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Reviews November 2012 week four

Now what you have to bear in mind is that those pieces aren’t designed to be seen; they aren’t the finished product. The finished product, the work of art, is the printed graphic novel you hold in your hands, preferably mere seconds before taking it to our till. … Viewing an original page, therefore, is a fascinating insight to the creative process, like x-raying a Leonardo Da Vinci to reveal the layers of paint beneath its surface.

 - Stephen in a brand-new Page 45 interview. Please see bottom of the blog, as ever.

August Moon (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Diana Thung >

Cute warning: this book has all the cute! Like, literally, all of it. It’s one that adults who liked things like BONE, perhaps MOUSE GUARD, or indeed Studio Ghibli stuff will enjoy, but is also suitable for younger readers. Though some serious themes are touched upon, in particular loss of a parent, it’s very gently done and I think I would have absolutely loved this at age 10 or 11.

Calico is a little town, unusual in that it is reachable only by bridge and is surrounded by thick forest. Life is fairly ordinary there, though: people work, go to school, buy food and treats from the many shops and street vendors. The kids seem to have a great time there too, racing around in a little rag-tag gang playing robots and singing songs. There are rumours and stories about the lights that you sometimes see dancing in the sky at night. Most believe they are the souls of the dead watching over the town as it sleeps but a few people, including Jayden the strange little street kid, know different. When events take a turn for the strange it’s up to newcomer Fi, mysterious Jayden and the Totoro-esque wielders of those dancing lights to save the people and the soul of Calico from a dark outside influence.

DK

Buy August Moon and read the Page 45 review here

At The End Of Your Garden (signed) (£4-00) by Lizz Lunney.

I am about to attempt six consecutive Lizz Lunney reviews in swift succession. After which I may need medical attention. And so may you.

“Things you might see at the end of your garden: Tigers…”

Need I type any further? Thank goodness Lizz Lunney didn’t compile any of the I-SPY books I bought when young: I would have burst into tears. Thankfully it transpires that the next five aren’t quite so challenging: moss (my entire lawn is a flawless carpet of moss), bonfires (I’ve lit a fair few), squirrels (not quite as angry as hers), elves (I wiped them out years ago) and remains (see ‘elves’. Also: ‘bonfires’).

Moss proves to be a major issue this issue, featuring heavily on the cover, dominating its reverse and, at the time of typing, Lizz has festooned for free Page 45’s copies of this mental mini-comic with original, signed sketches of said spore-spawning greenery. And we thank her for that, I think. Hers, of course, is an anthropomorphic moss – far from bipedal, though it does get around and appears to be overwhelmingly at one with itself: content, at rest, like some colour-blind Buddhist.

Also this time: beware The Box Of Unmentionable Stress, a cautionary tale for those of you with both an over-acquisitive and over-inquisitive sensibility. There are always life lessons in Lizz Lunney comics, and I seriously suggest you take heed.

‘The Girl With The Lion In Her Hair’ is an ode not dissimilar to Kate Bush’s gentle and tender ballad The Man With The Child In His Eyes… only decidedly less metaphorical in nature. There is, in fact, a girl with a lion in her hair. I may introduce it to the tiger at the bottom of my garden and see if we can’t get some hot, hinnie-like action going on.

Most of these jaw-dropping gems barely overstay one or two panels but ‘Bum Cats Go Out’ is a veritable two-page epic. There are in fact five panels. It is a quest (“Yippee!”) for presents (“Yippee!”) as two balloon-bottomed bozos of the feline persuasion get up off their arses then sit down on them again to take tea (“Yippee!”). Which two presents do they choose, dear reader? More importantly which two would you choose?

Someone should turn that into one of those internet personality evaluations: which two trinkets you choose (note: trinkets include a gigantic solar entity emitting 384.6 yotta watts of energy per second) will determine exactly what sort of lunatic you are. I’d like to see Lizz set up this interactive service, and then take the test herself.

SLH

Buy At The End Of Your Garden (signed) and read the Page 45 review here

Unicorns + Werewolves / Tubetastic (£2-50) by Lizz Lunney.

Belay your expectations, dear readers, for they will avail you nought in this ground-breaking and surely award-winning ethological study of three species so under-investigated by even Dame David Attenborough that some still consider them mere myth. Werewolf deniers: they shouldn’t be allowed.

Take the Tubes: they have it tough. Tougher than you think. Oh, they may be able to tumble up and down dell far faster than you and I, and I daresay they can straighten out an over-rolled poster with reverse physiology simply by wrapping it round their waists for half an hour. But they have only one aspect from which to view the world: from the end of their unyielding body, ever erect, so how can they see the wider world around when all they stare up at is the ceiling? I would ask students the same question.

As to unicorns and werewolves, I for one was profoundly moved by Lizz Lunney’s detailed documentary of the problems faced in their day-to-day cohabitation, albeit from opposite sides of the wood. It’s like Westside Story but without the high heels, flamboyance and tunes. All segregation – self-imposed or otherwise – makes me delinquent with wrath, but when it results in a love so forbidden on either side that, however requited, it may never be consummated or indeed celebrated by so-called friends and relatives… well, my stony heart breaks.

Admirable neo-classical art which put me in mind of sculptor Bernini, only flatter.

SLH

Buy Unicorns + Werewolves / Tubetastic and read the Page 45 review here

At The Planetarium (signed) (£4-00) by Lizz Lunney.

Arch neo-classicist Lizz Lunney does it again.

I am in awe of this woman’s perspective-perfect, photo-realistic, detail-driven art. The textures put me in mind of Guy Davis, Sean Phillips and perhaps even Jean Giraud AKA Moebius on a sensory sabbatical. I wonder if perhaps even Bryan Hitch shouldn’t take note from the curves and compositions on offer here. Unlike Lizz Lunney, he certainly doesn’t sign and sketch in his comics that come through our doors. And that’s slack.

‘Holiday Dinosaurs’ offers a radical but, to me, compelling new explanation for their mass extinction many moons ago: bone-headed stupidity. No sense of preparation, either. Dinosaurs would make rubbish Boy Scouts.

I was, however, far from convinced by the ‘Nut Wars’. I don’t recall them ever happening at all, and that’s a bit rich when you’re purporting to be the UK’s leading light in investigative comicbook journalism. I studied history to college level (oh wait — collage level, aged 5) and this simply doesn’t ring true. The border disputes and petty jealousies, yes, for it has long been established that these shortcomings aren’t restricted to human beings: cats and dogs aren’t immune, either. But I didn’t find it remotely credible that even a pre-shelled peanut could or even would crack under the stress and embark on a campaign of violence that makes my private collection of snuff porn look like Peter and Jane on a parentally supervised picnic.

Delightfully, however, AT THE PLANETARIUM climaxes at the planetarium itself in a crossover which puts Marvel and DC’s summer superhero events to shame. Guest-stars galore! Even Depressed Cat appears waiting despondently in line for the show.

Now… where are the commercially expedient (but morally bankrupt) five-dozen tie-in issues?

SLH

Buy At The Planetarium (signed) and read the Page 45 review here

Leopards In Leotards / Dust (£2-50) by Lizz Lunney.

This time the woman gone too far. I was outraged when I read the final dust page inside the dust jacket which does not exist at all.

Against all external advice and at the risk of several friendships, I have respected Lizz Lunney’s somewhat quirky world views which – once analysed with a clear head and an electron microscope, albeit unplugged and made out of potato – often turn out to make far more sense than your average Darwinian nonsense. Empirical evidence be damned!

But when Science Officer Lunney points out here that it may be a good idea to “buy some surface cleaner and a duster and go and clean your house before it takes over the world!” I was agog. Such sensationalist tripe!!!

I once saw a duster at Page 45 and it did me no favours at all. I see no sense whatsoever in letting that same kind of unnatural behaviour into my home, and I only discovered I owned a vacuum cleaner by breaking my own toe on it.

As to the rest of this epic (please set aside three hours to read it and a life-time to comprehend its complex, quasi-existentialist contents), I can only say “Yay!” and “Yippee!” Leopards in leotards could easily change their spots – which is handy when pin-stripe’s in fashion.

SLH

Buy Leopards In Leotards / Dust and read the Page 45 review here

Living The Dream Tote Bag (Pink Artwork) (£6-00) by Lizz Lunney.

Oh, he really is living the dream, settled comfortably on his settee.

And doing so in fuchsia. Fuchsia on a cream cloth measuring 15” x 16”.

I make no calls as to whether this will appeal more to men or women than its blue counterpart. I am categorically averse to the gender-specific marketing of commodity products which can scar our children for life.

I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside…! Give them a… sense… of pride… Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.

Sorry? Tote bag. It carries stuff.

SLH

Buy Living The Dream Tote Bag (Pink Artwork) and read the Page 45 review here

Living The Dream Tote Bag (Blue Artwork) (£6-00) by Lizz Lunney.

“Well, hellooooowwwrrrr… And how are youwwwrrr?”

This dude is totally like a black panther on your ass, albeit proud and purring, not popping one into your skinny white butt.

He is sleek, he is sexy, he is also demure!

Although I believe “demure” refers to women only. I don’t care. Let us not be hung up on colour, gender, sex and sexuality when we hang out with our fellow felines. I had a couple of cats called Max and Felix: they were both brothers and gay so, err, incestuous. You should have seen their mutual grooming!

Choose this or its equivalent in fuchsia. It’s a difficult decision, I know.

Tote bag in a creamy, dreamy cloth measuring 15” x 16” designed to carry your stuff. The stuff being comics, naturally; Lizz Lunney comics, obviously.

“Yippee!”

SLH

Buy Living The Dream Tote Bag (Blue Artwork) and read the Page 45 review here

Rachel Rising vol 2: Fear No Malus (£12-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

“Ah, I’m sorry to bother you. I’m Detective Corpell, Manson P.D.. Is this a bad time?”
“Yes. But, that’s not your fault.”

Beautiful, haunting and irresistibly alluring, this will confound your expectations time after time. Along with FATALE and SAGA it’s one of my favourite series in many full moons, and I would honestly submit that if you are currently captivated by any one of those three, then you desperately need the others.

Rachel has risen from her grave. She was buried under a dried-up river bed not far from her home in the sleepy town of Manson. Since then she’s been pushed off a roof so high above the pavement that she caved in the car top below her. She died. Again. So did the woman who knocked her off, but they’re both back on their feet and none the worse for wear. Meanwhile another blonde woman has been circling the town purposefully and a ten-year-old called Zoe has turned into a serial killer. Towards the end of RACHEL RISING VOL 1: THE SHADOW OF DEATH Rachel, her best friend Jet and the pragmatic Aunt Johnny picked Zoe up. They probably shouldn’t have done that.

“What’s wrong?”
“When we left the house on Sunday, we were in an accident.”
“Oh dear.”
“Jet was killed. Johnny’s in the hospital.”
“Oh no!”
“The thing is, Jet woke up this morning at the mortuary.”
“She’s alive?”
“No. She’s asking for you.”

This script is faultless, with beat-perfect timing. Terry Moore can wring comedy from the most unlikely scenarios as fans of his STRANGERS IN PARADISE know well. In the mortuary, for example, after Dr. Siemen and technician Earl have stitched and bolted together Jet’s virtually bisected body, Rachel holds the indignant Jet upright, cradling her broken neck both in front and behind like a ventriloquist and her doll while Dr. Siemens gives his divine diagnosis.

“You’re not zombies at all. Zombies are sad, empty shells. You girls are most certainly dead – but you’re also most certainly alive. Don’t you see? You’re angels!”
“>snort< Like I haven’t heard that line in every bar I played.”
“Dr. Siemen, your whole angel thing is just so… I mean… It’s like what you wish was happening but, it doesn’t fit. I’m not an angel, and Jet is the farthest thing from an angel I can imagine.”
“Screw you.”
“See?”

Jet in particular is a goldmine of deadpan, pithy rejoinders. She and Rachel make for the perfect tag team of intimate friendship born of frank understanding, which makes what follows all the more horrifying.

There is a reason, you see, why Manson’s dead won’t stay buried. It goes back three-hundred years to the last time that river ever saw water course over its muddy bed, and this innocent generation of individuals who care about one another is about to pay the price for another which didn’t. Worse still, there is a reason why ten-year-old Zoe is compelled to take lives, and that goes back further, to an age-old animosity between two parties whose ambitions are far, far broader than one culpable town in the middle of nowhere.

Rachel and Jet are about to find out the hard way exactly what that entails.

And the ground gives up its dead…

SLH

Buy Rachel Rising vol 2: Fear No Malus and read the Page 45 review here

Buy Terry Moore prints and other merchandise direct here

Terry Moore’s How To Draw (£12-99, Abstract Studios) by Terry Moore.

From the creator of RACHEL RISING, STRANGERS IN PARADISE and ECHO, three of the most tenderly, dramatically and beautifully drawn series in comics, if I was going to take a comics art class from anyone, it would be Terry Moore.

The love – the heart and humanity – with which Terry Moore infuses his work shines through on every page, in every subtle piece of interactive body language and every single expression. That, above all, is what he has to teach you here. How to compose this, how to balance that and with which tools followed by how, practically, to get your comic printed, yes; but more than anything else, how to give your drawings soul.

Moreover he does so conversationally, entertainingly. Whenever we have a new Work Experience pupil join us for a week at Page 45 we spend the first day wandering round the shop and about town, discussing marketing, merchandising, customer service, the specific circumstances of the comicbook industry and Page 45’s personal approach to it all. That way each young lady or man understands why they are about they are going to be putting into practise all the key skills we will teach then, and have enormous fun doing it. “Why” is so important, and that is precisely what Terry does here, and then shows you how.

Take the power of universally comprehended – not culturally determined – expressions:

“Your character can touch the hearts and minds of anybody on the planet with her expressions alone. If her heart is joyous or broken, we will see it – and get it – before she’s even said a word. Expressions are that important.
“The girl of your dreams can look you right in the eyes and tell you what you want to hear, but if you don’t see it in her face you won’t believe a word she says.”

So it is with the human body and particularly female anatomy for which the man is renowned. And I don’t mean horrifically proportioned catwalk stick insects or over-endowed superheroines in ludicrous, low-cut bodices. I mean real women with real bodies, soft and sexy and curvaceous as anything with a little bit of give here and there.

“Sitting bottoms are not round. Most of the body weight is compressing the soft, fatty area.”

True fact! Yet how often so I see characters perched on chairs drawn as if their asses were made out of unyielding pottery or plastic.

There’s also an extensive class on comedy, and anyone who’s read Terry’s ECHO will expect an examination and artistic application of the ubiquitous Phi. What is Phi? It’s a letter of the Greek alphabet and an extraordinary constant in nature. It is a ratio. It is a revelation.

Also a revelation, “Tools, tip and specs”. Now, I haven’t been a professional artist in two and a half decades, I wasn’t much cop then, and I certainly never tried comics. Yet I found this chapter riveting and, Lord, will it save you so much time and frustration. We’re talking brushes which do and don’t hold ink, which papers bleed more than others, how to physically hold a brush for maximum control, printing proportions, the secrets of scanning and bitmaps and Greyscale, and why you should only use the top of your sheets for initial measurements: pads of paper aren’t cut at exact right angles shock! Here’s another surprise:

“That Q-tip is no accident. Q-tips are perfect for covering large areas with ink. I’ve seen Jim Lee use a tampon to draw Batman. I kid you not. And, it was one of the best Batman drawings I’ve even seen.”

SLH

Buy Terry Moore’s How To Draw and read the Page 45 review here

Tune vol 1: Vanishing Point (£12-99, FirstSecond ) by Derek Kirk Kim…

I’m starting to think that Derek Kirk Kim is either a hopeless romantic or just a very frustrated nerd. Following on from the re-release of his sweet and sensitive tale, SAME DIFFERENCE, which features an extremely slow-burning romance between two American Korean friends, we have this work which features an American Korean college dropout, Andy Go, who had been studying Illustration and who has, to his mind, a huge unrequited crush on his classmate. Except he hasn’t, as she’s thinking pretty much the same thing.

So far, quite literally, SAME DIFFERENCE then. Except, when given a week by his slightly stentorian father to find a job or vacate the family home, he’s forced to accept a very unusual employment offer indeed… to be an exhibit in a zoo in a parallel dimension… The pay is amazing, the holidays generous, and there’s even medical and dental cover! There is, of course, bound to be a catch, but Andy’s parents have left him in no doubt whatsoever that he’ll be out on the streets if he doesn’t find gainful employment, so he decides to sign on the dotted line.

Ha! This is great fun, swinging as it does back and forth between light-hearted romantic comedy and surreal sci-fi shenanigans. Story-wise it put me in mind of a few different things like Scott McCloud’s epic ZOT, Gene Luen Yang’s PRIME BABY (whom Derek collaborated on THE ETERNAL SMILE with) and also Jason Shiga’s EMPIRE STATE. The lovely, curvy, fine-line black and white artwork adds to the fun and warmth of this tale. Derek also writes and directs an online show called Mythomania which is loosely based on TUNE, so I can’t see him running out of plot any time soon, which is just as well as I get the impression he is intending this to be a somewhat soap-operatic multiple-volume manga-esque tale. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that when it’s done as well as this!

JR

Buy Tune vol 1: Vanishing Point and read the Page 45 review here

Start With A Happy Ending Vol 1 (£9-99, DMP) by Risa Motoyama >

This book collects a series of short stories along the same theme: you die and are met by the Cat God who tells you that you are being granted 7 more days on earth. This might be because of some act of kindness you performed towards a cat in your lifetime, or it could be at the request of your childhood kitty who wants to pay you back for all your love and attention. You can spend these 7 days any way you like: visiting loved ones, tying up loose ends, taking a trip you always longed to take, whatever. Oh, also you have to do it as a cat. Off you go! Wait, what…?!

And so we get a series of simple tales with simple, human meanings at their heart. The high school girl who felt she had no friends gets to listen in on her classmates mourning her passing. The busy office worker who had no time for anyone else gets to see what a great bunch of people she actually worked with. Some people are happy to just be a cat, being petted and loved by the people they left behind while others find ways to carry on with their lives and work, fixing the things they think need fixing and often realising where they went wrong during their human lifetime.

In each story we are told what the person’s earthly problems were and then watch as they seek a solution in cat form. After their 7 days are up we then get to see them make a choice; to be reincarnated in cat or human form. Some of the outcomes come off as a bit trite but others are actually quite surprising and touching. Each chapter is short and follows the same formula so there is no real subtlety in the structure and, as each story has a similar path, it can feel quite repetitive if you read the entire book through in one go. However, if you dip in a chapter or two at a time, maybe on the bus or on a coffee break, you may well find yourself drifting off into the kitty world and wondering what you would do with your 7 days. There is also a lot of manga-kitteh cuteness which is never a bad thing.

DK

Buy Start With A Happy Ending Vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

0-7 Ghost Vol 1 (£6-99, VIZ) by Yuki Amemiya & Yukino Ichihara >

We start off in an elite academy full of teenage boys who are all very, very good at fighting. They are doing something martial-arty but with added psycho-kinetic power bonus power added in – sort of like a Jean Grey Hadouken manoeuvre – very cool. A big final test is looming, with some of the best pupils being groomed to work directly under the top brass as their prodigies and eventually, one presumes, their successors. The guy we are following is Teito Klein, a very talented boy by all accounts but also something of a mystery. He has no memory of his past, no parents and bears the mark of a slave on his back. He evidently comes from the Raggs kingdom, a faction now defeated and consigned to the fringes of history. Nevertheless he is being lined up for a top role… until he overhears a secret which unlocks his memory and allows him to place the face of the guy he’s supposed to be working for. Yes, that would be the bastard who killed his father.

And so cue rage, fight scenes, arrest and eventual escape to the world below the academy; a world which at first bewilders and shocks our hero. However, it’s not long before his memory starts to return and the bigger picture starts to emerge. Guess what? The mysterious slave boy has a destiny…

Expect this series to offer lots of fast action, fight scenes, evil cackling baddies and silly side dialogue with the occasional inappropriate Bishop / Nun interaction. PewPew!

DK

Buy 0-7 Ghost Vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Trigun Maximum Omnibus vol 1 (£14-99, DMP ) by Yasuhiro Nightow ~

Of the original TRIGUN series, our Tom rather brilliantly wrote:

Vash the Stampede. That’s what they call him. He’ll come through your town wipe it off the map. Fear his name. Err, why? Vash, the poor sucker, has been held responsible for the total destruction of Third City. The result? A sixty-billion double-dollar dead-or-alive bounty on his head. Every man, woman and child on the planet is after his blood. Just one snag, he’s a pacifist.

And as he dodges bullets in a way that makes Agent Smith look like J.F.Kennedy, you realise it’s the chaos brought about by his attempted capture that give Vash his namesake. Until two women appear on the scene. The good news? They’re taking the bounty off his head. And bad news? He has been deemed a natural disaster. The two mystery ladies are insurance investigators. With guns. Is there a more frightening concept than that?

Now: “Vash the Stampede, the galaxy’s deadliest gunslinger, emerges after two years in hiding to help his beleaguered desert homeworld, Gunsmoke. But the Stampede’s many enemies have kept their motors, and they’re back on his trail and determined to bring Vash to ground-hard! And a new crowd of bounty hunters, badasses, and brain-cases are also looking to cash in the astronomical price on his head! Trigun Maximum Omnibus presents Nightow’s Trigun series in value-priced editions of well over 500 story pages! Contain Trigun Maximum volumes 1-3.”

TR

Buy Trigun Maximum Omnibus vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Stitched vol 1 (£14-99, Avatar) by Garth Ennis, Mike Wolfer & Mike Wolfer…

“They don’t say anything, there’s no chanting or praying or horror movie bollocks.
“They don’t light fucking candles.
“It’s that shit they pour into him, fuck alone knows where they get it or what they’ve done to it.
“Then they seal it in.”
“Seal…?”
“Bodily orifices. All nine.
“It’s a nightmare. It’s truly fucking horrible. But…
“There’s still nothing impossible about it. It’s a load of maniacs torturing some poor prick, but it isn’t anything more than that.
“And then… then it gets impossible.”

The conversation in question is taking place between three American soldiers, the survivors of a helicopter crash in remotest Afghanistan and a small squad of S.A.S. who’ve been operating deep behind enemy lines. The British special forces are recounting what little they’ve managed to learn about the near-unstoppable, wraith-like figures that have been marauding around the local villages killing indiscriminately. The S.A.S. have christened them the Stitched due to their horrific mutilated appearance, which it’s fair to say isn’t the tidiest bit of needle point you’re likely to see. Unless you’re one of the poor unfortunates who has had the procedure performed on them, then you’re not likely to see a great deal. Or hear, or smell, or taste, or… well… you get the picture.

There is of course nothing indiscriminate about what the Stitched are doing which is where we pick up our tale, as the military allies find themselves dragged deeper and deeper into a nightmare there’s certainly going to be no easy escape from. You may or may not be aware that this work is based on a short film Ennis wrote and which was released in 2011. That film roughly tallies up with the events of issue #1. Issues #2-#6 then pan out along the lines of what Ennis wrote as the full length screenplay, though that at present hasn’t been put into production. It is intended this will be an ongoing series though, and certainly this first arc poses considerably more questions than it reveals answers to about the Stitched, their origins, their motivations and who precisely are the evil bastards behind their creation. Fans of Ennis, particularly CROSSED, will certainly get their pound of flesh, but there is a fair bit more going on here than just out-and-out carnage. Appropriately disturbing art from Mike Wolfer, who may be familiar to people from his horror / magic collaboration GRAVEL with Warren Ellis. Surprised he’s not had his turn illustrating CROSSED actually, no doubt he will at some point.

JR

Buy Stitched vol 1 and read the Page 45 review here

Indestructible Hulk #1 (£2-99, Marvel) by Mark Waid & Leinil Yu.

“… TICK… TICK… TICK…”

KINGDOM COME by Mark Waid and Alex Ross was stunning. It’s one of those OMG moments which you never saw coming but which will last blasted into your superhero psyche forever.

Mark Waid is an ever-reliable veteran of superhero comics who can carry the corporate torch without sweat but who, like Busiek on ASTRO CITY, really comes into his own when the books are creator-owned. We’re talking IRREDEEMABLE. Go look at the latter: I compared the two.

Yet this is by far the most unexpectedly intelligent that the HULK title has been since Peter David twenty years ago and – I’ll wager – is destined to surpass even that. Waid has thought outside the box. Or rather, the man has gone rummaging in the box of past history and potential and found much that has been left to go mouldy there.

Don’t get me wrong: with Leinil Yu of SUPERIOR, SUPERCROOKS and ULTIMATE WOLVERINE VERSUS HULK fame, you are in for some wide-angled carnage on a teeth-grittingly, visceral level that will make your eyes pop out and your fingers pull out of each page mere moments before turning them over, lest anything vital be lost to the sheer weight of the collateral damage doled out here. But listen, Bruce Banner is a phenomenally intelligent scientist, yet all the plaudits have gone to Reed Richards, Tony Stark and even Hank ‘Smack-My-Bitch-Up’ ‘Who-Even-Am-I-Today?’ Pym.

“Meanwhile, I – I who, forgive me, have just as much to contribute – will be lucky if my tombstone doesn’t simply say, “Hulk Smash!””

Ever since his first catastrophic self-sacrifice transmuting him into the uncontrollable, cyclonic force of nature that is the easily antagonised Hulk, Bruce Banner has been hounded so incessantly that he has only had time to react to each and every onslaught. The perpetual victim, he has never been afforded the opportunity to take stock. Even during brief respites he has his own system perpetually pumping against him as a ticking time bomb which could go off during even the most minor, mundane malfeasance. Like a bump in the queue for spaghetti.

So it is today that Maria Hill, head of SHIELD and on covert surveillance in a common-or-garden diner for another mission she should be attending to more rigorously, is obsessively on the man’s case yet again and against all professional advice.

“It’s not as if he’s going to find us,” she texts.
“Hi.”

Well that had me won. But there’s more, far more, for Bruce has a plan both pragmatic and proactive.

“First, resolved: being the Hulk is a chronic condition, like diabetes or cancer or M.S. The secret to living with it isn’t obsessing over a cure. It’s in managing what exists. Being vigilant. Like, say, making contact lenses that monitor my vital warning statistics as an early warning system.

“Second: use Banner Time more productively. Invent things. Fix things. Improve things. The Hulk has caused immeasurable damage and heartache over the years. It’s past time that I started balancing the scales by doing as much good as possible.”

He presents to her a single canister.

“This? This is a purification unit that, if put into mass production, can eliminate all waterborne disease in the next five years, saving millions of lives.”
“That’s… Wow. Do you have a name for it?”
“Yes. Tuesday.”

Buy Indestructible Hulk by bellowing down 0115 9508045 or smashing the keys [email protected]. Alternatively sit down beside me at Ben’s Alley Café when I’m least expecting it.

Essential Wolverine vol 6 (£14-99, Marvel) by Larry Hama, Warren Ellis, Chris Claremont & Leinil Yu, various.

We do actually sell these black and white phone books of Marvel reprints – and do a roaring trade online – just not on the shop floor: they took up way too much room. So do ask whenever you’re in and we’ll grab stock from upstairs.

This collects WOLVERINE (1988) #111-128, #-1 and ANNUAL ’97, including ‘Not Dead Yet’ the storyline from a much younger Warren Ellis and Leinil Yu. It’s a fifteen-year-old take I’d totally forgotten, and the first thing to note is that Leinil’s art is far cleaner here, like a nascent Jim Lee, though not half as expressive as his work on SUPERIOR, SUPERCROOKS or ULTIMATE WOLVERINE VERSUS HULK, all three of them recommended in the highest possible terms. That will disappoint some yet please others. It also contrasts sharply with the latter because it came out before Marvel become comfortable with decapitation and bloodbaths. Takes a certain skill to show Wolverine dicing some sucker up without actually showing him dicing some sucker up.

Ellis is similarly restrained in this relatively straight-forward story, half of which takes place in Hong Kong ten years prior to the main event, at a time when Logan was dating the daughter of a film director and drinking into the early hours of the morning with a Scottish assassin called McLeish, known to the locals as ‘Gweilo’ or White Ghost. McLeish likes talking about himself, and Logan’s happy to let him, but it’s the little that Logan says which proves his undoing.

Flash forward to the present and Manhattan’s East Village, where Wolverine – during a period in which he’d been temporarily relieved of his unbreakable adamantium skeleton – finds himself on the receiving end of bombs laced with that same metal’s shards and bullets forged from it. Everything points to McLeish, but McLeish is dead. Or is he? Or isn’t he? Or is he?

A well written comic for those days at Marvel, but with none of the distinctive Ellis flourishes (okay, swearing) that you’ve come to enjoy.

SLH

Buy Essential Wolverine vol 6 and read the Page 45 review here

Captain America vol 1 s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Steve McNiven.

“They’re the worst kind of enemy… They think they’ve been betrayed… And maybe they have…”

A shiny new start for Steve Rogers as Captain America with the ever-attractive, clean-cut, lotsa-light Steve McNiven (CIVIL WAR, NEMESIS, WOLVERINE: OLD MAN LOGAN) only interrupted for a few brief pages by Giuseppe Camuncoli. Don’t worry; you’ll barely register it, like a one-second power cut. New readers will find no prior subplots carried over, so there’s nothing to confound.

Steve Rogers is once more feeling his age. A soldier during World War II, he should by all rights be an old man by now, but his time in suspended animation and the anti-agapic effects of the supersoldier serum – the world’s ultimate moisturiser – have kept him relatively young, physically at least. Former fellow combatants have not been so lucky and today, in Paris, Nick Fury, “Dum Dum” Dugan, Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter have gathered together to bury Peggy Carter, Sharon’s aunt and Steve’s former girlfriend. Her work in the French Resistance was legendary but not all of their missions together were made public and some were more successful than others. When a sniper almost succeeds in targeting Duggan, Captain America gives chase only to recognise the would-be assassin as Codename: Bravo, missing in action since WWII.

Codename: Bravo was part of a covert attempt to thwart an allegiance between Baron Zemo and a new SS off-shoot called Hydra. To enter the Hydra base they were to use Jimmy Jancovicz, a bright young lad who had access to Slipstream Space, a dimension between layers of reality which he could enter, manipulate, and exit at will bringing whatever he wanted with him. For nearly seventy years now Jimmy’s been in a coma, but Bravo’s return can mean only one thing: Jimmy has just woken up.

Why is that exactly? What went wrong with the mission? And what does Bravo want now?

It’s a clever little number relevant to our times and perfectly accessible to newcomers. But for readers of Ed Brubaker’s early books (differentiated from this series with their subtitles) and veterans older still there’ll be some familiar faces and a blast from the past in the form of a ‘giant’ surprise. Refreshingly, some of the motives are far from obvious and the same could said of the objectives: they’re sowing the seeds of self-doubt. And doing so quite effectively.

SLH

Buy Captain America 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.
Soppy (£4-99, My Cardboard Life) by Philippa Rice

Recyclost h/c (£9-99, My Cardboard Life) by Philippa Rice

Diosamante h/c (£18-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Jean-Claude Gal

Spectrum vol 19 s/c (£25-99, Underwood Books) by various

Charley’s War vol 9: Death From Above (£14-99, Titan) by Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun

Owly & Wormy: Bright Lights And Starry Nights! (£11-99, Atheneum) by Andy Runton

Adventure Time vol 1 (£10-99, kaboom!) by Ryan North & Shelli Paroline, Braden Lamb

A Flight Of Angels s/c (£13-50, Vertigo) by Holly Black, Louise Hawes, Bill Willingham, Alisa Kwitney, Todd Mitchell & Rebecca Guay

The Batman Judge Dredd Collection h/c (£25-00, DC & Rebellion) by John Wagner, Alan Grant & Simon Bisley, Glenn Fabry, Val Semeiks, Cam Kennedy, more

The Boys vol 12: The Bloody Doors Off (£14-99, Dynamite) by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun, Darick Robertson

The Mighty Thor vol 2 s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Pasqual Ferry, Pepe Larraz

X-23 vol 3 s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Marjorie Liu & Saka Takeda, Phil Noto

Uncanny X-Men vol 4 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Daniel Acuna, Ron Garney, Dale Eaglesham, Carlos Pacheco

Winter Solider vol 2: Broken Arrow s/c (£11-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark

Punisher Max: Untold Tales s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by various

FF vol 4 h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Andre Araujo

One Piece vol 65 (£6-99, Viz) by Eiichiro Oda

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol 13 (£9-99, Dark Horse) by Eiji Otsuka & Housui Yamazaki

GTO: 14 Days In Shonan vol 6 (£8-50, Vertical) by Toru Fujisawa

Vampire Knight vol 15 (£6-99, Viz) by Matsuri Hino

Tegami Bachi – Letter Bee vol 11 (£6-99, Viz) by Hiroyuki Asada

Limit vol 2 (£8-50, Vertical) by Keiko Suenobu

D. Gray-Man vol 23 (£6-99, Viz) by Katsura Hoshino

Neon Genesis Evangelion Omnibus vols 1-3 (£12-99, Viz) by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

X 3-in-1 Ed vol 4 (£12-99, Viz) by Clamp
UK publishers reflect on British graphic novels in light of the Costa Book Awards nominations for Mary and Bryan Talbot’s DOTTER OF HER FATHER’S EYES and Joff Winterhart’s DAYS OF THE BAGNOLD SUMMER.

Le Supergrudge between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison is resurrected post-SUPERGODS, and I warn you now, it can be a dispiriting read and you always risk losing your wide-eyed sense of wonder when you peer behind any such industry curtain. On the other hand Morrison makes a fair few very fine points, not least being that Alan Moore is hardly comics’ finest ambassador in the media these days. In fact, I’d hazard a guess he doesn’t read any and hasn’t for years.

Lastly, there’s a brand-new, somewhat different and thoroughly uplifting Page 45 interview on the British Comics Awards and the craft of comics in which I am well and truly grilled by a devil’s advocate par excellence for a public new to the medium. I rather enjoyed that one. Hope it shows!

Cheers,

Stephen

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