovely art in places, including four spectacular pages from Paul Pope I hadn’t ever seen before, plus five pages from Guy Davis that I liked too. I’d love to see either of those two illustrate a full run on SWAMP THING at some point.

JR

Buy Swamp Thing by Brian K. Vaughan vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Will O’ The Wisp h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Tom Hammock & Megan Hutchison.

Another Archaia tome with lavish production values, this comes with a brass clasp so you can lock the contents safely away lest prying eyes stray across its creepy contents or, worse still, whatever lurks within gets out! Perhaps you should hide it under your bed for good measure. No, wait…

Poor Aurora Grimeon has been orphaned after her parents’ death by massive mushroom poisoning. She only survived the pasta disaster because Aurora doesn’t like mushrooms and ate only the sauce. Also, some European thistle milk was chanced upon and turned out to be a cure. Who knew?

Her only living relative is grandfather Grimeon who didn’t get along with Aurora’s parents. Or was it vice-versa? He lives on Ossuary Isle, a cemetery island surrounded by swamps where the dead are buried just above water level. His house is ancient and foreboding, full of strange specimens, and in its cellar pit he buries bodies with beetles which eat off all the soft, dead tissue so cleaning the bones. He then makes casts of the skeletons for medical students and studies their causes of death. It’s a living.

The other inhabitants of the sprawling graveyard are elderly and superstitious, and although grandfather Grimeon is a man of science he knows well enough that they must be humoured for them all to get along. For guidance they look to Mama Nonnie, a kindly hoodoo practitioner with all sorts of potions and spells and a somewhat evasive dead husband.

“How is your husband today? That’s not really one of his bones, is it?”
“Of course it is! A chicken bone isn’t going to get me in touch with him on the other side. But thank you for asking. He wasn’t being very communicative. In fact, he hasn’t been communicative in quite a while, but no reason to stop trying.”
“How often do you two, umm, talk?”
“I haven’t found him on the other side yet, but it’s inevitable. He can’t hide from me forever. Willston, like many folk down here, was born talking.”

There’s a gentle humour early on before the horror hits in its full ferocity and Miss Prissy Mirabel – grandfather Grimeon’s pet raccoon – is Hutchison’s finest creation here. On their first night together Missy snatches a cob of corn from the communal dinner plate and hisses territorially before flipping off the table top and dashing off to the swamp to wash it.

“No food is right till it’s been washed, in her opinion.”

It’s beautifully directed, as is their second confrontation, nose to nose, as Missy helps herself to some jam.

“By sunset, I dare say you both will have learned something about this household. Aurora, you will know to keep a more vigilant eyes on your breakfast, and Missy is about to learn not to wash jam in the swamp before she eats it.”

Hutchison’s art is angular, spindly and spiky. Not all the action scenes are as convincing or easy to follow as you would hope but where she excels, ably assisted by colourist Adam Guzowski, is on the full-page landscapes which are eerie and lonely or spooky as hell when you discover the wrecked train and boat jutting out of the misty swamp waters.

 

 

As to the mystery, Hammock introduces all the elements early on without you necessarily noticing them. For there is something stirring in the swampland, something which Aurora caught but a glimpse of on her very first night, and which caught a glimpse of her: a ball of glowing blue fire which Dr Grimeon dismisses as spontaneously combusting methane. But as bodies begin washing up on the jetty or discovered trapped under sub-aquatic roots, the isle folk become jittery, suspecting Aurora’s new presence as the catalyst. Then the twin gravestones of Dr Gideon’s parents are found shattered, a trail of burnt grass leading towards the water. Like Aurora’s own parents, they too died on the very same date while grandfather Gideon was just a child. And it wasn’t through mushroom poisoning…

Returning to that brass clasp, I imagine it looked lovely in the production office and will be treasured by each of its owners. But it hasn’t been entirely thought through when it comes to the retailers racking it! The sharp nodule which sticks out is going to damage any books stacked on shelves to its right and if stored spine-on you do risk bending the metal and so locking the book forever. I don’t suppose Diamond Distributors were greatly amused when it came to packing copies en route to retailers, either!

Still, they’re here now and so come take a look, if you think you’re brave enough. You’ll find it racked in our young teens’ section, somewhere near BOO!, the horror anthology for even younger readers.

SLH

Buy Will O’ The Wisp h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Cemetery Girl vol 1: The Pretenders h/c (£16-99, Inklit) by Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden & Don Kramer…

Okay, maybe you are aware of the Sookie Stackhouse novels and their author Charlaine Harris? I wasn’t, but even I have heard of their HBO TV adaptation, True Blood. I have to admit I wasn’t massively familiar with, according to the blurb “acclaimed comic book artist”, Don Kramer, either. I had to look up what stuff he’d worked on for, which is pretty much exclusively second-line titles for DC, and I did happen to see he’s mates with Christopher Golden, which is presumably how he got this gig, as the Golden one is co-writer on this book. Christopher Golden I am hugely familiar with from his excellent work on BALTIMORE and other Mignola tidbits, I should add, and he is a writer I rate very highly. Golly, this really is a rambling start to this review isn’t it?

I think where I am going with this is… in conjunction with the rather prose-novel looking cover, of which pretty much half is taken up by Harris and Golden’s names in huge orange and grey letters, my expectations were pretty low for this title. Yet actually, those expectations were at least partially confounded, I must say.

I presume Harris has provided the plot (and dialogue) which involves an amnesiac teenage girl, dumped and left for dead at some cemetery gates. Rather than go to the police for reasons which escaped me slightly, the girl decides to take refuge in a crypt, covertly stealing food from the cemetery caretakers and nearby residents, at least two of whom are aware of their nocturnal visitor, when she sees an occult murder. The ghost from this murder then enters into her body… I’ve just realised as I’m typing how slightly risible that all sounds… but it does actually work. I’m guessing perhaps Golden has then adapted it for comics, he’s done a sound job there if so, but I would expect no less. And Kramer supplied the art, which aside from looking a bit flat in places, is pretty decent, though I can see why I hadn’t heard of him.

Overall it is a decent story, told well, illustrated reasonably competently, but I’m not really sure what market the publisher is pitching this at. I’m guessing from the cover they’re thinking that name power alone is going to sell it, exactly like a new prose book from this author. It might, it might not. Probably not here, though maybe in a Waterstones propped up near her prose work, I guess. Which I surmise is exactly what the publisher had in their collective minds when they put this together.

JR

Buy Cemetery Girl vol 1: The Pretenders h/c and read the Page 45 review here

All-New Marvel Now.1 #1 ANMN (£4-25, Marvel) by various.

That, I kid you not, is its title.

It’s a one-off anthology and prologue to several new Marvel series including AVENGERS WORLD #1.

My favourite was the not-yet-solicited SILVER SURFER which I am on board for purely on the strength of this left-field outing which I suspect may be informed by relatively recent Doctor Who. It’s not just the fact that the Surfer has a human companion: it’s her bubble-bursting irreverence and broader perspective on the potential for space exploration… together! It is a complete departure from any previous treatment of the surfing silvered one which has always been somewhat portentous and, being illustrated by Michael Allred, I was convinced I was reading Matt Fraction. (Please see FF VOL 1: FANTASTIC FAUX and its successors; please seem them – they’re brilliant!) I was wrong: it’s Dan Slott. Well done, Dan!

Together she and he visit an outer-space Venice to witness a firework display composed of cosmic rays. I am not going to spoil Slott’s joke, but it’s a good one delivered with a deft slight of hand relying on Marvel readers’ inescapable knowledge of a certain phenomenon. (Truly and trust me: this one is inescapable.) Its ten pages are packed with wit and I wonder if this is Allred’s true calling as – via Kirby – one of Moebius’ most successful successors. Let’s see if he goes there.

Phil Noto on BLACK WIDOW is delightfully Bill Sienkiewicz minus the expressionism.

Plus both G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona made me smile on the MS. MARVEL prologue. That’s the other breath of fresh air here: MS. MARVEL. I can completely understand commentators’ advance criticisms that a Muslim Marvel superhero smacks of tokenism given the corporation’s previous history of, well, tokenism… but this is not that. It is witty and wise and it is young! I couldn’t give two hoots about the initial fight scene but as soon as the family aspect kicked in via a mobile phone call, I was hooked.

“Late-lateef bhangi!! Your cousin’s Mehndi started an hour ago!!”

That’s Kamala’s mother. Her first sentence translates as “chronically late scruffy person”. If you cannot hear the melodious Pakistani intonation in G. Willow Wilson’s acutely observed dialogue both here and subsequently, I cannot help you. Did I mention that this was young? Kamala is a teenager and – far more than the original or ultimate Spider-Man – if this continues to be played right, it will be all about family and the generation gap.

The big thrust here, however, is a prologue to the new series of LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD by Al Ewing and Lee Garbett. It darts in and out of the others. Due to the structure of this issue I can’t quite tell which bits were theirs, but it’s very funny in places.

SLH

Buy All-New Marvel Now.1 #1 ANMN and read the Page 45 review here

Avengers World #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer & Stefano Caselli.

Respect to everyone who’s picked this up having picked it apart from both the free preview anthology and the free Marvel calendar on our shelves which bore nigh-identical covers. I salute you!

Does it not seem all kinds of crazy to you that Marvel apparently has so much spare art lying around that they print five different covers for the same comic, yet pick the same cover to three completely different products?

“Get on with the review!”

Then don’t give me lame-brained reasons to digress!

So if NEW AVENGERS is about death and parallel-dimension threats and its sister title, AVENGERS, is about life and cosmic invasion, what is its inbred off-spring, AVENGERS WORLD, all about? Judging by this opening issue, it’s about multiple global threats all kicking off at the same instant and attempting to juggle your responses with quick-snap decisions and practised, prioritised precision using the resources of S.H.I.E.L.D., while S.H.I.E.L.D. busies itself utilising the Avengers for PR purposes.

It also appears to be a nexus tying together all sorts of plot threads kicked off in (or left over from) SECRET AVENGERS and AVENGERS VOL 2. You can read this with no knowledge of either; it’s just a little more satisfying if you’ve seen that groundwork being laid.

Multiple global threats kick off at the same instant and Captain America, Bruce Banner and Director Maria Hill attempt to juggle their responses with quick-snap decisions and practised, prioritised precision using their shared resources. Fortunately due to Tony Stark’s initiative in AVENGERS VOL 1 they have those resources: gazillions of Avengers.

I cannot claim to be a massive fan of Caselli’s facial expressions (everyone looks constipated) but his three full-page landscapes featuring the transmogrification of Madripoor, a subterranean city of the dead, and what is clearly no longer A.I.M. Island as they knew it are, each of them, wondrous. And that’s not an adjective employed at random.

There’s a prologue to this in ALL-NEW MARVEL NOW.1 #1 ANMN if you fancy, involving Maria Hill, Captain America and a toaster. She picked it out specially.

SLH

Buy Avengers World #1 and read the Page 45 review here

X-Men: Battle Of The Atom h/c (£37-99, Marvel) by so, so many.

Marvel released two giant crossovers at the same time recently: INFINITY starring the Avengers which was powerful, thrilling and immaculately orchestrated; and, also, this.

Following the events of AVENGERS VS X-MEN and AVENGERS VS X-MEN: CONSEQUENCES scientist Dr Henry McCoy AKA The Beast decided in ALL-NEW X-MEN that he had no other choice but to bring the original X-Men including his younger self from the past to the present with the sole purpose of bringing the now-militant Cyclops into shocking contact with his earlier, idealistic self.

Many thought this a mistake – not least some of those now-disconcerted X-Men – but what no one had considered is what would happen to a young, telekinetic Jean Grey were her telepathy to kick in prematurely and so learn her fate. Her fate largely involved a great deal of dying.

Now a group of X-Men from the future have arrived including an even older Beast (mutated further and missing a ram’s horn), a barely sentient Iceman, an older Kitty Pryde, Deadpool, a certain bald telepath and, ummm, someone looking an awful lot like Xorn (who was at one point revealed to be Magneto… but then they decided otherwise and… I have no idea what the final score was with that). Can you spell “convoluted”? You just wait.

Although very cagey, they do reveal that the future is bobbins and that the blame lies with time-travelling X-Men: the time-travelling original X-Men, not the time-travelling X-Men that blame the time-travelling original X-Men for travelling through time. They demand that the original X-Men travel back through time.

No one stops to ask the original X-Men what they want. 

Some of the more suspicious X-Men then travel through time, because clearly not enough damage has been done. In the future they encounter a completely different group of mutants including… oh you’ll find out… who claim that they are the real X-Men and that the X-Men who travelled back in time are not who they appear to be. They all, therefore, travel back through time.

There are fights. There are more fights. There are commands and “belay that command”s as faction after faction of territorial X-Men splash-page themselves into multiple grand entrances, and then there are more fights. Those pages are awfully soggy.

The great bits: Immonen’s art, as ever; trying to work out who is the progeny of whom; the central reveal of what happened in the future that so broke the Beast’s heart. That was arresting. Quite why this was the original X-Men’s fault wasn’t ever explained. However, it finally sinks in to Hank McCoy’s genius scientific brain that his time-travelling medalling was a mistake. Which is why he does it again.

The bad bits: everything else. It’s a protracted and wearisome mess made worse by how many times the panels slide across a double-page spread without ample sign-posting so that you haven’t a clue whether to read down or across. Also the final battlefield seems to have been contrived merely to make a weak visual gag, clumsily inserted, which requires you to remember that Xorn was originally Magneto which is why I told you so. Quite where young Jean Grey’s original X-Men uniform came from on that battlefield is beyond me.

Collects X-MEN: BATTLE OF THE ATOM #1-2, ALL-NEW X-MEN #16-17, X-MEN (2013) #5-6, UNCANNY X-MEN (2013) #12-13 and WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #36-37.

I cannot wait to enthuse about INFINITY. That was quite brilliant.

SLH

Buy X-Men: Battle Of The Atom h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Batman: The Judas Coin s/c (£10-99, DC) by Walter Simonson.

When Judas betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, he did it with a kiss, and it was for thirty pieces of silver.

Only when Jesus was tried and then sentenced to death did Judas attempt to return those shekels, but they were already seen as soiled: blood money, cursed. So Judas threw them on the temple floor and hanged himself. Good riddance.

Unfortunately there was no getting rid of the silver…

It’s a surprisingly short sequence in the New Testament but, oh, so powerful: the man who preached love betrayed by one his twelve closest confidants, and done so with the most intimate act of affection. No wonder the money which can’t buy you love was cursed – cursed to reappear like the proverbial penny and dooming all hell-bent on acquiring it. Simonson has taken that idea and run with it, fusing it with DC legend and lore: the Viking Prince, the pirate Captain Fear, cowboy and quick-thinking mischief-merchant Bat Lash, right through to Batman and beyond…

It will come as no surprise to those familiar with Walt Simonson’s epic arc on THOR that the Viking sequence is one of the strongest here with massive visual flourishes like the giant Green Man statue carved from the most monumental living tree, but also the language:

“The susurration of the wind through the tree-tops is the only sound.”

The buccaneer episode is equally thrilling and frantically paced with great big Galleons and vast sails right from page one using the vertical axis for maximum, eye-piercing impact. On its last page alone the specific curse of the coin comes back into play several times over. Better still are Bat Lash’s multiple sleights-of-hand delivered with dexterity during “Ill-Gotten Gains” as an entire town sets off in hot-headed, post-poker pursuit of our man with the plan which he makes up on the hoof while admonishing the morons he fools. The colour art there is tinted with a sandy filter before arrestingly switching to stark black and white for the ‘Gotham Gazette’, an episode featuring Bruce Wayne, a newspaper seller and multiple broadsheet clippings.

There the silver shekel has resurfaced as part of a private collection exhibited in a public Museum and naturally one man above all others has set his skewed sights on acquiring it: one of Batman’s arch-enemies, Two-Face. Yet here’s the really clever bit: our coin-tossing criminal has spent his entire life understanding the odds – it’s what he does for an Obsessively Compulsive Disorderly living – and he’s the first to figure out the totem’s true nature. So the thin-skinned, fiery-tempered, dual-personality renowned for going postal does so in a different, more deliberate and deliberated way.

Oh, very well done, Mr. Simonson! I can’t say I cared for the Roman chapter or really the bit in the future whose comicbook context I didn’t understand because I can’t know everything, can I? But I approached this book with minimum interest and left laughing heartily. Also with a new word: susurration. Expect it, now acquired as my own, in a new review imminently.

SLH

Buy Batman: The Judas Coin s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 

Chloe Noonan #4.5 (£2-99, Great Beast) by Marc Ellerby

Jane, The Fox & Me h/c (£14-99, Groundwood) by Britt Fanny & Isabelle Arsenault

The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde vol 3: The Birthday Of The Infanta s/c (£6-99, Other A-Z) by P. Craig Russell

Ten Grand vol 1 s/c (£7-50, Image) by J. Michael Straczynski & Ben Templesmith, C.P. Smith

Avengers vol 4: Infinity h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Leinil Yu

Green Arrow vol 2: Triple Threat s/c (£10-99, DC) by Ann Nocenti & Harvey Tolibao

Superior Spider-Man vol 4: Necessary Evil s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Ryan Stegman, Guiseppe Camuncoli

Avengers Arena vol 3: Boss Level s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Cristos Gage, Dennis Hopeless & Karl Moline, Kev Walker

Batman: The Dark Knight vol 3 – Mad h/c (£18-99, DC) by Gregg Hurwitz & Ethan Van Sciver, Szymon Kudranski

Attack On Titan vol 10 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hajime Isayama

The Art Of Bioshock Infinite h/c (£29-99, Dark Horse) by various

Doctor Who series 3 vol 4: Dead Man’s Hand (£13-50, IDW) by Tony Lee & Mike Collins

Doctor Who series 3 vol 3: Sky Jacks! (£13-50, IDW) by Andy Diggle, Eddie Robson & Andy Kuhn

 

Oh, you don’t read down here, do you?

Do you?! Tweet me if you do!

It’s so lonely!

- Stephen

Reviews January 2014 week two

January 8th, 2014

HELLBLAZER was always at its best when occult horror took second stage to real-life horror in the form of racism and the BNP, homophobia, poverty, homelessness, sickness and death; of hopelessness under crushingly callous governments and helplessness under intransigent authority. This is HELLBLAZER at its very best.

There aren’t many horror comics which can actually make you cry.

 - Stephen on Hellblazer vol 7 

Celebrated Summer s/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Charles Forsman.

“I’d give anything not to be so scared.”

Beautifully drawn in a thin, fragile line with lots of intricate crosshatching and stylistic nods towards Trudeau (Mike’s profile) and Huizenga (Grandma’s profile), this is a very quiet book, sparse on dialogue.

This is partly because Mike has nothing to say (or nothing worth saying) while the enormous Wolf with his short-cropped mohican has retreated into himself ever since he accidentally broke a boy’s arm at school. Then he stopped playing and started watching instead. Now, increasingly placid, he’s virtually stopped speaking except when prompted. He’s timid, he’s isolated, and he’s scared. He can’t even pee in public. There’s a lot of nervous sweat.

It may also be because they’re concentrating on their trip: two tabs of acid each, and a drive to the beach. That adds a certain tension to the book: who’d take drugs and drive?!

It’s a black and white book, yet the two main instances of tripping far from suffer for it. Mike’s is short and sweet: a full page given over to single flower opening as if in stop-motion. The panel borders evaporate, leaving twelve clean images of the blossoming bud surrounded by identical leaves as if viewed though a fly’s eye. Wolf’s is more dramatic and – to him – disorientating / nauseating, as an arcade game’s screen morphs into some psychedelic optician’s test complete with a lot of circles.

James Sturm and Chester Brown are both fans, if that helps.

SLH

Buy Celebrated Summer s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Hellblazer vol 7 Tainted Love s/c (£14-99, DC) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon.

“Friend of yours?”
“Must be. He’s dead.”

Please don’t judge this book by its hideous cover: Dillon’s art looks nothing like that. You have to be a wilfully stupid art director not to ask Steve Dillon for a new piece of art or at least reuse the original Glenn Fabry paintings which, as you’ll see within, were glorious.

HELLBLAZER was always at its best when occult horror took second stage to real-life horror in the form of racism and the BNP, homophobia, poverty, homelessness, sickness and death; of hopelessness under crushingly callous governments and helplessness under intransigent authority. This is HELLBLAZER at its very best.

When Alan Moore created John Constantine and introduced him in SWAMP THING, it became immediately clear that he was a very dangerous man: he was already pursued by the ghosts of friends who’d paid the price for even knowing him. So it is here, and one of Garth Ennis’ strengths was bringing friendship to the fore, thereby making the violence wrought against them all the more personal and so horrific. Dillon was no slacker in that department, either: there is a facial close-up here which is as abhorrent and as repulsive as it should be. Man’s inhumanity to man. So it is at the top of this review, with a rent boy John got to share a mattress with, and if you think John’s being glib then that’s a mask he wears or swiftly pulls back on whenever threatened, and a knee-jerk reaction to power: he cannot resist flipping the figurative bird.

It is friendship too which proves his undoing here – or actually fully fledged love. For the first time ever John drops his guard and lets someone in, and Kit was definitely worth waiting for. Over from Belfast, Kit was tender, tough and took no shit, giving as good as she got. But remember that occupational hazard? Remember John’s occupation: he’s a rake, he’s a rogue, he’s a trickster, and his victims come from both Heaven and Hell. In that line of work you make powerful enemies.

Constantine isn’t in the habit of losing: not to sexual, predatory priests; not to racists, vampires, demons or even archangels, all of which feature here. But just as he achieves one of his slickest, sickest and most vicious victories (which may yet prove his salvation in the dangerous long-game he is playing) Garth Ennis pulls the rug from right under him.

“There’s always somewhere lower you can go.”

My favourite chapter is ‘Heartland’. Set in Belfast in 1993 it’s essentially one long conversation between Kit and her wee sister with a big chunk in the middle down an Irish boozer with some mates reminiscing about the past and discussing the Provisional IRA. All of which was rather brave, but Ennis’ Irish accent and speech patterns had a lovely lilt and I can think of few comicbook artists other than Steve’s brother Glyn (THE NAO OF BROWN) who could have done such talking heads justice. Sean Phillips, Dave Sim, Fiona Staples perhaps. And you just wait for the visual punchline, as underplayed and heart-rending as anything else you will see in comics.

There aren’t many horror comics which can actually make you cry.

SLH

Buy Hellblazer vol 7 Tainted Love s/c and read the Page 45 review here

You Are A Cat Pick A Plot vol 2 Zombie Apocalypse (£13-50, Conundrum Press) by Sherwin Tjia.

What was that sound?!

Imagine you’re curled up on lounge sofa, merrily moulting ginger cat hair all over your owners’ black cushions after having scratched several shades of shit out of their floor-length, velveteen curtains. It was exhausting – you deserved a nap.

But just as you’d settled down to doze, contemplating the decapitated frog you’d left beside the bed upstairs (exactly where the mother will soon place her naked foot), there’s a jangling of keys and the teenage girl of the house laughs her way through the front door accompanied by her new girlfriend. And that’s okay, but when her father staggers in a few minutes later and slumps like a drunk against the hall wall… that’s when your life changes forever.

Before we launch properly in I should emphasise that, unlike the two self-determining graphic novels we stock (KNIGHT & DRAGON and Jason Shiga’s enormously inventive MEANWHILE), this and YOU ARE A CAT VOL 1 are both illustrated prose brought to our comicbook attention on account of Tija’s magnificent short-story collection HIPLESS BOY which I described as “early Tomine if Adrian was an optimist.” Of the seemingly innocuous YOU ARE A CAT VOL 1 I wrote:

“WARNING: most certainly not suitable for kids! Oh, I know it looks as if it should be: for a start it’s a cat, secondly it’s riffing off and indeed mimicking your childhood favourites where you controlled the narrative by becoming the protagonist, making her or his decision for them, and then turning backwards or forwards to the duly prescribed page.”

What it actually contained was all manner of mischief involving moments of a dysfunctional family that only a cat would witness. This time the warning’s in the title and the cover, but nothing there could possibly prepare you for the true horror within. And we’re not even talking about the zombies: there are worse fates than getting your neck nibbled on by a bunch of hive-minded shamblers.

“The next two hours are awful.”

That, I promise you, is an understatement, for Sherwin Tija has put his thinking cap on sideways and come up with all manner of fucked-up futures for a cat caught in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, several strands involving you being bitten and infected yourself.

I am no expert in zombies, myself, but I consulted with Dominique and it appears that there are indeed very few strains which involve a zombie’s perspective, let alone a zombified cat, and Tija’s take is far from obvious because, to his mind, every animal would react differently. At one point when fresh human flesh is on offer you’re given three options, one of which is “Will you teach them your love?” * Funny.

There are a substantial two hundred and fifty pocket-sized pages here which Sherwin has packed with enormous fight-or-flight variety involving your bit of fluff down the road, her aging owner, a fenced-off enclave surrounded by snipers, a helicopter, outrageously ruthless scientists and some brand-new means of infection which I would have imagined in a million years. Hint: you may never breast-feed again.

As to the myriad of final fates, they are soooooooooooooo dark that the brightest is almost the opportunity to throw yourself off a roof without having even attempted to negotiate DC’s juddering, advert-stuffed website.

“But, Stephen, is there no hope of happiness?”

Maybe. Define “happiness”. Hahahahaha!

THE END.

* That was a written note and I can no longer find that page so it may not be verbatim. Also, I made the decapitated frog’s head up from a personal, cold, clammy and squelch-crunch experience.

SLH

Buy You Are A Cat Pick A Plot vol 2 Zombie Apocalypse and read the Page 45 review here

Caligula Vol 2: Heart Of Rome (£14-99, Avatar) by David Lapham & German Nobile.

Here’s one for CROSSED fans, you sick, sick people.

Previously in CALIGULA VOL 1… Look, the clue’s in the title: Emperor Caligula wasn’t exactly a philanthrope. Not for him, the altruistic satisfaction of municipal benefaction, building orphanages for the wee ones and bearding-up as Santa Claus each Christmas. No, it was white-knuckle ride taking in the not-unexpected hamlets of Death and Depravity but with a surprise detour through the unhistoric town of Demonic Possession.

It basically went tits-up for everyone.

As the second book opens, Emperor Claudius has seized the city of Rome with his smothered son Britannicus due to succeed him, while Caligula’s ambitious sister Agrippina is living in exile with her son Nero. Since SILVERFISH’s David Lapham is playing fast but only a little loose with history, Nero can considered safe this round. Not so those around him, especially when you learn who Nero’s father is.

Tribune Laurentius, meanwhile, who saw Caligula for what he really was before sorting him good-and-proper-like, is hired by Agrippina, one of few who believe Laurentius’ claims of demonic possession and that Caligula’s spirit lives on. Laurentius is presumed to have gone a little mental ever since his own wife Julia was turned into the sort of modern art which even Damien Hirst would blanche at. And it’s been happening on a lot recently on the streets of Rome: grotesque “installations” using imaginatively repurposed body parts – it’s just the authorities have initiated a cover-up. Re-enter Junius, the vengeful olive farmer who endured so much in CALIGULA VOL 1 just to get close enough to Caligula to kill him. He now owns four gladiators including an unbeatable champion called Verraxis, and massive gambling debts.

There you go, that’s your basic line-up. Where resides the spirit of Caligula? Who’s vying for a Tate-Modern Turner Prize? What’s Agrippina really up to? How naughty is Nero, even as a child? He’s quite naughty. I hope no one is silly enough to give him some matches.

German Nobile is back to render all manner of sexual protrusions in a manner which, ordinarily, would send their owners straight down the Genito-Urinary Clinic. His colours are lurid, sordid and opaque, which is no bad thing in this instance – I don’t think Alex Ross would be quite right for this book. I wasn’t always entirely sure what was going on, but on occasions I was grateful. I think more of that may be due to a little too much happening off-screen, as if bits of the script had been excised due to space.

There will be a third volume at the very least as the conclusion will make clear. I imagine once Nero hits puberty everyone will be in a great deal of trouble.

SLH

Buy Caligula Vol 2: Heart Of Rome and read the Page 45 review here

New Avengers vol 2: Infinity h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Mike Deodato Jr.

Scientifically sophisticated and philosophically exceptional for any genre in comics, this has only just begun. You wait for the linguistic punchline.

The Black Panther, Reed Richards, Iron Man, the Beast, Namor of Atlantis, Black Bolt of the Inhumans and Dr. Stephen Strange: they are the Illuminati, a cabal of Earth’s superhumans – some of them sovereign – who have been working behind the scenes to preserve all life as we know it. Now they have been told:

“Everything dies.”

In NEW AVENGERS VOL 1 they witnessed a series of Incursions: the intrusion of planet Earth from one parallel universe to another. From up in the sky it descends on a collision course, and there can only be two outcomes: one of those Earths is sacrificed in order to save those universes… or everything dies in both.

For years this has been happening all over the multiverse but now it has come home to roost and it is happening with alarming frequency: four Incursions right here in a single month.

The Illuminati are working on it, but this is their dilemma: they want to preserve this Earth that they live on with those they hold dear but, in order to do so, they must destroy another Earth equally as valid as theirs. They must commit global genocide – the obliteration of billions of individual human beings with loved ones of their own – and I’m afraid they have built the weapons to do so.

The Illuminati have fooled themselves that this will be a last resort, but so far they have been lucky: firstly events outside their control meant that they haven’t had to deploy this Final Solution yet, plus they have been dealing with physics which they have successfully stretched their collective and substantial scientific brains to just-about-comprehend. But 1) time is running out, and 2) prepare for a paradigm shift.

Seriously, when you read NEW AVENGERS #13 which immediately follows this book, you will begin to understand as I did what is meant by a “paradigm shift”.

Meanwhile, all is far from well between the individual members of the Illuminati with sub-plots not simmering but raging galore. Black Bolt is hiding something monumental; Dr. Strange has gone unilateral; Reed Richards and Iron Man have entrusted their own private plans to whom we don’t know; plus Namor’s Atlantis and Black Panther’s Wakanda are at war. Let’s not even talk about what they’ve done to Steve Rogers.

I wish we could have an artist as dark and brooding, as foreboding and neo-classically epic as Mike Deodato on board to make this as visually impressive as it deserves. Oh, wait – we do!

 

God, but he’s good, isn’t he?

SLH

Buy New Avengers vol 2 Infinity h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

Cemetary Girl vol 1: The Pretenders h/c (£16-99, Inklit) by Charlaine Harris & Christopher Golden

Complete Multiple Warheads s/c (£13-50, Image) by Brandon Graham

Conan vol 14: The Death s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Declan Shalvey, Vasilis Lolos, Becky Cloonan

Ex Machina Book 1 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris

The Incal h/c (£29-99, SelfMadeHero) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Moebius

Other Stories And The Horse You Rode In On (£13-55, Conundrum) by Dakota McFadzean

Percy Jackson And The Titan’s Curse s/c (£9-99, Disney) by Rick Riordan, Robert Vendetti & Attila Futaki

Prison Pit vol 5 (£9-99, Fantagraphics) by Johnny Ryan

Quantum And Woody vol 1: The World’s Worst Superhero Team s/c (£7-50, Valiant) by James Asmus & Tom Fowler

Vampire Academy vol 3: Shadow Kiss (£9-99, Razorbill) by Richelle Mead, Leigh Dragoon & Emma Vieceli

Will O’ The Wisp h/c (£18-99, Archaia) by Tom Hammock & Megan Hutchison

Batman: The Dark Knight vol 2 – Cycle Of Violence s/c (£10-99, DC) by Gregg Hurwitz & David Finch, Richard Friend

Batman: The Judas Coin s/c (£10-99, DC) by Walter Simonson

Green Arrow vol 3: Harrow s/c (£10-99, DC) by Ann Nocenti, various &  Freddie Williams II, various

Swamp Thing by Brian K. Vaughan vol 1 s/c (£14-99, DC) by Brian K. Vaughan & Roger Petersen, Phil Hale

All New X-Men / Indestructible Hulk / Superior Spider-Man – The Arms Of The Octopus s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by various

Superior Spider-Man vol 3: No Escape s/c (£13-50, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Giuseppe Camuncoli, Humberto Ramos

X-Men: Battle Of The Atom h/c (£37-99, Marvel) by various

Awkward Silence vol 4 (£8-99, Sublime) by Hinako Takanaga

Century Of Temptation s/c (£9-99, DMP) by Kairi Shimotsuki

Depression Of The Anti Romanticist vol 2 (£9-99, DMP) by Yasuna Suginuma & Riyu Yamakami

Dorohedoro vol 10 (£9-99, Viz) by Q Hayashida

Lies Are A Gentleman’s Manners (£9-99, DMP) by Marta Matsuo

Mr. Mini Mart (£9-99, DMP) by Junko

Sherlock Bones vol 1 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Yuma Ando & Yuki Sato

ITEM! Brief comic: LIFE WITH / OUT A CAT by Rachel Dukes who bears an uncanny resemblance to our own Dominique!

ITEM! Gorgeously coloured New Year’s Resolution comic by BAD MACHINERY’s John Allison (oh, just stick him in our search engine – we’ve loads more comics and free stickers to go with them)!

ITEM! STRAY BULLETS is returning! (see Page 45 reviews January 2014 week one for deetz!) Nearly fifteen years ago its creator David Lapham printed a letter from Page 45 in STRAY BULLETS #10, and you may find its contents… familiar. Over the years, I’ve either scored on consistency or bored with repetition!

ITEM! I’m sick of hearing the ridiculous repetition that Alan Moore’s left comics! He’s just left DC, and who can fucking blame him after the way he’s been treated? Here’s a preview of the latest LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN coming in May 2014. Yes, I know it doesn’t say so on the cover, but it is, and you can pre-order NEMO: ROSES OF BERLIN here! You already have NEMO: HEART OF ICE, right?

ITEM! Batman’s Gotham City really does originate from a town outside Nottingham. Our J-Lo spotted that BBC report. For more on Gotham and its links to Batman, see this article at Dawn Of The Unread.

ITEM! Illustrated interview with Antony Johnston on his forthcoming sci-fi thriller THE FUSE. You can pre-order THE FUSE #1 here and pre-order THE FUSE #2 here or just tell us to add it to your standing order. Preferably before we order next week, please!

ITEM! Details on forthcoming BREAKS webcomic co-created by Emma Vieceli. Looks gorgeous! Did you catch her pages in YOUNG AVENGERS #14? I swooned. Pop Emma Vieceli in our search engine! (Copy and paste: otherwise you’ll only spell her name with an ‘a’ and two ‘l’s  – I always do!)

ITEM! New Dr Sketchy’s life drawing class on Saturday February 8th. It’s the Flirty Thirties! NOW AND THEN’s Sally Jane Thompson will be there along with our Jodie, and they’ve offered to lend me their pencils and pens so I’ll see if I can get some cover to come along too. You could win graphic novels donated by Page 45! We are proud official sponsors.

I always call Dr. Sketchy’s the “not-up-their-arse art class”. They are so welcoming and creativity is cool!

- Stephen

Reviews January 2014 week one

January 1st, 2014

Okay, there are very few reviews this week, but then there were very few books! We can only deal with what we are dealt. Still, they’re all brilliant, and there are loads of news links at the bottom, as always.

Happy New Year!

 - Stephen 

aama vol 1: The Smell Of Warm Dust h/c (£12-99, Self Made Hero) by Frederik Peeters…

Pure science-fiction heaven. I now see exactly why this won the prestigious Best Series of 2013 prize at Angoulême. As utterly bizarre and charming in its own way as perhaps the greatest science fiction graphic novel ever, THE INCAL, yet without the existential farcicality and turbo-paced freneticism of that particular classic, it won me over instantly. Possibly the highest personal praise I can proffer is that it greatly minded me of Iain M. Banks’ prose, in the sense that we are presented with a highly complex and well developed universe and cast of characters, but there is a real sense of mystery to the plot which immediately draws you in. The art also, has a lightness of touch yet richness of detail which engendered a sense of real wonderment in me. Suspension of disbelief complete, this was a joyful thirty minutes reading indeed.* For someone who likes his fiction with a futuristic twist, this is as close to nirvana as it gets.

Confusion abounds from the beginning as the story opens with our central protagonist, Verloc Nim, groggily waking up in what appears to be an impact crater in the middle of nowhere on a dessert-like planet. He’s suffering from total amnesia but fortunately for him, and us, a cigar-smoking robot monkey called Churchill is loitering nearby to pass Verloc his handwritten diary, allowing him to catch up on what the hell has happened to leave him isolated in such a curious predicament. 

 

 

As Verloc reads he begins to remember his miserable life, losing the business he inherited from his father in a confidence trick, plus also his wife and daughter as he recalls his descent into depression and addiction. Furthermore, eschewing the medical advances of this future society he blamed for all his problems and indeed despised almost as much as he despised himself, he’d begun to physically unravel as well. All until his estranged younger brother, Conrad, the shining star of the family, asks Verloc to accompany him on a mysterious mission to another planetto retrieve a biological experiment called AAMA. 

Fans of Frederick, who’ve already read the autobiographical BLUE PILLS, the enigmatic ‘Tales of the Unexpected’-esque SANDCASTLE and the equally surreal PACHYDERME, will already know of his ability to craft and illustrate stories with an almost cinematic sense of pacing and scope, to display genuine emotional depth in characters both lovable and loathe-worthy alike. This is probably his most complete and indeed accessible work for me, despite the genre which will probably limit its appeal to some people, although it really shouldn’t. I am pleased the jurors of Angoulême and European readers of bande dessinée in general are able to appreciate greatness irrespective of its flavour. I am delighted also to report this is merely volume one in what I hope to be a long-running epic.

* [Editor’s note: Jonathan is a very fast reader.]

JR

Buy aama vol 1: The Smell Of Warm Dust h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Sleepwalkers (£8-99,Walker Books) by Viviane Schwarz.

“Good morning. I trust you slept well?”
“Don’t talk to him before he’s had some tea, it’s cruel.”

This is the truth!

This is also a woefully late review on Page 45’s part for a graphic novel which was successfully nominated for the British Comics Awards’ Young People’s Comic 2013 as judged by school children. Now that I’ve read it, I cannot comprehend why I resisted because it is fabulous!

It may have been the cover’s underpants-on-the-head, but I understand that now: Bonifacius the bear doesn’t wear a mask to hide a secret identity, but because “It makes me feel better”. Just like when I slip on some gloves or a new pair of cowboy boots: it feels like a full set of armour. I basically level-up!

This is full-on and frantic as three learned sheep attempt to rescue small children from their nocturnal nightmares, making quick-snap decisions on the hoof. I can already hear your first question: “Why are none of those sheep on the cover?” Patience, dear reader, patience!

Instead we have Bonno the bear clutching Buddy the dog, leaping into stellar-strewn action with Amali the sock monkey riding his back and Sophia the nib-nosed crow flying close behind. Sophia’s beak really is a functioning fountain-pen nib: she communicates with scrawls on the walls – which are difficult to read when it’s dark.

Buddy’s been there for a while but the other three are new recruits to the travelling Safe House who are dreamed into being and fashioned from inanimate objects. Our fine flock of three then try to teach them all that they know about tackling the terrors in time for yet another young cry for help. Necessity is the mother of invention and, boy, do they have to improvise because dreams have a habit of flying off in surreal and unexpected directions, don’t they? Viviane has that down to a tee.

Schwarz’s cartooning is an expressive joy, ebullient in action but also as tender and moving as early Disney feature film during the quiet moments of loss. Oh, Buddy’s face when he breaks it to Bonno about the truth behind the white, one-way door!

“I thought you said only you can go through that door?”
“Only I can come back.”

The glow-in-the-dark episode was particularly thrilling – positively electrifying – and there are breaks in the story for a quick cup of tea (there is always time for tea!) and a bit of cookery or craft, just like Jill Thompson’s glorious SCARY GODMOTHER.

My only problem was the prevalence of “No problem!” over and over again.

I dislike that response to someone thanking you for your help. It should be “My pleasure!” because helping people is indeed a great pleasure, whereas “No problem” implies that it could have been a problem and that possibly it was a problem but you put yourself out anyway. It effectively doubles the indebtedness instead of relieving it.

Emphasising the indebtedness could not be further from these sheep’s minds, however. They are entirely altruistic and that was one of the many elements I adored in this book. There is neither maudlin mawkishness in evidence nor reluctance in their hearts when they come to pay the price for helping others. It’s “Oh, well, we have to go!” and where they have to go is through that white, one-way door.

Most welcome mats say “Welcome”. This one reads “Good-bye”.

“Everyone has to wake up sometime.”

 SLH

Buy The Sleepwalkers and read the Page 45 review here

The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde: The Young King and The Remarkable Rocket s/c (£7-50, NBM) by Oscar Wilde & P. Craig Russell.

“Shall joy wear what grief has fashioned?”

It’s a good question, and one which dear Oscar posed a century before anyone investigated overseas child-labour in service to big-brand trainers.

Following the success of P. Craig Russell’s impeccable adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s THE HAPPY PRINCE, publisher NBM is gradually going back to reprint his earlier efforts. THE HAPPY PRINCE is recommended with all my heart as a tale of iniquity and inequality, true love and self-sacrifice, no matter the consequences. It is an ode to the redistribution of wealth, and a poignant and persuasive one at that.

The first story here pokes a socialist sceptre at those very same issues but proves problematic, if only because Russell’s craft and colouring hadn’t quite reached their peak and some of the script lies buried under very dark purples and reds. That at least could have been rectified for reissue. The Young King’s mullet is probably unsalvageable.

The only daughter of a king has a dalliance with a beautiful boy “of marvellous and foreign beauty” way beneath her station. She has a baby boy who is promptly dispatched to the countryside to be brought up as a shepherd, thereby prepping him for his Jesus Complex later on in life. At the same time the princess is poisoned and dumped in an open grave along with her upstart lover. Fast-forward a few years and the king is dying. In a fit of remorse (or the more likely desire to keep it in the family) he acknowledges his long-lost heir who is scooped up from penury and deposited in a palace of incomparable beauty and riches. To his credit, the prince does seem smitten by the beauty rather than the wealth which that beauty represents, although tellingly he does have a thing for a mirror held by a naked Narcissus. I imply no same-sex stirrings here – however homoerotic P. Craig Russell’s art always is – but a certain degree of self-regard.

For his coronation, then, he designs the most luxurious robe, crown and sceptre, demanding that everyone hop to it, labouring on the loom night and day or searching the world far and wide for the whitest pearls and the reddest rubies. The boy then experiences an epiphany in the form of three dreams during which he sees the suffering endured by others to order to meet his somewhat superficial and difficult demands. For example, an old man toiling at night on the robe:

“The land is free, and thou art no man’s slave.”
“We have chains, though no eye beholds them; and are slaves, though men call us free. Through our sunless lanes creeps poverty with her hungry eyes, and sin with his sodden face follows close behind her. Misery wakes us in the morning, and shame sits with us at night.”

When he wakes up he throws a diva fit, refusing to wear the robe and crown or carry the sceptre. Which is all very well, but they’ve been made now. Instead he slips back into the shepherd’s smock and takes up his old staff, crowning himself in thorns for good measure. It doesn’t go down well, not even with his poorest subjects waiting for him on the road to the Cathedral, expecting a right royal show.

“Sir, knowest thou not that out of the luxury of the rich cometh the life of the poor? By your pomp we are nurtured, and your vices give us bread…. What hast thou to do with us, and what we suffer?”
“Are not the rich and the poor brothers?”
“Ay, and the name of the rich brother is Cain.”

Ouch.

The courtiers, the commoners and the Church tell him that his self-abasement brings shame to them all; that the current hierarchy is just as it should be; that he cannot do anything about it; indeed that he should not do anything about it. Here’s the bishop:

“Is not He who made misery wiser than though art?”

Nice.

Wilde’s scenario seems completely valid to me: if, on his Coronation Day, Prince William strolled up solo to the doors of Westminster Cathedral in jeans and a t-shirt thereby saving the country a billion pounds which could be redirected to our crumbling schools, put-upon teachers, neglected nurses and virtually broken NHS, there would be the most almighty fucking uproar even from those who stood to benefit from those services most: the fanatically royalist poor who line the streets a dozen deep to wave their flags whenever even the lamest royal retard waves a bloody pinkie at them.

Whoops, there goes the knighthood.

The second story follows The Remarkable Rocket who is most remarked upon by himself. In fact he spends so much time blowing his trumpet up his own arse that he probably never learned how to spell “self-regard”. His trajectory is far from stellar.

Oscar Wilde is legendarily the most quotable writer in history – so succinct when taking the pith – and although this is far from his most famous short story, it is bursting with witty aphorisms as The Remarkable Rocket’s own words line up to condemn him as the rudest, most deluded pyrotechnic in history. Bang, bang, bang!

“You cannot understand my friendship for the prince.”
“Why, you don’t even know him.”
“I never said I knew him! I dare say if I knew him I should not be his friend at all. It is a very dangerous thing to know one’s friends.”

SLH 

Buy The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde: The Young King And The Remarkable Rocket s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 

Celebrated Summer s/c (£12-99, Fantagraphics) by Charles Forsman

Soul Eater vol 17 (£8-99, Yen Press) by Atsushi Ohkubo

New Avengers vol 2 Infinity h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Mike Deodato Jr.

Batman Arkham Unhinged vol 2 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Derek Fridolfs & Jorge Jimenez, Mico Suayan, various

Hellblazer vol 7 Tainted Love s/c (£14-99, DC) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon

Batman Arkham Unhinged vol 3 h/c (£18-99, DC) by Derek Fridolfs & Jorge Jimenez, Dave Wilkins, various

Dorohedoro vol 11 (£9-99, Viz) by Q. Hayashida

Gantz vol 29 (£10-50, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku

Judge Dredd (£13-50, IDW) by Duane Swierczynski & Nelson Daniel

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic vol 3 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Katie Cook & Andy Price

You Are A Cat Pick A Plot vol 2 Zombie Apocalypse (£13-50, Conundrum Press) by Sherwin Tjia

 

ITEM! Love this poster for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. There’s a real sense of magic and mystery and “Whatever Will I Find There?!” That’s certainly how I’d market a comic arts festival! 

ITEM! Inspiring! Practical! Empowering! Becky Cloonan on self-publishing, including top tips to help you do it too!

ITEM! Liz Prince blogs about 2013 with hints for her work in 2014. It’s very personal with struggles and triumphs, all beautifully put and respectfully expressed. Although, a big lesson in turned adversity into adventure.

ITEM! I spy sad, striking parallels between the US and UK comics industry twenty years ago and the games industry right now as highlighted by one of games’ finest analysts and writers, Leigh Alexander (on Twitter: @leighalexander).

Oh, they persist here: Marvel and DC still attempt to bludgeon comic shops into stocking nothing more than their niche superhero soap operas by churning out so much product (and I do mean “product”) that they hope comic shops have no room for the diversity which attracts the Real Mainstream. They don’t embrace this diversity any more than they ever have creator rights: they token-tolerate it as a necessary evil to make more money and the occasional, hyperbolic media-splash.

But both they and their subordinate, collaborative retailers have lost that war because those retailers have been made redundant by bookshops embracing the graphic novel as published by the likes of Drawn & Quarterly, Top Shelf, Fantagraphics, Great BeastUK, SelfMadeHero, Blank Slate,JonathanCapeet al, in all its splendid variety.

Dear Corporation and Indoctrinated, Dead-End Superhero Comic Shop, you have been successfully bypassed!

Anyway, here’s Leigh Alexander’s ‘Playing Outside’.

ITEM! Page 45 broke every monthly and quarterly sales record in 2013! Thank you, thank you, and thank you! That’s diversity for you. The next person who tells me that print is dead: I will cut you. In fact, I will paper-cut you.

ITEM! STRAY BULLETS is back and we have deciphered the cryptic solicitations in January’s PREVIEWS for March 2014 for you:

STRAY BULLETS #41:

The previously unreleased final issue of the original series’ last story arc. This issue will be contained in the STRAY BULLETS: UBER ALLES EDITION.

STRAY BULLETS: UBER ALLES EDITION

All 41 issues of the original series in one big book! The best crime in comics, right up there with Brubaker & Phillips’ CRIMINAL.

STRAY BULLETS: KILLERS #1

The beginning of a brand-new STRAY BULLETS series. See STRAY BULLETS: UBER ALLES EDITION for the complete original series.

There you go, Happy New Year! 

 - Stephen

Reviews December 2013 week four

December 25th, 2013

Page 45 Christmas Special!

You have no idea how much we love you. No idea at all. You are our world, you make our day, and we wouldn’t be here without you. We kick off with a world-wide exclusive.

 - Stephen xxx

Fluffy Visits Page 45 postcard (75 pence, Page 45) by Simone Lia.

“Daddy, this is the best shop in the world!”
“Yes.”

I actually cried when Simone sent us the design for this postcard. I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am, or how grateful to Simone.

Page 45 has had a long-standing love affair with Simone Lia’s FLUFFY, my go-to graphic novel whenever someone asks for something cute and adorable, full of warmth and love.

I once bought a signed, framed FLUFFY bunny print for my ex-housemonkey Ossian for his nursery, knowing that when he married his fiancée Kate that they would have children, and they would be the best parents in the world. Kate and Ossian now have a baby as beautiful as they are.

FLUFFY is a comedy about the unconditional love which the young white bunny has for her adoptive Daddy, Michael. Here they visit Page 45 for the very first time, peering through our shop door, admiring Jonathan and Dominique’s window display and then gazing up at Mark’s gorgeous design for our logo.

My contribution appears to be that I left my Cuban-heeled boots on the counter. It’s a little running joke between myself and Simone: I used to wear Cuban heels, but whenever I do now there is a great deal of tottering.

I love the flat colours in multiple, soft shades of blue, then the way she’s picked out our tiles in the richest and warmest terracotta orange, a few on the ground turning yellow then olive green – such attention to detail!

This is exactly what Page 45 looks like from the outside and I hope it invites you in.

SLH

Buy Fluffy Visits Page 45 postcard and read the Page 45 review here

Fluffy Postcard Packs (£5-50, I Love Bunnies Ltd) by Simone Lia.

“Daddy, I really love you.”

Oh dear, I appear to be in tears again.

How beautiful are these? Eight postcards, two of each design, featuring young bunny Fluffy and her adoptive Daddy, Michael. They are the stars of Simone Lia’s FLUFFY graphic novel, an acutely observed and tenderly rendered comedy in which Fluffy finger-paints the kitchen walls, gleefully cuts up loaned library books with safety scissors and sings “Kumbayah” to herself while Michael, oblivious, obsesses about the day-to-day minutiae which grind him into the ground.

Here they traipse the streets of London until Fluffy’s feet hurt, then Michael carries her home in his arms. Yes, you see, they tell a story!

 

 

“Thank you,” says Fluffy – to you when you buy them, then your loved ones, once sent. Her arms are outstretched, embracing life it all its bemusing wonder, her long white ears blowing in the breeze or maybe just by dint of her uncontainable, wholesome hyperactivity.

Such love! Such ebullience! Such kindness!

Each postcard has been approached in subtly different styles, Simone employing fine line and colour either separately or combined (see trees, clouds, bricks and skylines), along with bold, wibbly-wobbly line for close-ups.

For those who have already read Lia’s reverential and equally irreverent PLEASE GOD, FIND ME A HUSBAND!, the colour palette will come as no surprise: blues and oranges with here a lovely lime green.

Interesting, then, that there is a further decoral departure when Simone offered to create our exclusive FLUFFY VISITS PAGE 45 POSTCARD to complement this package.

SLH

Buy Fluffy Postcard Packs and read the Page 45 review here

Fluffy s/c (£9-99, Jonathan Cape) by Simone Lia.

Possibly the most beautiful book in the world.

Fluffy is a bunny. A bunny rabbit. She is young and exuberant and lost in her own little world as all children are. She likes to sing, if only to herself:

“Someone’s praying, me lord…
“Kumbuyah…
“Someone’s praying, me lord. Kumbuyah.
“Someone’s praying, my Lord….. kumbuyah.
“Oh Lord… Booby loob y loob.”

That is precisely how that verse ends. I’m pretty sure of it.

Fluffy has to sing to herself because I’m afraid that her adoptive Dad, Michael, instead of paying attention to Fluffy and so seeing the unconditional love literally played out in front of him, is distracted by all his day-to-day-minutiae that figuratively grind him into the ground. This Simone Lia presents to us in a series of cranial cross-sections, revealing Michael’s neuroses in a scientifically revealing cause-and-effect. What a numbskull!

Meanwhile Fluffy experiences all the joys of life. Loudly.

“I’ll be like the farmer in my library book. He’s good. I’ll cut him out when we got home. Can I keep this book Daddy? Can I? Can I keep the book? Daddy you never listen to me.”

Well, that’s one library book not going back in one piece!

Not only does Simone Lia has the most superb ear for dialogue (including a child’s easily distracted nature) but she’s also a great observer of interaction (or lack of it) when people manage no more than an inattentive “very good” in lieu of paying attention.

Here is the crux of the matter when Michael occasionally sits Fluffy down for a heart-to-heart. Nothing I can type will render this as poignantly as a shop-floor show-and-tell, so please ask me for one:

“Fluffy. I’m not your real Daddy.”
(Total lack of comprehension) “Yes you are, Daddy.”
“No, I’m a man and you’re a bunny.”
(Looks askew and askance, lost for words. Then…) “I’m not a bunny.”
“You are a bunny. You’re a bunny rabbit.”
(Moth agape) “Why do you keep saying that?”
“Because it’s true.”
“I’M NOT A BUNNY. YOU’RE A BAD DADDY FOR SAYING THAT.”

Fluffy then clip-clops and trip-trops off, leaving Michael alone on the couch. With a pungent bunch of bunny droppings.

SLH

Buy Fluffy s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Kochi Wanaba h/c (£14-99, Blank Slate) by Jamie Smart.

“In 1592, the people of our town hanged an old lady they believed to be a witch. Her last words before she died were a curse, wishing a plague of bees on our town. One year later, our town was hit by a plague of bees, and everyone was killed in a mass anaphylactic shock.”

Welcome to Bee Fest, during which the townsfolk stuff a giant bee with notes about themselves begging the bees to leave them alone, then set the giant bee on fire. This year it’s going to be particularly incendiary, especially for the small group of kids who aren’t so much a tight circle of friends as a mess of neuroses, teasing and tensions, frayed through and through, their tempers stretched almost to breaking point.

Hyperactive Lhys is in constant, sugar-buzz danger of bubbling over. Her votive offering begins thus:

“My name is Annabelle Louise, but most of my friends call me Lhys. I think it’s because it irritated me, but I’m very over it now. This is Kochi, he is my boyfriend. I love him very much he is very sexy >_< !! Sometimes he lets me put grips in his hair and make him look girly then he wakes up and shouts at me.”

“Let’s me” – love it. Virtually comatose Kochi copes by zoning out, absorbed in his sketchbook which needy Lhys is desperate to be drawn in. We only get to see inside Kochi’s sketchbook the once: it’s a self-portait, his offering for the Bee-Fest, and all he has to say is…

“My name is Kochi. I don’t really fit.”

As for Dylan and Tubby:

“I drew monsters.”
“I drew something. Not sure what. I think it’s my mother.”

She has a nice ‘tache.

Tubby is stuck upright in a hollow log and has been for at least a day. He really needs to pee. It’s the sort of visual gag Smart is renowned for. It doesn’t need to be explained. You try explaining FISH HEAD STEVE! (Oh, wait, I did.) Stylistically, however, this is a marked departure. The heads are still giant, their eyes bulging, their mouths screaming impossibly wide, but this entire book is conducted in shaded sepia pencils on coffee-cream paper as the characters roam, run or sometimes float, panel-free, across its pages. Occasionally they fade out. You’re in for a far more free-form affair.

Smart’s also famous for his complete command of the English language, abusing it atrociously, yet still it looks up to him like a doe-eyed puppy dog after it’s been smacked.

“Hey are you even listening to me? I’m talking to you. Sometimes it seems like you’re not paying attention when I talk about the traumas in my life. Mister Fozzles was a trauma…
“He traumed me.”

And God, can she talk about her traumas. Only Jamie Smart could get away with breaking one of my cardinal rules of comics which is “For fuck’s sake do not throw a complete wall of words at us on your opening pages – this is a visual medium!” Jamie doesn’t just break the rule here, he shatters and stamps it into the ground, burying Lhys’s tiny form under an avalanche of anger, a torrent of inventive invective with bugger-all paragraph breaks on the very first page. He gets away with it because it is one long delirious rant about T.V.’s Mr. Fozzles trauming young Lhys, liberally scattered with the most colourful swears which a girl of her age couldn’t possibly know. Which is funny in and of itself.

This lot are at it all the time.

“I’m sick of you too, George. Soon as you say I look like a gay sailor, everyone else agrees with you!!”
“But you are a gay sailor.”
“See? You’re all fucking sycophants. I don’t even know why I’m here.”
“I do, Tubby. It’s because you’re a weirdo, an outcast. You’re not socially acceptable. We’re all you’ve got. You’re here for the same reason all of us are. Till we find somewhere better.”

I don’t want to give too much away, but there will be monsters. There are bugs throughout – just look at the bees! (And while we’re back on the bees, Lhys’ bee costume is beautiful: one big bundle of fuzz complete with sting in her tail where really she should have put holes for her legs and feet, so she has to bounce everywhere instead.) But the biggest monster is George. You watch. You wait. Nothing is sacred.., not even Mr. Fozzles. Someone is going to get traumed.

“Lhys, don’t be stupid!”
“Oh it’s far too late for that.”

SLH

Buy Kochi Wanaba h/c and read the Page 45 review here

BOO! one-shot (£5-00, self-published) by Jamie Smart, Gary Northfield, Warwick Johnson Cadwell, Andrew Waugh, Jonathan Edwards, Paul Harrison-Davies, James Howard.

I want my Mummy!

All seven of these reprehensible, irresponsible creators should be ashamed of themselves.

They have deliberately conspired to create a horror comic for kids which will scare the living hell out of them, giving them nightmares for years to come. This amounts to nothing short of the cold-blooded, premeditated mind-murder of minors. Kids don’t want to be traumatised! They don’t sit up late at night during sleepovers or round a camp fire telling each other gruesome ghost stories or that one about the stalled car and the escapee from the high-security lunatic asylum. (Forty years on, and I am still shaking in fright.) They don’t giggle with glee on scary rides or creep up on each other and go “Boo!”

Where are the happy endings? Whom can you trust? Why aren’t you safe at home? How can school dinners get any worse than they already are? What really happened to the Three Little Pigs when they built their house made of bricks after one of the Big Bad Wolf’s descendents travelled back through time with the following message?

“Basically, use this sledgehammer.”
“Right.”

I’ll tell you one thing: I will never sleep with my feet outside my duvet again.

My one consolation is that each of these seven stories was no more than four pages long. Admittedly some are more successful than others (I think this is a genuine problem when you get together as friends and no one wants to say, “Yeah, that didn’t work”), but obviously FISH HEAD STEVE’s Jamie Smart and TEENYTINYSAURS’ Gary Northfield are among the worst (by which I mean best) offenders, and if you think I will ever forgive BLACK OUT’s Andrew Waugh for his punchline, you are very much mistaken.

Now that I think about it, the worst nightmare I ever had as a kid was a recurring one: about a monster crawling up a well and successfully bribing my Mum with Chocolate Mini-Roll to throw me down the well and let the monster eat me. Kudos to Gary Northfield for undermining the one element of kids’ lives they can all rely on: their mother’s protection and judgement.

SLH

Buy Boo! and read the Page 45 review here. If you really must. Caveat emptor etc.

Origin 2 #1 (£3-50, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Adam Kubert, Frank Martin.

“This is a story of wolves and bears. And animals…”

It really is. You won’t meet a single human being during this first issue other than Logan himself, now entirely feral following the events in WOLVERINE: ORIGIN.

Instead, in a breath of fresh mountain air, the cast consists of a wolf pack which has adopted Wolverine, its new litter holed up in a den on the snow swept Canadian Rockies, a prowling lone wolf, and a gigantic polar bear which has strayed far from its natural habitat, so finding itself at a predatorial disadvantage.

“It seemed to believe that covering its nose would disguise it from prey.
“It didn’t grasp fishing in the rivers, waiting for prey to emerge and being disappointed when it didn’t…”

Fish don’t need to come up for air.

Yes, it’s a long way from home. A very long way. Don’t you find that curious?

 

Image-driven, this is magnificent: sweeping landscapes, ferocious battles and some monumental full-page flourishes all coloured to delicious perfection by… hold on – that isn’t Isanove?! I can assure you that colour artist Frank Martin is every bit as good.

And isn’t that cover gorgeous? It’s even more impressive when you open the acetate overlay to reveal a surprise which evidently lies in wait further down the line. For, yes, there is an acetate overlay like the ones which decked the original issues of Kurt Busiek & Alex Ross’ MARVELS. I’d get in fast, for I suspect that won’t be true of any second prints.

SLH

Buy Origin 2 #1 and read the Page 45 review here

The Authority vol 2 h/c (£25-99, DC) by Mark Millar, various & Frank Quitely, various.

“Why do super-people never go after the real bastards?”

Now that is a very good question.

In Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch’s blistering series of pyrotechnic crescendos which was AUTHORITY VOL 1, Jenny Sparks declared that they would make this a better world, whether we liked it or not. Having defended the Earth against alternate dimensions and the closest thing to God, The Authority now turns its attention to Earth’s own dictators, reasoning that if they’re going to risk their lives defending this planet, it ought to be one worth saving. Or at least one they like.

Unilaterally they decide to depose a tyrannical regime in Southeast Asia and, led by Jack Hawksmoor, they do so with military precision and a ruthless efficiency. They use that swift and effortless victory in Southeast Asia – along with the somewhat intimidating shadow of their 50-mile-high shiftship – to persuade the Russian army to back off from Chechnya and China to withdraw from Tibet.

When was the last time you saw an invasion force persuaded to retreat without a single shot being fired? You would have thought that a nation allegedly espousing democracy enough to oppose dictatorships and invade their sovereign states would welcome these moves, but the American government is far from happy.

“Just watch your step, Mister Hawksmoor.”
“Frankly we could say the same to you. Mister President.”

Hmmm. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

It was a subtle game Mark Millar played for we rooted for the liberal-leftie, anti-establishment authoritarians without at first realising that paradox. Because as liberal-lefties ourselves we happened to agree with their stance. Also, because we’d do it too, wouldn’t we? Give me virtually limitless power and I would be first to intervene geo-politically.

Millar also won our affections with extreme prescience, inventive lateral thinking and a seemingless limitless wit. Here Jack Hawksmoor asks the normally masked Midnighter what has become of his trademark leather uniform. Well, adopting a small child changes more than you can possibly anticipate:

“Baby Jenny vomited all over it and I had to order a new one.”
“Couldn’t you just have cleaned it?”
“Milk doesn’t come out of leather no matter how hard you clean. Cow’s revenge, I suppose.”
“Makes sense.”

As to the lateral thinking, The Authority are first assaulted by a decommissioned Cold War U.S. enterprise, 42 levels above Presidential Clearance, which has no intention of letting The Authority get in the way of its own plans for a unilaterally-imposed worldwide Utopia, cheers. It is the brainchild of Professor Krigstein, immediately identifiable by his small stature and burning cigar as seminal superhero artist Jack Kirby:

“The kind of man who could probably have created all your favourite comicbook characters if he hadn’t been snapped up by Eisenhower at the end of the war.”

Half the fun there is identifying the Marvel characters Jack “King” Kirby did indeed create for Marvel, now perverted into a bunch of bigoted rapists etc. Start with the original Avengers and the rest may fall into place or, if you’re struggling, ask me at the counter!

Which brings us to Frank Quitely. I wish this was all drawn by Frank Quitely. Hell, I wish this was all written by Mark Millar but, as promised, we will get to that in a bit.

Artists Chris Weston, Art Adams and Gary Erskine all delivered their ever-reliable goods, but Frank Quitely was on fire: those analogues were so witty. His forms were much more burly than we’d been used to from Bryan Hitch, but that worked brilliantly: they weren’t just super-human, they were meta-human. Michelangelo did the same thing, especially to his women. I loved his constantly puckered lips too – largely the guys’. With his analogue to Giant Man he achieved in scale what Hitch went on to in THE ULTIMATES then Luke Pearson did with HILDA AND THE MIDNIGHT GIANT by bending the man down yet, even so, failing to fit the full figure into the panel. It’s deliberate, trust me: that’s how it works.

And so we come to the sadness of it all. I was very much hoping, with this material now being released as deluxe hardcovers, that DC under a new editorial regime rather than the one which went so fearfully, so destructively and so despotically awry might have corrected its irrational errors and given us a book that we could be proud to sell, rather than one which we must, in all good consciousness, be apologists for.

What you read, increasingly throughout this volume, was not written by Mark Millar even when his name was slapped on it. It was rewritten by editors. What was drawn was not what was first intended. Under the Page 45 reviews blog where this review was first published (December 2013 week four) you will find a meticulously researched if not exhaustive article on how much criminal damage was done to this work which DC could have been proud of, but which their own timidity turned into a travesty.

The worst offense is not catalogued there. DC’s worst offense, as reported at the time by Rich Johnston, was excising this single sentence:

“You just pissed off the wrong faggot.”

Did DC believe that the word “faggot” was beyond the pale? It did not. It happily printed it as sneered and espoused by a homophobic supervillain at the Midnighter’s expense, and happily reprints it all here. But when, in a scene harking back to Wolverine during X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX SAGA, The Midnighter comes to retake the English language in an act of self-empowerment (for he is gay and his beloved boyfriend has been brutally abused to breaking point), he no longer says…

“You just pissed off the wrong faggot.”

But, limply…

“You boys just pissed off the wrong bastard.”

It really isn’t the same.

Here is a couple of sentences from the final page of this book aimed not at the protagonists within but the people who publish it, from my original review of the final issue:

‘”Do you think we made a difference in the end?”
“God yes, are you kidding? Even with all the crap they threw at us, we completely changed the landscape over the last twelve months.”

It was inevitable: The Authority’s radical stand was bad for the business of brainwashing. So it wasn’t the world’s governments who pooled together to take them down and replace them with a version they could control, it was the multi-national corporations who control them – who hire the world leaders to protect their tax breaks and overseas interests. Obviously enough the same can be said for comic itself, and for the very same reasons.

It had to be shut down and all under the excuse, the self-serving, printed (and, under the circumstances disgustingly offensive) lie that it had anything to do with the events of September 11th. We’ve been here before, so I won’t belabour the point except to remind you that the finale to this blistering series you’ve loyally patronised with your hard-earned money is, I’m afraid, very much tainted by editorial treacheries, and the hard lesson is the same as The Authority had to learn:

Never, ever trust a fucking corporation.

SLH

Buy The Authority Vol 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 

The Sleepwalkers (£8-99, Walker Books) by Viviane Schwarz

Mouse Guard vol 3: The Black Axe h/c (UK Edition) (£14-99, Titan) by David Petersen

Iron Man vol 3: The Secret Origin Of Tony Stark Part Two s/c (UK Edition) (£12-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Greg Land, Dale Eaglesham

Judge Dredd: The Restricted Files vol 1 (£19-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Steve Moore & Carlos Ezquerra, Mike McMahon, Kevin O’Neill, Ian Gibson, Brian Bolland, Steve Dillon, Bret Ewins, Brendan McCarthy, Cliff Robinson, John Byrne

 

ITEM! Christmas comic by John Allison.

ITEM! Bryan Lee O’Malley reveals SECONDS cover and interior art, beautifully coloured. SECONDS due July 2014.

ITEM! Female comicbook professional comments on a letter received from a pathetic little man who is clearly deluded that he is witty and charming.

ITEM! Excellent, in-depth, though not exhaustive article about DC’s censorship of Mark Millar’s run on THE AUTHORITY. And by “censorship” I mean “evisceration”. It was… extensive.

ITEM! Writers on writers and writing – as opposed to those waiting for inspiration to write.

ITEM! Kieron Gillen on writing, pitching, being asked to pitch, investing emotionally and caring about what you write.

ITEM! I think this is the modern man’s version of narcissus looking at his reflection,” observes KING CITY and WALRUS’ Brandon Graham. I believe he has a point!

Merry Christmas, everybody!

This blog was prepared days ago when I was still capable of typing. If you want to imagine how it would look if it was being written right now thant his shudddd ggiv eyou some indicaschun.

- Stephen xxx

Reviews December 2013 week three

December 18th, 2013

“Excuse me, but I don’t think that’s appropriate reading material for the tram, do you?” 

 - Actual tram passenger to Jonathan on Joe Hill’s Thumbprint

I was tempted to replace this book inside my backpack and do a show-and-tell for my esteemed co-traveller on the merits of the graphic novel using CROSSED VOL 7 which, I could feel by now, practically levitating its way towards the surface of the carrier bag, buoyed by the soothing rhythm of the tram plus maybe a little by the seething indignation of my neighbour. 

 - Jonathan on his response. He is so naughty!

The Snow Queen And Other Stories (£4-99, Great Beast) by Isabel Greenberg.

The moment I realised that the polar bear pelt spread on the bed was alive, I grinned my head off. Its face reacts first with cartoon anger to news of Kai’s kidnapping, dubiousness at the proposition of his rescue, then delight at the mode of transport. Its expressions are a comedic joy. It’s all a bit Hayao Miyazaki (MY NEIGHBOUR TOTORO) via Dave Shelton or something.

From the creator of my favourite book of 2013, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH, comes a comic with a cover which could not be more Christmassy and, given that it will be Christmas Day in precisely one week, the timing could not be more propitious. Inside you’ll find snow, a reindeer from Lapland, a deceitful witch, a highly communicative but ill-informed crow, a great many roses and the shards of a shattered mirror: the devil’s mirror, to be precise, which has the power to make anything look evil and ugly.

“A dangerous object,” owns the devil. “Definitely something that should be kept safe! So I gave it to my little Troll Minions to play with.”

Uh-oh.

One of those splinters pierces the heart of young Kai while playing amongst the roses with his best friend Gerda. Throughout the summers and long winters they had grown up together, inseparable, even playing footsie while dangling their legs over the bridge which joined the attics they lived in. Now in an instant Kai turns on poor Gerda who is at a loss to understand why he is being so very mean. The following winter Kai shuns Gerda and hitches his sledge to the back a horse-drawn sleigh to get a free ride. Unfortunately the sleigh is driven by the Snow Queen and the ride turns out to be anything but free.

What follows is an absolute epic… told in twenty taut pages! What has become of our Kai? Will Gerda ever find him? And how will he react if she does? Err… I think I may have given something away there.

Oh, the road is long! With a many a winding turn that will lead us to who knows where? Who knows where?! Well, I do, obviously.

As in THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EARLY EARTH, the art bears the charming quality of early printing but employing far more warm, glowing colours even if there’s still plently of fresh, crisp white. There’s also the same sense of mischief, Greenberg offsetting the solemnity of the story with stuff and nonsense, as when the Snow Queen sets Kai a task:

“If you can do it you’ll be your own master and I will give you the whole world and a new pair of skates.”

Meanwhile Greta can’t even spell the word “quit” and here encounters some guards, visually straight out of Tom Gauld:

“You may go no further. This is the Snow Queen’s Palace, little girl.”
“Don’t tell me what to do! I’ve had quite enough of all this, thank you very much! I haven’t come to the ends of the earth to be stopped by a bunch of mean snowmen! I’m here in the name of True Love SO GET OUT OF MY WAY ALREADY!”
“Err… OK.”

You tell ‘em!

SLH

Buy The Snow Queen And Other Stories and read the Page 45 review here

Show Me The Map To Your Heart (Extended Edition) (£5-99, Great Beast) by John Cei Douglas.

“They made a map for their future.
“And hoped it was true.”

‘Poignant’ and John Cei Douglas are synonymous.

This is a new Great Beast edition incorporating the whole of John’s self-published HOLDING PATTERNS.

As such it features four of the finest pages ever in comics within a black, white and decidely blue collection of meticulously composed short stories; all bar one sad and mournful, some lamenting lost love.

‘Footnotes’ is John Cei Douglas’ tour de force. Each silent page is a perfectly balanced composition of light, line and colour, the first three of which each find focus by dint of a borderless spotlight on a young couple together on a train station platform over a period of time. These are surrounded by train journeys to and fro, some shared, some solo, gazing out of the window with dreamy optimism or more melancholic doubt. Rarely have I seen these scenes through a carriage window so well conveyed; similarly the station and platforms themselves which, towards the end, echo with a real sense of space – of emptiness. The expressions are as subtle as they are economical – we’re talking Andi Watson at the top of his game – but alas I can say little more when I have a dozen more sentences in me which desperately want to explain why this is so super. SPOILERS.

‘Living Underwater’ and ‘Bottling It’, are two poignant pieces about anxiety and depression, the second being silent and more metaphorical, the first direct, autobiographical and explanatory. If you have ever sunk beneath a sea of suffocating, paralysing depression and anxiety you will find much empathy here and may want to share it with your friends. If you haven’t, welcome to John’s world: it will help you to understand.

It concludes with ‘Follow me’ and a moment of magic, but at its centre lies the titular tale, a pastoral, passionate times-past love story intriguingly framed by a more anonymous urban present. In it a travelling troubadour called Alexander falls profoundly in love with a farmhand named Heléna, and she with he.

“They lived underwater and dined under moonlight.
“They sailed to the moon and listened to the stars.”

They explored the world and all its potential together and looked loving, optimistically to the future.

John has a thing about maps at the moment, and there are several within using carefully composed destinations in lieu of standard panels. One of those maps folds out to a full A3. There are also sequences composed like a diamond quilt, and one employing a mountain motif, its centre one giant peak which stretches from the bottom right to the pinnacle of the page.

So much wisdom and craft. And what a brilliant title, eh?

SLH

Buy Show Me The Map To Your Heart (Extended Edition) and read the Page 45 review here

The Everyday h/c (£11-99, Great Beast) by Adam Cadwell.

Glastonbury 2009, and some total cock casually kicks over a young lady’s drink while strolling past on his Very Important Way. He doesn’t even apologise.

“Did you see that? Should we offer her some of our wine?”
“Sure.”
“Excuse me? I saw that jerk kick your drink over. Would you like some of our wine?”
“You’re nice.”
“Yes I am. But the wine isn’t.”

Smooth operator!

He really isn’t. That’s possibly the one and only instance of smooth operation that complete klutz Cadwell exhibits in his girl/boy interfaces. He’s normally tongue-tied or, if not tongue-tied, instantly regretting his wonky words and misdeeds.

Like Ellerby’s ELLERBISMS: A SPORADIC COMIC DIARY, this too is a sporadic comic diary of commendable candour from August 2006 to July 2010. Although if I had one criticism it would be that it could have done with being a little more sporadic – or at least edited for print. For example, if you don’t have an idea then writing about not having that idea has been done to death. Schultz never saw the need at all: he just got on and found an idea.

There are, however, so many moments which ticked my recognition boxes: getting caught up in the moment at a gig, gleefully bellowing along; waking up woefully late for work only to realise with intense relief that it’s your day off; checking morning email in your undies. My head nodded most when Adam set his watch back to GMT while flying home:

“I felt a little sad as I changed the time, as if this small act marked the exact moment my holiday was over.”

Plus it’s thoroughly endearing to see a grown man spontaneously break out into Wham!’s “Jitterbug” complete with dance move and then immediately realise what he’s done. Thankfully in private.

It’s all very intimate and I wonder if airing some of this self-consciousness in public is a way or purging private embarrassment? Amateur psychologist, me. It’s far more likely that Adam simply enjoys making you laugh, even if he’s the butt of the joke. There is an exquisite piece of comedic timing whilst watching TV’s Heroes when he idly wonders if he should get a tattoo of its trademark symbol:

“Or not. In a few decades it’d be quite sad to have an emblem of a cult TV show at a tattoo. It’d be like if now you had a Batman symbol on your chest…”

The final panel, after the genius of the second sentence has sunk in, is a moment of perfectly realised and rendered satori. Better still, 18th September 2008 sees a startlingly elaborate flourish as the noise made by a lawnmover curls up into the sky and sweeps through Cadwell’s bedroom window then round his bathroom to merge with his whirring electic toothbrush.

The package is beautifully printed leaving the blacks with a satin sheen, while the cover’s colours are gorgeous. It’s such an appropriate cover too: a suburban scenario of puddles refectling a bus, trees and cloud-streaked sky after the rain has abated. You never know, the sun may come out.

Finally, to settle the cutlery-draw argument, Adam is completely correct: it is most definitely knives, forks then spoons. Anything else is an aberration. A wicked and wilful aberration.

SLH

Buy The Everyday h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Parker: Slayground h/c (£13-50, IDW) by Richard Stark & Darwyn Cooke…

“Good. It’s real simple. Do what I tell you and you’ll live through this. You understand me?”

No, not new recruit Jodie being inducted into the dark arts of Page 45 mail order, but Parker dispensing a pearl of choice wisdom to the bent cop he’s trying his very hardest to be civil to. Given the cop and his partner are doing their level best to help a crew of mob guys rub him out and steal his score, I’d say he’s being pretty darn considerate. For a master criminal, Parker certainly manages to get himself into a fair few tight spots, but I guess if everything went to plan, that’d be pretty boring.

Here, hot footing it from the scene of an armoured car heist after a nervous getaway driver  has managed to roll their car in the snowy conditions, he’s spotted leaping the fence into a locked up fairground by a couple of on the take cops picking up their pay-off from some local wise guys. Hearing reports coming in of the heist over the police radio and putting two and two together, the bad guys decide there’s some easy money to be had and posse up with the intention of relieving Parker of his cash. Unfortunately for them, well, he’s Parker. So, after surveying his surroundings, planning as many moves ahead as a chess grandmaster, including laying some ingenious booby traps, surely only an easy mark would bet against him walking out through the fairground gates with his swag.

Another excellent adaptation of a classic Richard Stark novel, Darwyn Cooke again brings our favourite tough guy to life in his own inimitable pulpy, period style. This time around the locale is the rather less glamorous Buffalo, New York, though we do once again open up with the now requisite, scene-setting two-page landscape splash. As ever, amidst the gala of glorious art on display, there’s a unique little conceit and this time around it’s a fold-out map, in a few different art styles of course, of the fairground itself.

Darwyn Cooke truly is a master of his craft, there’s so much stylistically to admire here, so much background detail, so many clever devices. It’s not often I really enjoy breaking down someone’s work, understanding how every panel and page are put together, every bit of space used for maximum effect, but if you take the time to read this work a second or third time and do so, you’ll realise it’s an absolute masterclass in how to graphically portray a dramatic, action-packed story, it truly, truly is. Marvellous work, and only succeeds in taking my appreciation of his abilities to even higher levels.

My only criticism, and it’s a very reluctant one, is SLAYGROUND feels a touch lightweight in plot compared to the previous three PARKER capers. It all seemed over too soon, and whilst the end pages promise Parker will return in 2015, even despite the additional short story thrown in for good measure after the main event, that seems far too far away right now. I’d been looking forward to this for ages and now the wait begins anew. Ah well, maybe I’ll just read this one more time…

JR

Buy Parker: Slayground h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Snapshot s/c (£9-99, Image) by Andy Diggle & Jock.

My greatest fears have little to do with physical harm. They involve being lost, helpless, unable to express myself and – worst of all – not being believed. Congratulations to Andy Diggle, then, on playing to all of those fears and then compounding them with extreme physical danger to boot.

You can rely on Jock for the some of the most striking covers on the shelves, and this is no exception. As outside, so within: the black shadows gleaming on the top-quality stock and – haha! – someone is wearing a Zenith t-shirt! There are some stunning angles, looming silhouettes, exploding scalps, crunching car crashes, hunched shoulders wishing for the womb, and streaming tears of terrified desperation.

“He – hello…?”
“Who is this?”
“This is, uh, this is Jake Dobson. Who, uh… Who are you… trying to reach…?”
“This is Detective Warren, S.F.P.D. homicide. The phone you’re speaking on is part of an ongoing investigation.”
“Homicide — ? Oh my God, there’s like pictures of dead people on this phone! A dead person — ! I swear it’s not mine, I just found it in the park, I swear to God I was gonna hand it in — !”
“Easy, son. You’re not in any trouble. Just tell me where you are.”

From the creative team behind the two-volume LOSERS, the writer of the immaculate John Constantine trilogy and the artist we all gasped at in BATMAN: BLACK MIRROR comes a thriller set in San Francisco and I can assure you that smart-arse Jake Dobson is in fact in one hell of a lot of trouble.

 

He’s gleefully picked up a mobile phone dropped in Golden Gate Park. There is only one number on it: Bravura Acquisitions. But there are a great many photos: of a dead man shot through the forehead, the little finger of his left hand chopped off. Imagine Jake’s surprise when that same man, Jonathan Twain, walks into the local police station to retrieve his mobile phone, claiming it was part of a murder mystery evening he was throwing for his new work colleagues. That’s all right then. No corpse, no murder. So why is Jake sweating? It’s because Detective Warren does not exist, and the man who came to collect the phone – the man Jake fled from – had a gun.

“One of my colleagues was playing the detective. He must have taken the role to heart. Again, I can only apologise.”

Case closed. Except that now they all know where Jake works, and they’re going to return.

On the other hand, Jake also knows where Jonathan Twain lives because Twain told the detective at the police station; and Jake’s Zenith-fan friend, whose wife is organising a protest march, eggs him on to check the address out.

“C’mon, man-up! Self-reliance! I’ll totally back you up. And if he tries anything funny, I’ll drop the sucker like a bad habit.”
“Sure you will. This is just to get you out of making placards, isn’t it?”
“I have no idea what you’re even saying to me right now.”

1. You will not believe what they find at the apartment.
2. You will wish to God that they’d never gone there.
3. You will wonder what the fuck the final page of the first chapter portends.

There are a ridiculous number of mind-melting twists, not least of which is that there are worse people out there than this very bad man, and if you think for one second that you are in control of your life, then do think again.

Now that is terrifying.

SLH

Buy Snapshot and read the Page 45 review here

Thumbprint h/c (£16-50, IDW) by Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella & Vic Malhotra…

“Excuse me, but I don’t think that’s appropriate reading material for the tram, do you?”

I swear, synchronicity truly is a very strange thing. Have you ever had the sensation that simply because you thought something, that a causal effect seemed to happen almost instantaneously? Case in point: I had boarded the tram into town the other morning and began my usual routine of extracting some reading material from my backpack. Having removed it first, obviously, not being a contortionist. As I peered inside the Page 45 carrier bag within my backpack, trying to decide which of the week’s new books I was going have a look at, the thought crossed my mind that this work might just conceivably, given the author, have some potentially horrific content inside. I wasn’t entirely sure what the story was about, given the title, but on balance, I thought, it probably should be alright. I mean, I did have CROSSED VOL 7 in there too, but there are some things you just know you shouldn’t read on the tram…

Anyway, a few pages in, when we start getting to the point where thumbs are being chopped off, all in the cause of the plot, mind you (remember the title…), and not particularly gratuitously either, the probably forty-something lady sat next to me took it upon herself to ask me the above question. Now… I will grant you that I did have it explained to me, at school and by my parents, that replying to a question with a question of one’s own, can be perceived by the instigator of said initial query as rude. But, sometimes, to be blunt, I can’t help myself. So I enquired in suitably measured tones (i.e. merely thinking “fuck off” inside my head) as to whether she considered it appropriate to read other people’s books over their shoulder on the tram, or indeed in any other location she might choose to frequent.

End of conversation and cue a very quiet, enjoyable and indeed peaceful twenty minutes spent reading this on the way into town. I was, I must freely admit (just between us), tempted to replace this book inside my backpack and do a show-and-tell for my esteemed co-traveller on the merits of the graphic novel using CROSSED VOL 7 which, I could feel by now, practically levitating its way towards the surface of the carrier bag, buoyed by the soothing rhythm of the tram plus maybe a little by the seething indignation of my neighbour. But I decided against it. Because, really, there are some things you just know you shouldn’t read on the tram, no matter how much you want to. I couldn’t help wondering, however, whether she would have said anything if I hadn’t thought that particular initial thought in the first place. Probably though, she just had that sort of face…

I really enjoyed this, by the way. It’s more THE CAPE and THE CAPE: 1969 than LOCKE & KEY in terms of plot and content; I think there might possibly be a direct nod to one of the characters in THE CAPE: 1969, actually, though without going back and reading that work I can’t be sure. Anyway, it’s a great piece of non-supernatural contemporary horror, set against the backdrop of a disgraced female US soldier, private Mallory Grennan, discharged from the service after getting caught up in the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, struggling to fit back in on civvy street. She’s trying her hardest to start over, but when someone starts leaving pieces of paper with bloody thumbprints on for her to find, including inside her house, it begins to become apparent not everyone has managed to put the past behind them.

JR

Buy Thumbprint h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 5 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Alan Moore & Rick Veitch, John Totleben.

The tender and passionate plant elemental known as the Swamp Thing discovers that his dearly and sincerely beloved Abby has been abducted then incarcerated by the police. An altruistic carer for others, Abby faces prosecution for “immoral” acts: namely, having sexual communion with what the legal system considers to be a monster.

Sex? It was an exchange of profound sensations, emotions and empathy: a telepathic trip induced by psychotropic fruit proferred by the Swamp Thing of his own body. Communion is exactly right. But that’s hardly the point.

No amount of reasoning seems able to halt the criminal proceedings and free poor Abby. So a furious, frustrated and pure-heartedly devoted Swamp Thing embarks on a last resort: a tumultuous act of terrorism turning the suspect city into a jungle. Mains are burst, buildings are toppled and the subways blocked. Insects invade in swarms.

Oh, and the city’s name…? It’s Gotham.

Initially Batman attempts to take the creature on but loses. I mean: is completely out-classed, and he knows it. He’s also utterly in the wrong and recognises that too.

“That creature hasn’t done a fraction of what it could do, and as yet it’s done nothing irreversible. If he starts forcing the growth of people’s intestinal flora, that might be a different story. Try to imagine it, Mr. Mayor…. Strong shoots and writhing tendrils working their way out of your stomach, creeping up your throat, filling your mouth…”
“Batman, take it easy…”
“Take it easy? While my city is dying because it insists on the letter of the law over love and justice?”

A profoundly affecting indictment of the sex laws at a time when love and justice held no sway, this blew me away when first published. I wish it were irrelevant now, but India.

There are shocks galore, there’ll be tears before bedtime and an equally appalling tale of marital abuse. Plus one of the finest appearances by John Constantine Esq.

I’d also like to pay tribute to John Totleben who goes solo on the pivotal SWAMP THING #53, delivering the most impressive and formidable Batman ever, seen deep in thought or swift in combat, with shadows and textures to die for. And, as you know, Totleben has some pretty stiff competition!

SLH

Buy Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 5 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Immortal Iron Fist: Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction & David Aja, various.

Wake Me Up Before You Dojo!

Heavy-weight, 20-issue collection from the creators of HAWKEYE. Yes, you like HAWKEYE, don’t you?

Mystical martial arts thriller with a powerful kick partially provided by artist David Aja who – on icy, wind-swept mountains, deep underground or out in the pouring rain – creates a similar atmosphere to DAREDEVIL and SCARLET artist Alex Maleev. His choreography’s sharp, and that’s vital on a book like this or DAREDEVIL where athletic prowess and hand-to-hand combat are part of the book’s draw.

Brubaker and Fraction, meanwhile, balance the present with a broad sweep of the past, bringing the history and heritage of the Iron Fist to the fore, breathing new life into the legend in order to propel it further forward. That’s where the heart of this lies and what the series looks set to explore: the actions of the individuals who’ve previously earned and wielded the power of the dragon Shou-Lao, their impact on the city of K’un-Lun and its rulers, and in turn the repercussions for the current Iron Fist, Daniel Rand.

Daniel, charmingly, is a slightly dippy guy for someone who’s trained hard enough to defeat Shou-Lou The Undying then harvesting the chi from its heart; nor is he your typical hardened businessman who owns such a successful and wealthy corporation. So when Wai-Go Industries offers him ten billion pounds for new rail technology his company has developed, given China’s human rights record at home and in Tibet and its proximity to the mountains of K’un Lun, he’s unwilling to hand the goods over without first delving behind the corporate front. Which is just as well because behind it lies Hydra, a neo-Nazi terrorist organisation, and behind Hydra lie forces with ties to the Iron Fist’s past who’ve set their sights on K’un Lun, on Danny himself, and on his immediate predecessor, Orson Randall.

That’s where Danny’s education really begins: he thought that only one man or woman could channel the chi of Shou-Lou – that there was only one Iron Fist a time – but Orson brings with him far more than a helping hand. He brings with him knowledge of Danny’s dead father, a whole history book of the Iron Fist legacy, and some baggage that only spells trouble.

As the series progesses, it widens in scope, encompassing a mystical martial arts tournament played out while the threat of revolution hangs in the air. And martial arts game fans are going to love those battles, although they might be a little taken aback by their poetry and grace. Back in our dimension, Luke Cage, Colleen and Misty discover that if a certain train does run on time, it’s going to punch one hell of a hole in  K’un Lun’s crash barriers.

Brubaker and Fraction have given a weight to a title whose previous incarnations had none, and by building the book on its own unique legend, they’ve given it a reason to exist. There’s also plenty to make you smile, not least the return of long-standing friend Luke Cage, and it’s very much in keeping with Danny and Luke’s most recent interpretations in DAREDEVIL and NEW AVENGERS by Bendis.

The excerpts from history are handled by artists other than Aja, which is a shame because Aja’s so mighty fine, but it does at least serve to sign-post that they’re flashbacks. These concentrate on the sixty-six men and women who have have carried the mantle of this martial arts warrior over the centuries. Unfortunately apart from one, they all die at exactly the same age – an age which Danny Rand is fast approaching…

SLH

Buy The Immortal Iron Fist: Complete Collection vol 1 s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 

BOO! (£5-00, self-published) by Warwick Johnson Cadwell, Andrew Waugh, Jamie Smart, Jonathan Edwards, Gary Northfield, Paul Harrison-Davies, James Howard

Battlefields vol 8: The Fall and Rise of Anna Kharkova (£12-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Russell Braun, Garry Leach

Empowered vol 8 (£12-99, Dark Horse) by Adam Warren

Kochi Wanaba h/c (£14-99, Blank Slate) by Jamie Smart

Massive vol 2: Subcontinental s/c (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Brian Wood & Garry Brown, Dave Stewart, Jordie Bellaire

Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 4: Jaburo (£22-50, Random House / Vertical) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic vol 2 s/c (£13-50, IDW) by Heather Nuhfer & Amy Mebberson

NGE: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project vol 13 (£7-50, Dark Horse) by Osamu Takahashi

The Fairy Tales Of Oscar Wilde: The Young King And The Remarkable Rocket s/c (£7-50, NBM) by Oscar Wilde & P. Craig Russell

The Savage Sword Of Conan vol 15 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Chuck Dixon, Don Kraar & Gary Kwapisz, Joe Jusko

Fables vol 19: Snow White (£12-99, DC) by Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham, various

The Authority vol 2 h/c (£25-99, DC) by Mark Millar, various & Frank Quitely, various

Teen Titans vol 3: Death Of The Family s/c (£10-99, DC) by Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza & Brett Booth

Birds Of Prey vol 3: Clash Of Daggers s/c (£10-99, DC) by Duane Swierczynski, Gail Simone & Romano Molenaar, various, Romano Molenaar

Powers Bureau vol 1: Undercover s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming

Deadpool vol 3: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan & Scott Koblish, Declan Shalvey

Venom: The Land Where Killers Dwell s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Cullen Bunn & Pepe Larraz, Declan Shalvey

Skip Beat! Omnibus vols 16-18 (£10-99, Viz) by Yoshiki Nakamura

Magi vol 3 (£7-50, Viz) by Shinobu Ohtaka

 

ITEM! STRAY BULLETS returns!

ITEM! From the archives: Hilarious Beatles one-page comic by John Allison.

ITEM! THE HIBER-NATION, an exquisite and witty art exhibition opens featuring Jonathan Edwards and Feltmistress, she of the fabulous……

ITEM! SelfmadeHero announces its Spring collection including an original graphic novel by Ian Culbard, work by Nick Abadzis and that book written by The Pixies’ Black Francis.

ITEM! Comicbook creator Dan Berry looks back on his 2013 output and I am in awe of his output. Four new comics this year alone on top of his Make Then Tell Podcasts, being a full-time teacher of the creation of comics and, you know, having a family. Pop Dan Berry into our search engine and marvel at the man’s accomplishment! Buy a few of them and then marvel more!

ITEM! An artist draws himself and his cat in 100 different cartoon styles / homages. Pretty impressive!

ITEM! Ian Rankin despairs of Edinburgh slashing its funding of school libraries. “Proposing to cut school library services in the first-ever designated Unesco City of Literature? I despair”.

ITEM! Shia LaBeouf rips off Dan Clowes for his short film without accreditation or even permission. The dickhead then goes on to mince words like “inspired by” before finally apologising. Sort of. I suspect he is infinitely more contrite about getting caught than having committed plagiarism. “Oh, it’s only a comic. No one will notice.”

ITEM! In precisely one week’s time it will be Christmas Day! It’s almost too late for mail order now but here is how Page 45 can help you choose Christmas Presents on our shop floor! If nothing else, it should give you a laugh.

Merry Kissmas, everybody!

- Stephen

PS Page 45 has blogged its weekly reviews every single Wednesday without fail for over three years. Next Wednesday is Christmas Day. Uh-oh.

I say “uh-oh” because this coming week I only have my two days off to read books then write my reviews (I shall be on the shop floor Christmas Eve – I’ve never missed that in nineteen years!) plus on Christmas Day I tend to be blotto before midday.

However, I already have one review in the can and the idea will be that I format all the illustrations etc in advance so all I have to do is press “publish” then string together a single coherent sentence on Twitter on Christmas Day. Apologies in advance for any wonky formatting or indeed that sentence.

Wish me luck! xxx

Reviews December 2013 week two

December 11th, 2013

“Gleeful, ebullient and utterly bananas, but make no mistake: you will see your own soul reflected here time and again. Lizz Lunney knows precisely what she is doing.”

 - Stephen on Take Away! not in the review but on the back of the book! *swells with pride*

Room For Love h/c (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by Ilya…

“Look, see? I’m all wrinkly.”
“I, uh…”
“Maybe you can straighten me out.”

Pamela Green is lonely and bereft, after her husband has left and divorced her. A lifetime spent writing trashy romance novels probably isn’t helping her mood either, frankly, and she’s currently struggling in that department anyway, crippled with writer’s block. Plus her publisher and best friend, who just so happened to be the ‘other woman’ for a while, is now not-so-gently starting to put the pressure on for another book. Enter ‘Cougar’, a young homeless rent boy, whom Pamela stops from leaping from a bridge, and subsequently finds herself taking in. Before too long, Pamela finds herself in a passionate clinch with her young charge, repeatedly, and it rekindles her zest for life. But it’s a tale of two very different worlds, and unlike in the realm of chick-lit, surely there can’t possibly be a happily-ever-after ending?

No, in a word, but that doesn’t stop Pamela from beginning to believe she might get one with young Cougar. When the wheels finally come off, as of course they do, in truly spectacular fashion at a dinner party she’s hosting for her closest friends, the penny drops with Pamela as to just why it was never going to work. Strangely enough, it had gone under my radar too, until that point, which seems surprising upon reflection, but I think it’s just a testament to Ilya’s writing as to how engaged in the drama of it all I was to miss what was right under my nose. That dinner party scene is so spectacularly cringe-worthy, I did find myself closing my eyes slightly whilst reading it, feeling by proxy the devastatingly excruciating embarrassment that poor Pamela is enduring…

Art-wise, the first thing you’ll notice, if you purchase your copy from us in the not too distant future, is a gorgeous exclusive bookplate which SelfMadeHero has kindly given to us. The next thing you’ll notice is gorgeous art, coloured in two different two tones of blue and brown, in combination with white, depending on which of the main characters we are focussing on. As the two stories intertwine, you’ll notice the switching back and forth between both colours, and then them appearing in the same panels. It’s subtly done, and just adds a nice touch to the whole affair. Overall highly recommended for those, like Pamela, looking for a little easy on the eye escapism.

JR

Buy Room For Love h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Take Away! (£9-99, Blank Slate) by Lizz Lunney.

“I wanna hold yourrr handddd
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna holddd your hand
But I haven’t got any hands because I’m a biscuit.”

At last! The queen of the UK mini-comic scene has her own big book with lavish production values and French flaps so large and extravagant that they encompass the whole of the E.U.

Long have I longed for long-form Lizz Lunney, and here DEPRESSED CAT stars in his first full-length feature called ‘A Day In Nine Lives’. He’s looking a little dubious about it.

Depressed Cat is trapped – not in a neighbour’s shed, but in a dreary, dead-end, nine-to-five existence under a witless, unappreciative boss and his own defeatist resignation. To add insult to injury the world conspires to make him even more miserable: his car won’t start, public transport is pathetic, his psychologist is a moron and his medication isn’t working. Plus he has fleas.

“These nine lives seem to go on forever.”

Perhaps a change of scenery is required, a journey to the far-off Triple Peaks where lives the fabled Wise Cat. The Wise Cat is no fool: he charges fifty quid a pop! Will Depressed Cat learn the secret to unfettered joy, experience satori and sort himself out? Will he at least bring back from this trip an upgrade? Well, yeah, sort of. I howled with laughter.

Depressed Cat is an exceptional piece of minimalist design: a square, chinless head; ears that are lifeless and locked into place, a down-turned, moaning mouth and a patternless jumper over which drip the tips of his starched shirt collar. He is what you might call stiff.

All of Lunney’s linework is minimalist with rare deployment of tone but, save for the intentional inertia of Depressed Cat, her forms are far from stiff. Her line is gloriously expressive – minimum fuss for maximum empathy – as seen in ‘What If These Were The Dominant Forms of Communication’. The forms are baking, mime, sculpture and interpretive dance; the question is “Will you go out with me?” and the answers are uproariously elaborate, especially when expressed in interpretive dance. I am now begging someone to ask me out now, if only to re-enact that answer. I hope it’s no one I actually fancy.

Oh yes, the colours! We have colours now: burgundy, green, purple and an orange which positively glows. And she understands space! I don’t mean outer space – although Professor Lizz Lunney is on hand to give you a lesson on particle physics (or something) – I mean letting the pages, the panels and the shapes all breathe. She doesn’t even need panels. Sometimes the arrangements themselves form perfectly positioned and partitioned bundles, satisfying pockets of beautiful art with crystal-clear lettering.

Some of this you may have seen before in anthologies, on cards or in Lizz’s micro-mini-comics. But there’s plenty of new material and maybe you don’t like mini-comics anyhoo and would rather buy books!

Among the reprints are ROMANTIC BISON #1 and ROMANTIC BISON #2 but now, for the first time ever, there is a concluding instalment! Brief reminder: after admiring from afar (though maybe not far enough: hiding in the bulrushes all day and just staring seemed like stalking) our mud-loving bovine beast, blissed-up on the beauty of Sylvia the rabbit, finally made his move…via a love letter which Sweary Cat hid from Sylvia, such was Sweary Cat’s jealousy. Sweary Cat pretended that she was Sylvia’s boyfriend and told Romantic Bison to back off. Romantic Bison backed off. Largely because he failed to notice that Sweary Cat was not a tom, but a con. It’s so difficult to tell with cats, isn’t it?

However, all this Shakespearian subterfuge and high dramatic irony finally resolved itself and everyone lived happily ever after. Or did they? Our Romantic Bison is utterly bereft.

“Oh Sweary Cat, my life is over.”
“Good grief.”
“My heart is literally broken.”
“Literally? It’s not, though, is it. Not literally, it’s just a metaphor.”
“Oh, Sweary! I literally can’t handle your grammatical corrections right now.”

Exhibit B:

“You kids need to talk. It’s all a misunderstanding.”
“Really??”
“Is love really worth all this trouble Sylvia?”
“For me it is.”
“You’re so deluded by the movies. But I guess you’ve found someone as equally deluded as you, and if that’s not love I don’t know what is.”

Once more so much of the comedy comes through in the cartooning, Sweary Cat’s unimpressed eyes or disapproving frown juxtaposed against the boo-hooing bull’s flood of free-flowing tears or Sylvia’s rose-tinted hearts. And in spite of its seemingly throwaway comedy, Lunney nails so much about friendships when someone starts playing the dating game.

“Obviously we can only feel smug as a couple if there is someone single nearby for us to offend!”

Or did I mean the grating game?

SLH

Buy Take Away! and read the Page 45 review here

Black Is The Colour s/c (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by Julia Gfrörer.

What a thrilling, frightening, fabulous cover! It runs over the back and through the French flaps, so open it up, then open it up some more! The squalling sea will be revealed in all its terrifying, tempest-tossed rage. You can almost hear its thunderous roar.

What on earth are the women and beardy blokes doing, bobbing along in the swelling cusp so equanimous to the storm? I think one of them is smiling. You’ll find all of them are giggling. You just can’t see what they’re laughing at or giggling about yet.

Oh, this is tremendous! Gently intense, tender at times, and often very cheeky indeed. Adults only, please!

Aboard a luckless galleon things have not gone well. Storms have held them back and provisions are running so low that they won’t last much longer – not with so many mouths to feed. Not with every crew member still on board. Warren and Xavier are called down below and told it’s the customary case of “last in, first out”. They are cast adrift in a tiny boat in the middle of the ocean with no sign of shore in sight. Xavier has a cough. Warren has a pocket knife which he bequeaths in a small, subtle scene of muted affection whose full meaning, if you don’t twig immediately, will become clearer as events play themselves out. It will be reprised later on, and I wonder if it’s that act of denial which catalyses the spectacle which follows.

I can’t do much more now than invoke specific scenes I love for fear of giving the game away.

The first is of Warren lying flat in the boat when a shark starts circling. Is it so that the shark won’t see him? Or is it so that he can no longer see the shark? That’s why I would sink so low!

The second is the gigantic, silent seascapes, reminiscent in their pen lines and textures of Tony Millionaire, divided into six panels or panes. The whole book is conducted in this simple, easily accessible format as well as style. There’s not just a wobbly fragility to the lines, there is a bleakness to them as well – for it is cold at sea – even during sensual embraces.

What made laugh most, however (oh, there is laughter to be had), was the proposed orchestration of a new siren call as if laying down a new track for an album. You do need to get the harmonies, right, don’t you?

SLH

Buy Black Is The Colour s/c and read the Page 45 review here

Uzumaki 3-in-1 Complete h/c (£17-99, Viz) by Junji Ito –

I was a teenage gorehound. While mum was doing the food shopping I’d browse through the book section reading the backs of all the horror novels and imagining the chills inside. Give me a good scare and I’m happy.

UZUMAKI makes me very happy.

Nasty, nasty, nasty horror. There are some gut-churning images and a sticky sense of claustrophobia and unease. I feel as if I’ve lived through the paranoia, the queasy unreality and otherworldly dread that befalls Kirie. Only she is putting together the twisted pieces as friends and family fall under the spell of the encroaching sickness. It’s rare that a horror comic will make me recoil (THROUGH THE HABITRAILS and pieces by Woodring have done it) but each chapter will have a finely detailed page that disturbs and disgusts as it compels.

Spirals are attacking the way of life in Kurôzu-Cho. One slimy schoolboy gradually transforms into a snail, crawling up the school building. Two girls, competing for attention, find their hair curling and twisting higher and higher until their styles take them over, almost draining the energy from their bodies. A potter makes diseased ceramics, his kiln winding the clay into new, strange shapes. Any cremation is marked by an ominous whirl of ash and smoke above the chimney. Chills.

MAS

Buy Uzumaki 3-in-1 Complete h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Gold Pollen And Other Stories h/c (£19-99, Picturebox) by Seiichi Hayashi…

“How did I come to live in this town?
“No deep reason, I just went for it.
“I was having woman problems. I thought if I found a decent house, this place was as good as any to clear my mind.
“Sure when I first got here, I did worry that is was far from work.
“Having no image myself of the kind of place I wanted, the choice was really the real estate agent’s.
“Moving was a cinch. Just a cabinet, bedding, kitchen utensils, and my work tools. Then ‘that person’ spent an entire day polishing the place.”

This work will have very niche appeal for sure, but in terms of avant garde manga it is seminal stuff. These particular works are from the late sixties and very early seventies and both in terms of content and artistic composition are, well, pretty out there. Stream of consciousness, waking fantasy combined with autobiographical influences provide the foundation for visual experimentation that mixes stylistic elements of woodcuts, pop art, European comics and even cameos from Batman and Superman, in a respectful nod to western superhero comics. The four different stories here also utilise completely different colour palettes from intense, verging on psychedelic, through various red and blue monotones to black and white.

 

 

“Write what you know” is the age-old maxim, and as the author freely admits in his ‘childhood remembrance’ essay and as Ryan Holmberg elaborates upon in his Seiichi Hayashi’s Maternal Roots essay, this material draws heavily upon his childhood and relationship with his mother, who despite her mental illness did remarkably well bringing him up in the absence of a father figure. Even when it’s not autobiographical material, you can see when he has leaned heavily upon his own experiences for characters, and that’s not a negative comment, just an observation. As I say, I am sure the appeal of this material will be limited, but he was clearly a forerunner of the current crop of creators who more recently contributed to the AX VOL 1: ALTERNATIVE MANGA anthology, and you may already be familiar with his RED COLOURED ELEGY.

JR

Buy Gold Pollen And Other Stories h/c and read the Page 45 review here

The Ring Of The Seven Worlds h/c (£19-99, Sloth Comics) by Giovanni Gualdoni, Gabrielle Clima & Matteo Piana…

Another Humanoids title picked up for reprinting by Sloth Comics, this Euro sci-fi fantasy caper was original published in four album-sized French editions. Seven planets are linked together by a multidimensional ring teleportation system, built by long-forgotten, mysterious creators in a previous eon. One planet has been severed from the others for three centuries after they started a war against the rest of the Empire, but now, somehow, they have launched a devastating surprise attack through a different ring. The reveal as to how this is possible, when it comes, is very clever, albeit a touch deus ex machina. Clues were dropped, in retrospect, but I didn’t guess. A highly enjoyable romp with not inconsiderable steampunk elements, and exquisitely illustrated to boot.

JR

Buy The Ring Of The Seven Worlds h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Amazing Spider-Man #700.1 (£2-99, Marvel) by David Morrell & Klaus Janson.

Peter Parker is back, with no mop-topped minger in his noggin’!

 You know what? Unless something goes disastrously wrong, this and the next issue would make a cracking Christmas present for yer proverbial young Jimmy if he’s wide-eyed and into superheroes. And there aren’t a lot of Marvel Comics about which you can say that any more.

 [Confirmed: just read AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700.2 and they form a perfect, self-contained, two-parter for young readers. A) No fighting, B) They’re all about helping others – and that’s not just Spider-Man, C) THERE’S LOTS OF SNOW! NB: I know they share the same cover on our website – it’s what Marvel sent us via Diamond. Also, and please don’t buy them #700.3 because there it’s a new story, different creators, and there are third-degree burns!]

Janson hasn’t lost it. As evidenced in DARDEVIL: END OF DAYS I think he’s improved with age, and there is one tremendous double-page countryside snowscape here as well as several city scenes at night which – thanks in part to colour artist Steve Buccellatto – are freezing but in a warm and fuzzy way. It’s all about the relatively old architecture and the street lights: you really do feel as if you’re looking out from a toasty bedroom window or wrapped up as warm as warm can be.

Peter Parker, alas, is far from warm. It’s as if there is ice in his veins. Also, this snowstorm is unusually early and abnormally fast to sweep in. Meanwhile, there’s a region-wide power cut and a tree has crashed through Aunt May’s bathroom window. As her candle burns down and eventually out, she’s left alone on her sofa in a house without power or heating, the skeletal branches of another tree casting shadows on the blacked-out living room wall…

Quick intro by John Romita Jr with some amazing trouser creases and you are in! As I say, perfect for young new readers.

SLH

Buy Amazing Spider-Man #700.1 and read the Page 45 review here

Iron Man vol 3: The Secret Origin Of Tony Stark Book 2 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Dale Eaglesham, Greg Land, Carlo Pagulayan.

Absolutely ingenious. Not just the radical story arc as a whole (it is) but the way Stark extricates himself time after time from the increasingly bleak scenario using his very limited options.

Tony Stark’s parents wanted a child. They were having… difficulties.

Recorder 451 wanted to create the ultimate protection for Earth. He had a plan: while saving Howard and Maria Stark’s baby he would genetically programme it in the womb in order to utilise him as an adult. The Starks weren’t told.

A lifetime later and Tony Stark wants to be anywhere else in the universe other than in a spaceship speeding towards a Dyson Sphere surrounding a stabilized micro-star. It houses The Godkiller. Unfortunately Recorder 451 has compromised P.E.P.P.E.R., the sentient piece of software which controls Tony Stark’s Iron Man armour, so that he can neither assault Recorder 451 nor leave the Godkiller. For yes, they are now inside the Godkiller. And what is the Godkiller? It is a 5-mile-tall exoskeleton built to destroy Celestials which, on a scale of 1 to Galactus, are off that scale. It is also Tony Stark’s destiny, for that is what Howard and Maria Stark’s child was programmed to do: pilot the Godkiller and wipe out all threats to Earth. Didn’t you ever wonder why Stark was so obsessed with exoskeletons? Once synchronised with the Godkiller, Stark will have no will of his own. There is nothing he can do about it.

I’d like to tell you exactly how the stakes get raised then raised again but SPOILERS. I would also like to tell you exactly how cleverly this 50-year game of poker has been played by all and sundry but SPOILERS. I would like to tell you how radically this alters what you thought you knew about Tony Stark’s history and his potential future but SPOILERS. Better still, I’d like to tell you how this changes nothing about Stark’s core being at the very same time but… yeah, you get the idea.

As I say, this book is all about ingenuity. Every single character here from Recorder 451 and Death’s Head to Howard Stark, Tony Stark and indeed Pepper Potts will prove to be ingenious. One of them, however, will make a terrible mistake and it isn’t Recorder 451 or Death’s Head.

All three artists are slick, sturdy and mesh seamlessly. I have nothing more to report on that matter.

SLH

Buy Iron Man vol 3: The Secret Origin Of Stark Book 2 h/c and read the Page 45 review here

Inhumanity (£2-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Olivier Coipel.

“Does it concern anyone that he’s drawing on unbreakable Wakandan crystal with his fingernail?”
“Let the man speak, T’Challa. Let him doodle… Where’s he gonna go? He can’t fly.”

Awwww… Coipel’s Petras Petragon emerging from the Terrigenesis chamber is so unbelievably cute. He’s Gorgon’s son, transformed prematurely by Gorgon and Karnak in a desperate bid to protect him from the destruction of Attilan. It probably wasn’t a good idea…

Now turn back to page three panel three. Yeah? Yeah.

A game-changer which builds ominously into an awful climax, this one-shot written by HAWKEYE’s Fraction sets the scene for his INHUMAN series next month. It will tell you everything you need to know about the race and its history as updated recently during INFINITY without boring you for a single second.

For Fraction makes it all about motivation – about defection, dispersal and survival – as a distraught Karnak detained by the Avengers wonders what each faction was thinking as it made its fateful decisions over the last 25,000 years. And I don’t deploy “fateful” loosely for it is the results of those very decisions which informed Black Bolt’s own to sacrifice Attilan for the greater catalytic good. The city of the Inhumans may have been blown to smithereens but it wasn’t their only home, and you know how nail bombs work, right? Now imagine a genetic bomb.

As Karnak, the wise one able to detect faults and flaws, follows his suppositions to an increasingly alarming conclusion his now-widowed queen Medusa arrives with questions of her own. High among them: where is the rest of the royal family?

I can’t promise you much action, I’m afraid, but I can promise you Coipel controls the emotion perfectly, avoiding all melodrama for the sake of maximum, devastating drama.

Here, have a barely relevant reference to Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee’s classic INHUMANS book because I love it so much.

SLH

Buy Inhumanity and read the Page 45 review here

Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy

Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.

 

The Snow Queen And Other Stories (£4-99, Great Beast) by Isabel Greenber

Show Me The Map To Your Heart (Extended Edition) (£5-99, Great Beast) by John Cei Douglas

Snapshot s/c (£9-99, Image) by Andy Diggle & Jock

The Everyday h/c (£11-99, Great Beast) by Adam Cadwell

A.B.C. Warriors: Return To Earth h/c (£14-99, Rebellion) by Pat Mills & Clint Langley

aama vol 1: The Smell Of Warm Dust h/c (£12-99, Self Made Hero) by Frederik Peeters

Abe Sapien vol 3: Dark And Terrible (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie, John Arcudi & Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara

Adventure Time Sugary Shorts vol 1 h/c (£14-99, Titan) by various including Paul Pope, Shannon Wheeler, Lucy Knisley, Jim Rugg and many more

Crossed vol 7 s/c (£14-99, Avatar) by Christos N. Gage, David Lapham & Christian Zanier, Miguel Ruiz

Cyanide & Happiness vol 1 s/c (£10-99, ItBooks) by Kris, Rob, Matt, Dave

Cyanide & Happiness vol 2: Ice Cream & Sadness s/c (£10-99, ItBooks) by Kris, Rob, Matt, Dave

Judge Dredd: Day Of Chaos – The Fourth Faction (£17-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner & Ben Willsher, Staz Johnson, Colin MacNeil, Henry Flint

Lost Planet: The First Colony h/c (£8-99, Capcom) by Izu & Dall’Oglio

Morning Glories vol 6 (£10-99, Image) by Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma

Parker: Slayground h/c (£13-50, IDW) by Richard Stark & Darwyn Cooke

Polarity vol 1 s/c (£10-99, Boom! Studios) by Max Bemis & Jorge Coelho

Saga Of The Swamp Thing vol 5 s/c (£10-99, DC) by Alan Moore & Rick Veitch, John Totleben

Thumbprint h/c (£16-50, IDW) by Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella & Vic Malhotra

Superman Action Comics vol 2: Bulletproof s/c (£12-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Rags Morales

Superman Action Comics vol 3: End Of Days h/c (£18-99, DC) by Grant Morrison & Rags Morales

Captain America vol 2: Castaway Dimension Z Book 2 s/c (UK Ed’n) (£10-99, Marvel) by Rick Remender & John Romita Jr.

Daredevil vol 6 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Javier Rodriguez, Chris Samnee, Matteo Scalera

Deadpool: Complete Collection vol 2 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & various

The Immortal Iron Fist: Complete Collection vol 1 s/c (£29-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction & David Aja, various

Superior Spider-Man vol 3: No Escape (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott, Christos Gage & Guiseppe Camuncoli, Humberto Ramos

Thanos: Infinity Abyss s/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jim Starlin

Uncanny X-Men vol 2: Broken (UK Edition) s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Fraser Irving, Chris Bachalo

X-Men: Primer (UK Edition) s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Brian Wood & Oliver Coipel

Dragon Ball 3-in-1 Edition vols 7-9 (£9-99, Viz) by Akira Toriyama

One Piece vol 69 (£7-50, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Judge vol 2 (£9-99, Yen) by Yoshiki Tonogai

K-ON! vol 5 (£8-99, Yen) by Kakifly

 

ITEM! Bryan Lee O’Malley’s SECONDS announced for July 2014!

ITEM! Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! Lavishly illustrated interview with Tomer Hanuka You can buy his art here in OVERKILL which I have singularly failed to review but, hey, there’s that link to the interview, so…

ITEM! A page of David Mazzucchelli’s DAREDEVIL art which I discussed at length on Twitter with @ronsalas, a phenomenal comicbook artist in his own right whom you really should follow. Look at the extended bicep in the bottom panel: pure Frank Miller. Also, the streamlined head above it. Since he transformed himself like few other creators before or since in more recent works like CITY OF GLASS and ASTERIOS POLYP, people forget that Mazzzucchelli was such a stunning action artist. But I’d never detected a Frank Miller influence until Ron made me look at it twice. Eddie Campbell (of all people) admires Mazzucchelli’s superhero compositions from (yes, we have it) DAREDEVIL BORN AGAIN.

ITEM! As you read this BOO comic for kids should have arrived! Self-contained and spooky! Review up ASAP.

ITEM! Speaking of comics for kids, Neill Cameron celebrates 100 issues of THE PHOENIX and rightly so! Parents, this comes highly recommended. None o’ yer supermarket plastic-toy tat! Fully of fun and variety, this is superb, and it’s important that young ‘uns look forward to reading! This is basically comicbook crack cocaine for kids. Ummm…  *rethinks marketing strategy*

ITEM! Bringing you back down to the cold, wintery earth for one second: no, I won’t shut up. It is appalling that the UK has become a country in which foodbanks – Jesus, foodbanks! – are  considered necessary. You want to know what’s worse? Politicians grinning inanely at foodbanks’ opening, oblivious to what their opening implies about the poverty which they have inflicted upon those who now need them.

ITEM! BLACK IS THE COLOUR (reviewed above) is previewed by Fantagraphics with lots of interior art.

ITEM! Comicbook creators: how to make and sell your comics as e-books. In 12 seconds! That was sent dispatched into the mintyweb by Andy Diggle, I think, and of course I don’t understand a single technical sentence of it, but you will.

ITEM! Sara McIntyre interviews Philippa Rice about WE’RE OUT! See some of Philippa’s pages brought to animated life! WE’RE OUT is Page 45’s Comicbook Of The Month and could not be more perfect for Christmas! Plus all our copies are signed and sketched in for free! You don’t have to be a member to buy it! Just like on the cover in the grid to read the review rather than the first one you see at the top!

ITEM! In a fortnight’s time it will be Christmas Day! Yippee, yippee and yah! Before that, however, you may want to do some Christmas Shopping, so I dun wrote a blog:

Christmas Shopping At Page 45: Ideas For Presents and How We Can Help You!

Oh, we are having fun with those shop-floor show-and-tells!

- Stephen

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