Cracks quickly appear in some relationships as things start to go wrong, sometimes in quite shocking ways. And when those cracks cause a split, they do so in the panels themselves which divide into two as the lovers go their separate ways. Then some very interesting things start to happen…
-Stephen on Ray Fawkes’ The People Inside.
The Ring Of The Nibelung h/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by P. Craig Russell after a bloke called Wagner.
This big, thick hardcover contains all four operas in Wagner’s Ring sequence: The Rhinegold, The Valkyrie, Siegfried, The Gotterdammerung.
To deliver a truly faithful adaptation – one with even a hope of stirring a reading audience as the original moves a crowd – Craig cannot and does not rely solely on plot and dialogue; a visual interpretation of mere lyrics would omit most of the power and the subtle weave of any opera delivered by the music. ‘O Mio Bambino Caro’ is, on paper, y’know, a fine set of poetry, but when sung so tenderly, so majestically in harmonious concert with music so heart-rendingly poignant (plaintive, aspirational, delicate?), it becomes something extraordinary. And that’s just a single aria.
An opera uses many devices to convey ideas and development to cue the audience subconsciously throughout its duration and Russell has thought long and hard about translating these into sequential art. He’s taken musical leitmotifs – signatures denoting individual characters, objects and even concepts such as love, regret, power and choice (sometimes combined in a single sequence, hinting at thoughts, informing the action and even able, I’d imagine, to add therefore a level of dramatic irony) – and turned them into visual cues.
One glimpse at the prelude is enough to prove just how accomplished, how ingenious an adaptation this is. The opening sequence is ‘silent’; it begins quietly with a single finger in blue line and pencil, on which a drop of water swells. It falls into its own ocean to form ripples then waves in an expanding aqueous body, from which a fresh green seedling – the first hint of colour – emerges. By the bottom panel on that first page the tree has grown older than the oak, joined to three shrouded women by twine; and from its roots flows a river, reflecting the aurora above.
That’s the creation of the universe on page one. It also sets up three of the four central elements which bind the four operas: water & light, the tree and the sword. Three further pages, reduced to a sandy tone, provide the rest of the background whilst implying consequences for the events to follow. The great god Voton, introduced by his shadow, wanders into picture, stoops to drink then spies, beyond the thread of fate, a woman who will be his wife and goddess of wedlock, Fricka (three small panels inlayed repeat the earlier sequence, as a drop of water falls from his chin). One of the three hooded women (or Norn) then plucks out Voton’s left eye, leaving behind the gift of inner vision, but suddenly her knowing confidence is shattered as Voton reaches up into the tree and breaks off a branch. He fashions it into a spear, takes Frika by the hand and departs, leaving behind him the tree fast falling into autumn then winter. The final four panels close in ominously on the wound inflicted on the tree, until all we can see is the hollow darkness.
Several of these images and refrains will be reprised within the major body as the story unfolds. It’s a classic, dynastic tale of love, lust, envy, power, greed, wealth, rejection, duty, treachery, sacrifice and progeny. The dynasty involved is that of the gods of German mythology, and what a familiar pantheon they are! Voton, one-eyed and lustful, as impetuous in love as he is in wrath and for all his supposed wisdom, the perpetual victim of his own stupendously rash promises. He bears the weight of his responsibilities on his own faltering shoulders, and since his wife is goddess of marriage, you just know he’s going to be unfaithful. One of his stormy sons wields a hammer, one of his daughters has been sworn as payment to a couple of giants (none of Voton’s children receive much in the way of paternal care), and although he doesn’t appear to be related as he is in Norse mythology, there’s Logé, the flattering trickster.
The Rhinegold is essentially a fable of power versus love, of the choice between them, catalysed by the theft of said gold from the waters of the Rhine. Alberich the troll, cruelly taunted and scorned by three prick-tease mermaids has nothing to lose in love, so rejects it to steal the metal then fashion it into a ring which gives him absolute power over his race. And love must be rejected to wield that power, that’s the bargain. But news spreads fast of this new poisoned chalice, and when it reaches the heavens, via Logé of course, the consequences may prove devastating.
The Valkyrie moves some of the action back down to Earth where Voton’s been a busy boy. Once more the set up is a combination of familiar themes and plot points: lost siblings, unholy love, the treachery of children, the will of the gods, and the duty of husbands and kings. In the previous opera Voton has been warned about the Twilight of The Gods, the doom that awaits them, and in the sequence which links the two (once more combining water, light, the tree and now the sword, in panels that echo the prelude), Russell shows us Voton’s solution, the creation of a sword. This he hopes will be unsheathed from the tree into which he thrust it, by someone worthy, someone over whom he has no direct influence. But he only goes and shags a mortal to sire this someone! And if that weren’t enough to raise Frika’s ire, that very son soon falls in love with his own twin sister, already married to the man whose house is built round this tree. None of which is going to go down well with protectress of wedlock. Add in another tragic offspring, Brunhildé, one of the Valkyrie, Voton’s daughter once again and the literal embodiment of his will (his actual will, not his stated position), and you’ve one family circle that’ll never be squared. I can’t tell you how cleverly it all comes together – the whole sword, fate and progeny thing – because there’s a final twist, a ramification of the incest which has yet to be played out, with Craig once more excelling himself in the final panel foreshadowing the next round.
If all of this wasn’t enough, it’s just occurred to me that there may be many as yet unfamiliar with P. Craig Russell as an artist. On the basis of his work on SANDMAN #50 alone he is justly celebrated.
Other credits include THE FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE, THE ART OF P. CRAIG RUSSELL and – with Neil Gaiman – THE GRAVEYARD BOOK GRAPHIC NOVEL, CORALINE, SANDMAN: DREAM HUNTERS and the first story in SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS.
His command of symbolism through design is beautiful to behold, and above all he’s just one of the most flat-out attractive visual craftsmen. And if you’ve never seen his pencils you’re in for an additional treat, for some of the preliminary sketchwork is reproduced in the back, bursting with a Renaissance eroticism reminiscent of Donatello, Caravaggio and the less burly examples of Michelangelo.
In some ways it’s not an easy book – it’s only fair to warn you that the language throughout retains the original formality which some may find initially stilted or foreboding – but its appeal is broader than I initially suspected. I’ll probably receive some flack for this comparison, but the combined scenario and linguistic approach is really not far from a cross between Shakespeare and SANDMAN.
Which should shift a few units.
Lazarus vol 2: Lift s/c (£10-99, Image) by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark.
In the very near future America’s economy has imploded, its political system has collapsed and its State structure has melted away, replaced by territories ruled by families with the most money. Money buys food, money buys guns and money buys people.
It is a feudal system, an archetypal pyramid structure with each Family at the top, a selected few Serfs with key skills in the middle, and the Waste toiling the land or eking out whatever living they can with little or no protection while paying a punitive tax.
The Family Carlyle have invested heavily in augmentation technology, bestowing it on daughter Forever who now acts as their ultimate protection. She’s been trained to the peak of human physical fitness in both armed and unarmed combat. She has enhanced regenerative capabilities closely monitored and backed up at base. But in LAZARUS VOL 1 someone sent Forever a message:
“HE IS NOT YOUR FATHER.
“THIS IS NOT YOUR FAMILY.”
This is where it gets really juicy.
Out in rural Montana, farmers Joe and Bobbie find no help forthcoming as their land is deluged with rain, the river bursts its banks and their home along with everything they own is swept away by the flood. Leaving their land means losing it, but they see no other option than to journey 500 miles to Denver in the hope that their daughter Leigh, their son Michael and his girlfriend Casey be elevated to Carlyle Serfs in the next Lift Selection in a fortnight’s time. They will have to compete with 100,000 others for very few places, but first they will have to survive bandits roaming the open country.
Meanwhile, Forever discovers corruption in the Guard Corps and an active terrorist cell whose attentions seem focussed on Denver where the eldest Carlyle son Stephen is overseeing The Lift. And then there’s that message:
“HE IS NOT YOUR FATHER.
“THIS IS NOT YOUR FAMILY.”
I think I know who sent it.
Flashback to the Southern Sierra Navada Facility where a young Forever is in training:
“I’m trying to remember… when was the last time I saw her, James?”
“On her birthday, Mister Carlyle… so just over five months ago.”
“Then this should be a pleasant surprise.”
“I’m sure it will. Forever! There’s someone here to see you.”
A thrilled Forever throws herself across the lawn, hugging her father at the waist, her beaming face pressed against his stomach.
“I’m so happy to see you! No one told me you were coming!”
“And is this the proper way to greet your father?”
She steps back, head bowed, ashamed.
“No, sir. Sorry, sir. It’s a pleasure to see you again, father.”
I said this was a series about family and power. That and subsequent scenes are very telling: Carlyle doesn’t want Forever’s love; he demands her loyalty instead, using her status as a family member – and a subservient one at that – to consolidate it. He sets her in combat against her skilled trainer, Marisol, and though she acquits herself well, Forever fails.
“I think we both know your apology is meaningless. Our enemies would not hear it, because you would be dead. Your mother and I and your siblings would not hear it, because we would likely be dead too.
“You’re not ready to wear the sword. I wonder, in fact if you should be allowed to wear the name Carlyle at all. The next time I visit, you will defeat Marisol… or you will no longer be permitted to call yourself my daughter.”
In a later visit he even addresses her as “my daughter”. Who does that except royalty, and in the expectation of obeisance?
Forever’s relationship with Marisol is very touching, their mutual affection strained not for one second by what they are commanded to do or ordered to endure. They endure quite a lot.
As for Bobbie, Joe, Leigh, Michael, and Casey, one of them too will discover harsh truths about the Carlyle family, the Lift Selection (Rucka’s really thought that through, including scanning for physical impairments not for automatic exclusion but so that they can be compensated for during the tests if easily corrected at a later date), but above all they will witness first-hand how much loyalty is prized above all else.
LAZARUS would be immeasurably poorer without artist Michael Lark, here with Brian Level and colours by Santi Arcas. Quite why he’s not on the cover is beyond me (Note: the above isn’t the actual cover). He does youth – as well as age, wear and tear of which there is much – phenomenally well. There’s both a natural softness (vulnerable is not a word I’d employ) and a resilient determination in the younger Forever’s face and posture. Her body may be slight, but it is already precociously capable, Lark giving you no doubts whatsoever about that.
I’ve always loved Lark’s urban landscapes, but here he proves master of hard-earth textures and sweeping, country panoramas even within a third-of-a-page panel overlooking the rain-drenched procession towards Denver. Arcas’ subtly clouded skies are worth poring over too.
As for the crowded camp scenes at a distance, those are so, so tricky, but Lark pulls them off with the exact amount of detail a human eye would be able to take in and no more.
I will shut up now before I’m accused of gushing.
The People Inside h/c (£18-99, Oni Press) by Ray Fawkes.
This a book about love in its myriad guises and even disguises so whatever you think that means, you’ll be thinking again when you get to it.
From the creator of ONE SOUL which stunned us so much we made it a Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month – and indeed MERCY which I don’t believe anyone else has for sale in the UK – this sets out to achieve something similarly inclusive but not the same, in a format that’s similarly ingenious… but not the same.
For most unsettling results, read when my age or older.
For most effective results I suggest reading it as soon as possible after your teens.
Of course we don’t necessarily know whether we’re in love or in lust, merely infatuated or completely insane. I’ve been in relationships under all four of those spells and sometimes it’s only in retrospect that you can tell one from the other. What this will make starkly clear, however, is that there is no time to lose by settling for lies or second best when aware that you are doing so.
It begins with six square panels on one page and six square panels on the other, each containing couples in a “Here we are” on-the-threshold moment: the current status, ostensibly, of their relationships. These and subsequent snapshots are either married to or contradicted by the private thoughts – brief mental impressions – of the panels’ occupants and, obviously, the couples aren’t always in synch with each other.
Cracks quickly appear in some relationships as things start to go wrong, sometimes in quite shocking ways. And when those cracks cause a split, they do so in the panels themselves which divide into two as the former lovers go their separate ways. Then some very interesting things start to happen…
Like ONE SOUL, the individuals’ stories continue until they don’t and the panels black out one by one as they die either alone or leaving their partners bereft. Or not. As you can probably tell I’m trying to avoid any form of spoiler whatsoever, but I can assure you that Fawkes has thought of almost every possible permutation, confrontation and complication in a relationship.
Some of this is unbelievably harsh, some of it very affecting.
Some pages move on by mere moments, between others there is an autumnal interlude which may last more than a single season or year. Trajectories aren’t always linear. Relationships need to be worked at, constantly and some can be repaired just as others can be sabotaged. Beware the distraction.
To say “the art does its job” would be to understate the accomplishment, for whilst Fawkes isn’t a very accomplished draughtsman he is a superb visual storyteller, as clear as clear can be, and there are new innovations here on top of the massive leap that ONE SOUL represented which kick off so cleverly after the first twenty-five pages.
Fawkes is also a fine designer and I love the matching covers between the two books which are very much companion pieces.
Just… don’t leave this until your dotage.
Gary‘s Garden Book 1 (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by Gary Northfield.
Have you even seen my garden?!
It’s like something out of Sleeping Beauty. Apparently there’s a canal at the bottom of it, but unless you have a machete then you will probably never know.
Welcome to the garden, dear readers, home to world-renowned, instantly recognised household name… Gary Whatsisface.
So much happens there both behind Gary’s back and right under his nose. By day there is danger! By night there is bin-raiding derring-do! His kitchen and store-cupboards are subject to daylight robbery. Even Gary’s boxer shorts are on the line! The washing line, that is. Or they were.
From the creator of THE TERRIBLE TALES OF THE TEENYTINYSAURS, I gleefully present barrels more buffoonery in which the Cartoon King of bugged-out eyes and shriek-squealing shenanigans sets his sights on suburban denizens of the dank, its tree-top scurriers and worriers, its frond-fond failures and other long-grassed losers: spiders, caterpillars, butterflies; worms, moles and tadpoles; rats, bats and bluebottle flies… all going about their day-to-day, survival of the twittest, ultra-competitive business.
In ‘First Legs’ you will weep when witnessing the loneliness of being a late developer.
In ‘Terrence The Snail’ you will slime as fast as you can slither straight back to Mum.
And on page 45 (of all places) you will wonder whether you can love a girl with a poo hanging out of her bum. Can you?
(Clue: guppies in a fish tank: they have strings of poo hanging out of their bums. They really do!)
Once more, it is the innate understanding of what will make a kid cry with laughter and squeal uncontrollably “Ewwww!” that so successfully informs a comic like this: the one-two punchline of ‘Noisy Neighbours’ is designed specifically to send its readers screaming back to their parents and thrust it in front of their faces. Warning: may prove counter-productive to your parental 5-a-day drive!
There are recurrent jokes you may only spot in the background, I love the slightly outmoded names (Penny the pigeon, Cyril the bumblebee, Rupert the squirrel, Ronald the spider) and the colours… oh, the colours are sublime! I take you back to those tadpoles.
Perspective also plays a vital role: what to this diminutive, ugly-bug ball of buffoons is a Transdimensional Televisor is to us but a toilet roll they’re treadmilling through the open French Windows. What to Gary is a delightful bird-twitter of song is a mockery through mimicry of what our bearded baboon really seems and sounds like. Self-deprecation is a superb source of comedy and Gary Whatsisface – here like the Johnny Morris of mismanaged comics – has mastered it.
In the back as a bonus feature is a game of Gary’s Garden Top Chumps as in Trumps. I loved Top Trumps! It acts both as a character guide and as a fully playable game. You don’t have to cut out your comic but can download and print out then cut out the lot from THE PHOENIX comic website. Brilliant!
Skill sets are: Intelligence, Heroism, Grumpiness, Ickiness, Legs.
Each is scientifically calculated out of ten unless you’re a caterpillar. That means molluscs score low on legs (one), but don’t bet on them being lowest (no clues).
Outrageously, however, there is a Top Chump for Gary Northfield who scores himself 10, 10, 10, 10 and 10. Now, I will give Gary 10 out of 10 both for Grumpiness and Ickiness, but Intelligence and Heroism is pushing it.
As for the legs…
How To Make Awesome Comics (£6-99, David Fickling Books) by Neill Cameron.
Neill Cameron has art down to a science.
All education should be entertainment and creativity is coolest when fun.
This is bundles of fun. It’s instructive, interactive and each step is a full step, but not too steep a step so that budding comicbook creators won’t run out of puff. Nor will they know that they’re climbing a mountain until they reach its summit then feel like they’re on top of the world!
By the time you and / or your young ones have finished this essential guide to comicbook storytelling with practical notes on how to pop your own comic together you will feel empowered enough to tell any story in many ways.
Just watch out for the bananas.
“Something’s wrong with Mecha Monkey! He’s gone into overdrive! … And he seems to be completely obsessed with bananas!”
No, Neill, that’s you.
So meet Professor Panels and his Art Monkey. They’re given up their free time at a mental health institution to teach you how to make comics, and not just any old comics: how to make awesome comics! All you‘ll need is paper, a pencil or pen and your brain.
“Note: do not remove from head.”
Starting with stick figures, filling in blanks at the end of short stories Art Monkey has already drawn, you’ll soon progress onto a variety of simple body shapes broken down into basics in the useful and reassuring knowledge that cartooning is all about is about simplifying: Keep It Simple, Stupid! Faces and emotional ranges swiftly follow on precisely the same principles, focussing on three key elements: the eyes, eyebrows and mouth.
However, cartooning is also about the stories themselves, so you won’t just learn how to draw, but how to set up short sequences yourself with an introduction, confrontation and resolution, how to make that physical, mental or emotional, and how to turn the whole shebang into slapstick comedy, including how to draw a doofus. (I will sit and model for your children, yes.)
Before all that you need ideas and Professor Panels has some simple exercises to help you generate the awesomest ideas of all. Try the equation above! I did, below:
Page 45 + Winning The Lottery = THING THAT IS TOTALLY SUPER AWESOME (for both of us)!
Okay, what he really meant is something like this:
Bananas + Ballet = Bananarina! (See is believing.)
There are also lessons on lettering, and how cool it is to make your sound effects the visual equivalent of onomatopoeia, appendices on things like robot accessories (wheels, jets, missiles, claws, more missiles, chainsaw and a nice pretty bow!), dinosaur shapes, penguins, ninja penguins, and more stories to complete in your own insane manner.
Best of all, however, is that all these examples can be downloaded from the Phoenix Comic website then printed off so you can create as many versions as you fancy without drawing on the book itself!
I wholeheartedly recommend this as a starter guide to anyone of any age, so whip out some paper and sharpen your pencil right now!
Bring your own bananas.
Trillium s/c (£12-99, DC) by Jeff Lemire.
From the creator of ESSEX COUNTY, THE UNDERWATER WELDER and SWEET TOOTH comes a deliriously coloured piece of science fiction whose twin narratives dovetail beautifully when they meet at the middle during the first episode’s conclusion.
Now, that may sound like a gimmick – albeit a clever one – but it is integral to this transtemporal and reality-reconfiguring piece where perception and perspective are all.
1921, and William is determined to find the fabled Lost Temple Of The Incas deep in the Peruvian jungle even though Sir Terrance Morgan’s old escapades ended very badly indeed. His older brother is sceptical, but find it they do, along with the bodies tied to stakes which they assume are from the previous, doomed expedition. Perhaps they should have inspected the clothing more carefully.
In 3797 on a remote human settlement in space, Nika has found the Lost Temple Of The Incas and its blue-skinned, Atabithian inhabitants. What she desperately needs is some of the Trillium flowers within to cure a sentient and singularly virulent virus which could wipe out all mankind. Beyond her own only one other colony remains. Unfortunately Nika is running out of time and her commanding officer may have to resort to less verbal methods of negotiation. Her space suit’s artificial intelligence is scrambling desperately to translate the Atabithians’ language but manages mere snippets. But then Nika ingests one of the flowers and the result is a perfect comicbook moment!
After the first chapter a more regular approach to the two time frames sets in until a dramatic shift in the protagonists’ circumstances creates a wobble in reality and each two-tiered page is played like a face card (Jack, Queen, King), one reflecting the other. Oh yeah! You wait until you get to the real confluences!
Best of all is the colouring: old school washes bleeding beautifully and – as required – eerily. The corpses as recalled by William on the battlefield, drowning in muddy water, are horrific. Lemire’s spindly art really takes off in the space-set sequences, with a gloriously detailed, flower-strewn inner temple which, in chapter seven, grows even more epic once Nika discovers its real secret and so finds herself dwarfed under The Mouth Of God.
I should probably spare you my one consternation because it’s difficult to unlearn things without the aid of copious amounts of alcohol and you might not have spotted it yourself. But in the interests of honesty the Peruvian jungle looked far from jungular, and when one of the expedition members declared, “Dear Lord, I didn’t think the underbrush could get any thicker!” I looked around and all I could see was a perfectly accessible, knee-level grassland, three or four trees per hectare and a couple of random vines.
Bonus in the back: Jeff Lemire and letter artist Chris Ross divulge the secret of the fictional Atabithian language which is nothing of the sort (it’s not Klingon) but a code substituting our own letters of the alphabet with symbols cleverly constructed around the concept of a three-fingered race. However, because it isn’t a fully formed language it does mean that you can go back and decipher the extensive exchanges which Nika couldn’t comprehend without the aid of a GCSE in Atabithian.
Someone send this lazybones a transcript, please. Thank yooooooo!
Monster Perfect Edition vol 1 (£12-99, Viz) by Naoki Urasawa.
Welcome to Altruistic Avenue off Right-Thing Road, paved by Good Intentions Inc.
Hell lies straight ahead.
It’s 1986 before the Berlin Wall came down: Dr. Kenzo Tenma is a young Japanese immigrant working as a neurosurgeon in Germany, and very grateful to be doing so. He’s a prodigy sponsored by Dr. Heinemann, the Head Director of Eisler Memorial Hospital in Düsseldorf, and dating his daughter who’s all easy smiles and eyebrow pencil.
Oh yes, Kenzo has it made but he’s not that kind of guy. He’s eager to please – to the extent that he’ll write papers outside of his own gruelling operating hours and allow Heinemann to claim them as his own – but he knows right from wrong, and his first lesson in wrong comes in the form of a Turkish woman and child whose husband/father is brought in for surgery before a premier opera singer collapses and Dr. Tenma is directed to divert his attention from the first patient to the more prestigious one. He complies, of course, but the Turk dies without Kenzo’s personal touch, leaving his grieving widow to berate him in the corridors and a sympathetic fellow surgeon to warn him about game-plans. At least his fiancée is there to soothe him jauntily with the indisputable truth that “People’s lives aren’t created equal”.
At this point I thought the monsters of the series were actually going to be Dr. Heinemann and his superficial, over-privileged daughter, but no. For Dr. Tenma is offered a chance to redeem himself when a defector from East Germany and his young family are targeted by parties unknown and slaughtered in their residence. Their daughter goes catatonic, while their little boy requires immediate and intricate brain surgery to save him from the bullet in his skull. Kenzo preps himself but at the last minute the local Mayor, a financial supporter of the hospital, collapses and once again our beloved doctor is reassigned to the more politically advantageous operation. With the heart-felt reprimands of the Turkish woman still in his head, does Dr. Kenzo bite the hands that feed him and stab the eyes that seduce him or does he comply once more and live to be promoted yet another day? He does not.
And you cheer, yes you cheer, but everything that follows from demotion to promotion, from police investigation to the most awful revelation, will make you wish that he had.
I’ll be back with more, as will Inspector Lunge of the German Federal Crime Unit – he of the clickerty fingers – and none of it will look good for our dear cousin Kenzo.
With a fine line that speaks as much French as it does Japanese with its exaggerated features and arch expressions, Urasawa is very much worth investigating. Same goes for Dr. Tenma, unfortunately.
What I particularly loved about this was the skills of deflection, evidently hereditary, which both the domineering doctor and his debutante of a daughter apply to so successfully scupper any chance young Kenzo seizes to vocalise his misgivings, leaving him… well, not exactly exasperated because he’s too much of a puppy… but desperate and deflated with the whole world against him. It’s another one of those horror stories that strikes home because the horror is as much about no one taking you seriously, no one believing what you alone have witnessed, because it’s so much more credible that you’re the guilty party yourself.
If only Inspector Lunge read more manga!
Scott Pilgrim vol 5 h/c Colour Edition (£18-99, Oni Press) by Bryan Lee O’Malley.
Yes, he’s back! World class slacker and most oblivious hero of all time, Scott Pilgrim is in for some double trouble!
This volume kicks off with Scott’s birthday and him solemnly vowing to be the best 24-year-old ever, before going straight into evil overdrive with the entrance of Ramona’s — [redacted - ed.]
But will his martial skills be enough to save his relationship with Ramona? Are they even destined to be together after she confesses to an aghast Scott she doesn’t even like his band Sex Bob-omb? Is she really the clean-cut heroine she seems to be? Why does her head sometimes start glowing?!! Will Scott ever realise Kim Pine his oldest and dearest friend is still in love with him!?!?! Dare they tell Ramona about Scott’s innocent sleep-over as he forgets his key for Ramona’s apartment yet again?!!! Will Steven ‘The Talent’ Stills finally finish mixing the Sex Bob-omb album? Just who is Wallace’s mysterious new boyfriend? Can Knives Chau ever get over Scott and stop being so goddamn annoying and clingy? And will Young Neil ever find someone who’ll actually just go out with him?
Ahhhh, so many different plot strands tangling, weaving and inter-twining this time around as Bryan Lee O’Malley skilfully mixes things up yet again to mangle Scott’s heart-strings as well as our own and leave us wondering exactly what happy ending it is we all want to see.
Colour Edition extras include a behind-the-scenes process piece on how O’Malley approached each book from script through thumb-nails for full pencils, lettering and inks, as well as initial designs and ideas jotted down on paper, some of which never made the final cut. Also: loads of poster and t-shirt designs, plus a couple of watercolour paintings.
Reads vol 2 #1 (£4-00, Avery Hill Publishing) by Tim Bird, Luke Halsall, Ricky Miller, Edie O.P., Owen D. Pomery…
Ha. I ordered this mini-anthology purely on the strength of it containing new MEGATHERIUM CLUB material, but actually each of the four strips is a winner in their own right. The opener, The Bullpen by Luke James Halsall and Tim Bird, despite the characters names being changed to presumably avoid any possible legal issues, is prefaced with the comment that if you would like to know more about the early days of Marvel Comics to read MARVEL COMICS: THE UNTOLD STORY by Sean Howe, which I would heartily endorse. In this strip, we see a bespectacled huckster-type blatantly fuck over the diligent, hard-working artist by taking the entire credit for creating their new characters. Now, I wonder who that particular potshot is aimed at…?
Then, after the delightful nonsense of the Club’s latest ill advised booze-addled exploits, there follows Hitchcock & Film in which the esteemed director charts the very beginnings of cinema and also his own intertwined childhood years. It’s by Ricky Miller and Tim Bird, and I believe this is the first chapter of what will be a longer work. You can tell it’s extremely well researched, and I’m really looking forward to seeing considerably more of this material. I found it fascinating, both from the historical as well as the biographical perspective. I should add at this point I loved Tim’s previous homage to the Great British institution of the motorway GRAY AREA: THE OLD STRAIGHT TRACK. I really enjoy his art style, I think it’s immensely well polished for such a relaxed approach.
Finally, we have something completely different art-wise from EdieOP. I’ve seen some bits and pieces from her forthcoming MALEFICIUM and I think she’s a real talent. Much like Brecht THE WRONG PLACE / THE MAKING OF Evens, I like the fact she’s not afraid to plough a unique artistic furrow. Her tale here, The Story Of Lucius Jellybean, is a random bit of craziness about a whole new lifeform created from a dissolved slug. He’s a well meaning freak of nature, despite being prone to causing the odd pandemic by accident! Very amusing.
This collection is a primer / advert for the fledgling (set up in 2012) Avery Hill Publishing, whose publications so far, I have found to be of impeccable merit! Keep up the good work!
The Collected Works Of Filler Bunny (£7-50, SLG Publishing) by Jhonen Vasquez.
In which a pink bunny is jabbed repeatedly in the head by a hypodermic needle and injected with whatever it takes to keep the comic going.
Yes, it’s mother of invention time.
When creators attend conventions they find it useful to have something to sign and to sell – a print or a comic – to help pay for their way and give their readers an incentive to visit their tables. Jhonen Vasquez, creator of JOHNNY THE HOMICIDAL MANIAC and SQUEE, found himself in need ahead of a San Diego Comic Convention so turned the first of these four fillers around in 24 hours.
That’s what these are: fillers. Far from deceitful, Vasquez set out his stall immediately: he had to fill fifteen pages without a clue how to do so except subject poor Fillerbunny to as much pain as possible. He ran out of ideas of page six. Didn’t matter: that was the joke.
Of FILLERBUNNY #3: MY WORST BOOK YET, Mark wrote:
“This book is a bestseller at Page 45. Hordes of dark munchkins sweep through the shop on a Saturday, examine the same shelf as always, point at a few things and then leave. It’s a thing.”
He wasn’t joking.
Includes Fillerbunny in a bee costume. If you like bee costumes, try Jamie Smart’s KOCHI WANABA
Henry And Glenn: Forever And Ever (£13-50, Microcosm Publishing) by Tom Neely, more.
“How are you? The tour is going ok. I miss you and the dog so much. Give her a kiss for me. Yesterday this lead singer slapped me. It hurt so much I wish you were there to have held me. Well I have to go there is a great documentary on about werewolves.
So much funnier when you realise that it’s Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig.
Fear not, this is completely smut-free. It is instead a light-hearted romcom featuring the unlikeliest of lovers trying to sort out their issues. The main issue is that Glenn is a self-centred, melodramatic cry-baby whose career has dead-ended, leaving our stoical Henry to deal with the domestic practicalities and bring home the bacon by appearing as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race (true fact – I’ve seen an episode, and good for him!) and indeed The Henry Rollins Show where he interviews Kevin Smith:
“So, Kevin… how big is Ben Affleck’s dick? Sorry, I meant: how big of a dick is Ben Afleck?”
“This interview is over.”
Tom Neely’s cartooning is a fun-filled joy with elements both of Peter Bagge in Glenn Danzig and square-jawed Chester Gould in Henry Rollins. Benjamin Marra, meanwhile, delivers a back-stabbing satani-cult romp in the style of Golden Age superheroes inked in Rotring. Erick Yahnker’s photo-realistic portrait in grey washes was actually quite touching. Coop’s homage to Frank Frazetta wasn’t!
Daryl Hall and John Oates, meanwhile, are the long-suffering neighbours, while Morrissey finally brings accord to their discord, albeit in opposition.
The bumper edition collects all five mini-comics of full sequential art, single cartoons, cry-fest diary entries, and the sort of notes you’d leave your housemate on the refrigerator. I’ve read the hatemail some humourless loons sent the creative crew, while Henry Rollins said:
“Has Glenn seen this? Trust me, he would NOT be amused.”
You’ll find Glenn Danzig’s real-life, recorded reaction to the first mini on the very last page. Hahahahaha!
Aww, there, there. I’m not going to kiss you better.
Charley’s War Omnibus vol 1 s/c (£18-99, Random House / Vertical) by Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun.
Includes August 1st 1916 – Charley’s seventeenth birthday – when the British forces begin bombing their own side. Which is nice.
I saw a BBC programme on the Battle of the Somme, and whereas the British forces were totally screwed by their own superiors, our French allies manage to achieve their objectives. So that’s one in the eye for the boringly, belligerently anti-French. Anyway, the programme I saw didn’t paint a particularly pretty picture nor does this, deliberately, which wouldn’t be so surprising if it was Garth Ennis’ recent BATTLEFIELDS or earlier WAR STORIES at Vertigo.
But it’s not, it’s from the very early ‘80s and was aimed squarely at kids.
Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy!
Reviews already up if they’re new formats of previous graphic novels. The best of the rest will be reviewed next week while others will retain their Diamond previews as reviews. Neat, huh?
Final Incal h/c – Numbered Oversized Slipcase Edition (£59-99, Humanoids) by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Ladronn, Moebius
The Guns Of Shadow Valley h/c (£18-99, Dark Horse) by Dave Wachter, James Andrew Clark & Dave Wachter
The Heart Of The Beast – A Love Story h/c (£18-99, Dynamite) by Judith Dupre, Dean R. Motter & Sean Phillips
Kings Watch vol 1 s/c (£14-99, Dynamite) by Jeff Parker & Marc Laming
My Little Pony vol 3: The Return Of Harmony s/c (£5-99, IDW) by various
Preacher Book 5 (£14-99, Vertigo) by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon
Flash vol 3: Gorilla Warfare s/c (£12-99, DC) by Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato & Francis Manapul
Flash vol 4: Reverse h/c (£18-99, DC) by Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato & Francis Manapul
Deadpool: Complete Collection vol 4 s/c (£25-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way & various
Guardians Of The Galaxy vol 1: Cosmic Avengers (US Edition) s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Steve McNiven
Dragonar Academy vol 2 (£9-99, Seven Seas) by Shiki Mizuchi & Ran
Fairy Tail vol 41 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima
Monster Soul vol 2 (£8-50, Kodansha) by Hiro Mashima
Ranma 1/2 2-in-1 vols 5 & 6 (£9-99, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi
Samurai Executioner Omnibus vol 2 (£14-99, Dark Horse) by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima
Terra Formars vol 1 (£8-99, Viz) by Yu Sasuga & Ken-Ichi Tachibana
ITEM! Hugely entertaining LeftLion interview with Matt Brooker AKA D’Israeli conducted by Robin Lewis about Matt’s early days, current comic ORDINARY (in stock now!) and the immediate future.
ITEM! Swoonaway komodo dragon by Marc Laming.
ITEM! Jamie Smart on creating the fabulous MOOSEKID COMICS including costs in terms of both time and money. Some of you may find that useful as well as fascinating
Err, that’s all I got. Been on holiday, that sort of thing.
See you on Monday for the Page 45 Bryan Lee O’Malley signing of SECONDS.