Monday, June 27, 2016

ALL STAR RECOMMENDS FOR JUNE 28TH


Hullo!

Do you ever re-read your comics and marvel (no pun intended) at things you’ve forgotten they contain? I do it all the time. Recently, I’ve been revisiting Kazuo Koike and Ryoichi Ikegami’s Crying Freeman (1986-1998) after, man, I don’t even know how long. The epic tale of an artist turned mind-controlled assassin who weeps after every murder he’s forced to commit holds up exceptionally well in all its cheesy, ridiculous soap opera/exploitation movie glory. The highlight of the nearly 2000 page story may actually not be Koike’s typically deft (although admittedly absurd) plotting or Ikegami’s sleek artwork with its astonishingly buff male and nubile female lead characters, but may actually be this particular moment in volume two, where a mortally wounded mob wife, bleeding to death, watches on lustfully and in enraptured awe as Crying Freeman, for all intents and purposes her *murderer*, signals a submarine by waving two pairs of underpants around in the air:



Incredible. 

Manga! Long may you rule!

This onslaught of Ryoichi Ikegami art also reminds me that I need to revisit Sanctuary (1990-1995), also by Ikegami and writer Buronson (AKA Sho Fumimura – he also wrote Fist of the Northstar). If you’ve never tackled those particular nine volumes of manga, Sanctuary concerns two Cambodian boys who escape the genocide of Pol Pot by fleeing to Japan. One of the boys takes on the mission of controlling the yakuza, the other the Japanese parliament. It’s brilliant, one of the single greatest crime epics ever in comics for my money, but alarming with its “Japan must arm itself again” message especially given the terrifying regime its two leads miraculously escaped from. Given the current global political climate and the shocking exit of Britain from the EU, Sanctuary’s neo-fascist bite might just clamp down even harder and scarier right now. Hunt it down.



COMIC OF THE WEEK : THE MARQUIS OF ANAON: THE PROVIDENCE
By Fabien Vehlmann & Matthieu Bonhomme
Published By Cinebook

Adventurer, sceptic, mystery-solver, occasional coward and possible paranormal magnet, Jean-Baptiste Poulain, AKA The Marquis of Anaon, returns with his third adventure and this time hits the high seas in “The Providence,” where superstition, disease and possible ghost ships await him.

If you’ve not encountered the good Marquis before, feel free to catch up on my prior reviews of the series here, comics that I considered some of the finest to appear in English last year. It’s with this latest tale translated from the French by the fine people at Cinebook that the regular reader will truly begin to understand the scope of the series, each with vastly different settings, locales and type of supernatural dread explored and each pushing our protagonist into further extremes of life and death. As usual, however, if you’re coming in cold each volume is essentially self-contained, requiring no real knowledge of previous volumes to enjoy thoroughly. 

“The Providence” opens with Poulain at a Parisian party attended by the powdered-wig wearing well to do who mock our hero behind his back for his commoner background, his apparent failure to complete medical school and for being some sort of supernatural charlatan. Poulain is, of course, something of an eccentric scholar, learning not from textbook or educational institution, but from direct experience with the “provincial bonesetters” that he encounters on his rural myth-busting adventures. After making his medical abilities perfectly clear to his snooty doubter, Poulain is approached by the beautiful Countess of Almedia, who whisks our hero off for an intended two-month stay in her native Andalusia.

Aboard a large vessel, Poulain and the Countess head towards Spain, but during a frightful storm, they encounter another ship – The Providence – filled with corpses with a violently snapped spines and a possible spectre haunting its bow. Poulain’s fellow crewmates soon become ill and one vanishes after the decision to tow The Providence to port and many begin to wonder whether or not they have encountered legendary ghost ship The Flying Dutchman. Poulain, ever pragmatic, digs through some journals and discovers that The Providence’s unscrupulous Captain traded much more than just timber and ivory and as the disease and paranoia increase, Poulain’s medical knowledge and supernatural “expertise” soon prove vital in solving this rapidly-escalating medical mystery. 

Vehlmann slips in some nice character development as Poulain, who we last saw accepting his role as the Marquis of Anaon (meaning “Lost Souls”) and being quite a staunch debunker, wonders whether or not the grisly mystery and brushes with the possibly other-worldly he’s constantly experiencing are somehow his responsibility. His trip to Spain, intended to provide relief from the constant superstition and death has resulted in the opposite, propelling him “directly into this macabre discovery.” For her part, the wonderfully grounded Countess labels such thinking on Poulain’s part as “pretentious,” exactly the kind of tough-love advice that Poulain, given to bouts of brooding melancholy and navel-gazing, needs.

Bonhomme’s art is just as gorgeous as ever with his waves swelling violently, his ships sea-tossed, his Poulain serious and introspective and his Countess irresistible. As the tension ratchets up, Bonhomme provides a claustrophobic quarantine holding area below deck every bit that’s as atmospheric as his sweeping, cinematic and moody sea, lit as dramatically as a horror movie basement. He’s an astounding talent.

Science and superstition collide and “The Providence” climaxes with Poulain having to make gravest of possible choices and I look forward to seeing how the weight of this decision influences the tone of the title moving forward and just how heavily it hangs over the conscience and the imagination of our clever but doubt-riddled protagonist. His bravery may have increased but he’s still refreshingly running from physical conflict. One of the more unique traits Poulain has is his inability to fight or inflict harm, even when his life is threatened, with any confidence, ability or bravado. Poulain’s choice of “flight” over “fight” is not only a refreshing way for an “action hero” to behave, it’s also constantly intriguing from a dramatic standpoint – there is virtually no combat he can win without luck. Poulain reacts more than he acts, which tradition will tell you is no way for a protagonist to behave, but it enables Poulain to maintain the level of bewildered everyman, swept up constantly in events he has no control over or is even prepared for. 

Complete with several pages from a mock 18th century tabloid that builds Poulain’s own myth up to the level of overblown urban myth, The Marquis of Anaon: The Providence is another ripping read from the creators, setting the table beautifully for the upcoming fourth volume, “The Beast,” in which Poulain is on the hunt for a suspected werewolf, a scenario sure to see him faced with mortal peril once more and will likely see him having to act, rather than react, more urgently than ever before.



WEBCOMIC OF THE WEEK : AGENT 73
By Sarah Horrocks & Katie Skelly

Soak up the Pop Art palette of Operation Margerine’s Katie Skelly in this first chapter of the hopefully ongoing Agent 73. Scripted by creator/critic Sarah Horrocks, whose Guido Crepax-infused giallo comic The Leopard I’ll be looking at in just a few weeks time, Agent 73 vibes Danger Diabolik by way of Guy Peellaert’s Adventures of Jodelle, a little Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D and even a dash of the aforementioned Crepax.

The creators toss readers into the very vibrant deep end of their story in this opening chapter, with the evil, eye-patch wearing mastermind, Dr Paracletus basking in her ability to somehow remain undetected by authorities finally tracked down by her old foe, the beret-wearing Agent 73. The dialogue is a riot, the costumes are simply tremendous and those colours, man, those colours. Check it out.





COMICS VIDEO OF THE WEEK : MAKING OF JOJO

Process dorks rejoice! Compressed into just over an hour of time-lapsed footage is this remarkable video of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure creator Hirohiko Araki creating this particular piece of artwork. With the aid of some classic art books and fashion magazines for inspiration, Araki goes from roughs to final full colour art on this portrait of a multitude of his characters and I could watch probably five hours of this without getting bored. Click on over and you too may well feel slightly mesmerised by the clip as well as realising, as I did, that it’s time to read some more Jojo.


See you next week. Love your comics.


Cameron Ashley spends a lot of time writing comics and other things you'll likely never read. He's the chief editor and co-publisher of Crime Factory (www.thecrimefactory.com). You can reach him @cjamesashley on Twitter.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

New Comics For Wednesday 29th of June


Take a big breath...we are about to drop in the deep end of a great week of comics!

What could possibly be the follow up to the final page of CAPTAIN AMERICA STEVE ROGERS #1? We are hanging out to read CAPTAIN AMERICA STEVE ROGERS #2 to find out! It's a tiny week for DC, giving Rebirth a rest but still coming out with one of their biggest releases, DARK KNIGHT III MASTER RACE #5

A fan of secret societies, illuminati's and conspiracy theories? Dark Horse has got the new series for you with CRYPTOCRACY #1. Firefly/Serenity fave, Alan Tudyk takes a spin at writing comics with the release of CON MANS SPECTRUM #1 and he is bringing his co-star mate, Nathan Fillon along in the form of the lead character of the series! 

SWEETNESS #1 sounds like something Morrison would come up with, following the mis-adventures of two smugglers involved in the alien alien drug trade. Double that down with another legendary space lout with the SPACE DANDY GN VOL 01

JADE STREET PROTECTION SERVICES #1 gives us Breakfast Club mixed with magic and mayhem. Following that theme of schooling adventures, the release of DC's highly anticipated, all age female heroes and villains, high school tales, DC SUPER HERO GIRLS TP VOL 01 FINALS CRISIS is nearly here! 

No shirt, no shoes. If this your first time reading our New Comics List, you gotta pick up the FIGHT CLUB 2 HC. Local creativeDean Rankine unleashes more madness from his cute, little mates in ITTY BITTY BUNNIES FRIENDGASM TP

Daydreaming, snacking forever, usurping evil school faculty members, it all in a day's work for Chip Zdarsky's take on Riverdale larkin in JUGHEAD TP VOL 01MS MARVEL TP VOL 05 SUPER FAMOUS continues the mega hit adventures of high school Avenger, Kamala Khan. 

The critical hit that most folks missed and helped set DC's new golden boy Tom King on his way is collected in VISION TP VOL 01 LITTLE WORSE THAN MAN, the psychological thriller about the home life of the Avengers favourite AI, yep, no jokes! Talking family troubles, Mark Millar returns with Frank Quitely for the next chapter of their superhero family infighting with JUPITERS LEGACY VOL 2 #1

Eric Powell returns with a new creator owned series, about a wildman from the hills in HILLBILLY #1Oh and just the next collection in the mega hit series lands with SAGA TP VOL 06

PLUS a new PREVIEWS for JULY , which means it's time to check for pre-orders so you don't miss out on the books you want!

Anything else you might be chasing, please let us know before Wednesday morning and we'll do our best to help you out.

MARVEL
ALL NEW ALL DIFFERENT AVENGERS #11
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN AND SILK SPIDERFLY EFFECT #4 (OF 4)
BLACK PANTHER #3
CAPTAIN AMERICA STEVE ROGERS #2
CAPTAIN MARVEL #6 CW2
DAREDEVIL PUNISHER #2 (OF 4)
DARTH VADER #22
EMPRESS #3 (OF 7)
EXTRAORDINARY X-MEN #11 AW
HAUNTED MANSION #4 (OF 5)
HYPERION #4
MOCKINGBIRD #4
SILK #9
SPIDER-GWEN ANNUAL #1
SPIDER-MAN #5
SPIDER-MAN DEADPOOL #6
STAR-LORD #8
UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #9
UNCANNY INHUMANS #11 CW2
UNCANNY X-MEN #9 AW
VENOM SPACE KNIGHT #9
X-MEN WORST X-MAN EVER #5 (OF 5)

DC COMICS
DARK KNIGHT III MASTER RACE #5 (OF 8)
DEATHSTROKE ANNUAL #2
GRAYSON ANNUAL #3
LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #7 (OF 9)
TEEN TITANS ANNUAL #2

VERTIGO
ART OPS #9
SUICIDERS KING OF HELLA #4 (OF 6)

BOOM
OVER GARDEN WALL ONGOING #3

DARK HORSE
CALL OF DUTY BLACK OPS III #5 (OF 6)
CRYPTOCRACY #1
LEAVING MEGALOPOLIS SURVIVING MEGALOPOLIS #5
LOBSTER JOHNSON METAL MONSTERS OF MIDTOWN #2 (OF 3)
MAE #2

IDW
DIRK GENTLY A SPOON TOO SHORT #5 (OF 5)
FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS #2
GHOSTBUSTERS INTERNATIONAL #6
HOT DAMN #3 (OF 5)
JEM & THE HOLOGRAMS #16
JUDGE DREDD (ONGOING) #7
MARS ATTACKS OCCUPATION #4 (OF 5)
MICRONAUTS #3
MY LITTLE PONY FRIENDS FOREVER #30
ROCKETEER AT WAR #4 (OF 4)
STREET FIGHTER X GI JOE #5 (OF 6)
TMNT AMAZING ADVENTURES #11
TMNT BEBOP & ROCKSTEADY DESTROY EVERYTHING #5
TRANSFORMERS SINS OF WRECKERS #5 (OF 5)
TRANSFORMERS VS GI JOE #13
UNCLE SCROOGE #16

IMAGE
EAST OF WEST #27
EMPTY ZONE #9
IMAGE GIANT SIZED ARTISTS PROOF ED INJECTION #1
JUPITERS LEGACY VOL 2 #1 (OF 5)
PLUTONA #5 (OF 5)
SEX #29
SONS OF THE DEVIL #8
STARVE #10

VALIANT
BLOODSHOT REBORN #14
X-O MANOWAR #47

MISC
4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK #2
CHUM #3 (OF 3)
CON MANS SPECTRUM #1
DELETE #3 (OF 4)
DOCTOR WHO 9TH #3
DREDD DUST #2 (OF 2)
HILLBILLY #1
INDOCTRINATION #1
JADE STREET PROTECTION SERVICES #1
LEGEND #2
PENNY DREADFUL #2 (OF 5)
SWEETNESS #1

MAGAZINES
MARVEL PREVIEWS #12
PREVIEWS #334 JULY 2016

TRADES
ANGELA QUEEN OF HEL TP JOURNEY TO FUNDERWORLD
ART OF DISNEYS DRAGONS HC
ASTRO BOY OMNIBUS TP VOL 04
AVENGERS STANDOFF HC
BARB WIRE TP VOL 02 HOTWIRED
BATMAN AND ROBIN ETERNAL TP VOL 02
BLACK JACK KETCHUM TP
BRANDON SANDERSON WHITE SAND HC VOL 01
CLASSIC GI JOE TP VOL 18
COLORING DC WONDER WOMAN TP
COMPLETE EMILY THE STRANGE ALL THINGS STRANGE HC
DC SUPER HERO GIRLS TP VOL 01 FINALS CRISIS
DEAD LETTERS TP VOL 03
FABLES THE WOLF AMONG US TP VOL 02
FIGHT CLUB 2 HC
FUN FAMILY GN
GHOSTBUSTERS INTERNATIONAL TP
GIRL IN DIOR HC
GREEN ARROW A CELEBRATION OF 75 YEARS HC
ILLUMINATI LIFE OF CRIME TP
INFINITY ENTITY TP
ITTY BITTY BUNNIES FRIENDGASM TP
JIM HENSONS SHADOWS OF DARK CRYSTAL YA NOVEL #1
JUGHEAD TP VOL 01
JUPITERS CIRCLE TP VOL 02
LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND DLX HC
LIVING WITH THE DEAD A ZOMBIE BROMANCE TP
MERMAID WONDERS MINDFUL COLORING BOOK FOR ADULTS T
MONSTER ELEMENTARY TP VOL 01
MOUSE GUARD ART OF BRICKS HC
MS MARVEL TP VOL 05 SUPER FAMOUS
ORPHAN BLACK HELSINKI TP
POWERS PREM HC VOL 01 ALL NEW POWERS
PRINCESS JELLYFISH GN VOL 02
RED STAR DLX HC VOL 02
SAGA TP VOL 06
SEMIAUTOMAGIC TP
SPACE DANDY GN VOL 01
STAR TREK ONGOING TP VOL 12
STARBRAND NIGHTMASK ETERNITYS CHILDREN ATTEND UNIV TP
SUPER PRO KO GN VOL 03 GOLD FOR GLORY
SWAMP THING TRIAL BY FIRE TP
THOUSAND FACES HC
THUNDERBOLTS CLASSIC TP VOL 02 NEW PTG
TRANSFORMERS TP VOL 09
ULTIMATES OMNIVERSAL TP VOL 01 START WITH IMPOSSIBLE
UNCANNY X-MEN SUPERIOR TP VOL 01 SURVIVAL OF FITTEST
VENOM SPACE KNIGHT TP VOL 01 AGENT OF COSMOS
VISION TP VOL 01 LITTLE WORSE THAN MAN
WALT DISNEY DONALD DUCK HC VOL 08 TERROR BEAGLE BO

MERCH
ARROW TV MALCOLM MERLYN AF
BATMAN ANIMATED MAD LOVE JOKER & HARLEY QUINN 2 PK
DC DESIGNER SER DARWYN COOKE SUPERGIRL AF

BACK IN STOCK
ARCHANGEL #1 (OF 5) 2ND PTG
BARTKIRA NUCLEAR ED HC
CIVIL WAR II X-MEN #1 (OF 4)
DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH #1 3RD PTG
DETECTIVE COMICS #935
GREEN LANTERNS REBIRTH #1 2ND PTG
JUSTICE LEAGUE #50 2ND PTG
SCOOBY APOCALYPSE #1 2ND PTG
SUPERMAN #52 2ND PTG (FINAL DAYS)

SUPERMAN REBIRTH #1 2ND PTG

Monday, June 20, 2016

ALL STAR RECOMMENDS FOR APRIL 21ST


Fans of weird movies and bandes dessinees rejoice!

Released last week in France was the first album in the brand new Les Fils d’El Topo series. The comics sequel to Alejandro Jodrowsky’s classic 1970 film El Topo, Les Fils d’El Topo (or, The Sons of El Topo) sees writer Jodorowsky returning to the character he wrote, directed and played on screen, creating the original “Midnight Movie” in the process. Gorgeously illustrated by Jose Ladronn, who has come a very long way since his Kirby-goes-Moebius stint on Cable back in the day (which I dug immensely) this is a much-anticipated project and a welcome return by Jodo to arguably his most iconic creation. Take a look at the images below and place your bets on which publisher will bring this project to English. Given the quality of Titan’s recent French reprints, I’d be pretty happy if it was them but whoever ends up publishing the translation it can’t surely come soon enough.



COMIC OF THE WEEK : UNFOLLOW VOL 1: 140 CHARACTERS
By Rob Williams, Matt Dowling, R.M. Guera, Quinton Winter & Giulia Brusco
Published By Vertigo

Billionaire Larry Ferrell, the creator of wildly successful social media platform, Headspace, is dying rapidly and cruelly from an aggressive cancer. Ending his days on a private island in the Bahamas with Dr Zhu, the finest oncologist money can buy, and his mentally-unhinged Mr Fixit, Rubenstein, Ferrell decides to conduct a grand social experiment with his passing by bequeathing an equal share of his billions to 140 Headspace users selected at “random” by a computer program. The winners are whisked away to his island for a few days of celebration where they also informed that not only are they now filthy rich, they stand to get even richer. If a member of the 140 dies, the deceased’s wealth will be equally distributed amongst the remaining survivors meaning that, potentially, the last living member of the 140 stands to earn 18.4 billion dollars. 

And so the deaths begin.

Packing the kind of delicious high concept that Vertigo, the professed “HBO of comics,” found too delicious to resist, co-creators Rob Williams and Matt Dowling have mentioned Jack London’s The Call of the Wild and comedian Louis C.K’s bit about humans escaping the food chain as influences on their work, as well as the obvious notions of the narcissism and cruelty inherent in internet and celebrity culture. What surprises me, however, is that there seems to be no mention of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, for if anything Unfollow reads like a 21st century rewriting of that particular classic. Ferrell seems an obvious Moreau analogue, using the technology of the internet rather than surgical procedure to turn his “beasts” into something more transcendent, only to have the animalistic tendencies of his “creations” tear it all back down. “For everyone the want is bad,” says one of Moreau’s creatures, struggling against his animalistic instincts, “some want to go tearing with teeth and hands into the root of things…it is bad.” That’s a pretty perfect summation of Unfollow to me.

Complicating things is Ferrell’s actual motive. He’s well aware of what he’s potentially unleashing but, at least by the conclusion of volume one, his true motive remains unclear. Tears well up as, addressing his 140 characters, he says, “Every human seeks meaning in life. And in death. I want my legacy to be proof of who we truly are.” Whether Ferrell wants his “creations” to rise above the greed inherent in human nature or murderously succumb to it is actually unclear, even if Williams shades him as something of an evil, rich mastermind.

Of the selected 140, Ferrell is presented with something of an opposite in Akira, a famous Japanese author and activist, whose novel, The Humans, inspired Ferrell’s social experiment in the first place. Akira is convinced Ferrell’s experiment is to the detriment of mankind and leaves for the island determined to show the world “hope.” The dynamic between the two characters is intriguing - the dying, emaciated billionaire and the strikingly handsome author with his twin prosthetic legs and fondness for wearing wedding gowns seems too rich a relationship (and too obvious a bad guy-good guy dynamic) to not explore and twist as the series progresses. 

The series does get off to a slightly awkward start, however. The first two issues spend unnecessary time, particularly considering the current climate of brutal monthly comics attrition, fleshing core characters out. The creators would perhaps have been better served dropping readers off at the island with the 140 assembled from the get-go and unspooling character depth from there, potential comparisons to Lost be damned. The last issue collected here (the first six are included) is a stand-alone featuring the character of Deacon, a religious loon and gun nut, and would seem to back this structural quibble up as, already hooked into the story, readers move back and forth in time with Deacon in between major ongoing plot beats and we learn there’s a lot more to him than just stereotype and caricature. Scalped’s R.M. Guerra fills in artistically for this particular chapter, bringing his traditional grit to this particular tale of wonderful psycho noir. 

Obviously, the volume ends strongly but thankfully it’s from issue three that Unfollow hits its stride and clicks terrifically, ramping up both the paranoia and tension built into its premise as well as the thrills promised by its high concept. Overall, it’s smartly scripted by Williams and Dowling’s artwork, a mix of Arthur Ranson and Alex Maleev, brings perfectly fitting realism and gravitas to the story and he’s also capable of injecting in traditional beats of Vertigo weirdness; spirit animals, visions, death masks, all of which help skew reality for character and reader both.

Already optioned by network (boo) television in the States, Unfollow is off to a really solid start. It’s a title that, hopefully shakes off the stank of the Vertigo cancellation curse (although I believe it’s not looking good). Strikingly drawn and filled with distinctive and well-defined characters, Unfollow oozes with potential. I’ve not even mentioned it’s skewering of internet culture, Twitter as a survival-of-the-fittest ideological battleground, fame for fame’s sake, the number of “followers” dropping with each demise, as there’s so much more to the title than all that. If books like Unfollow do not succeed, if association with the brand is that toxic to readers, then Vertigo should probably just shut its doors. It’s been sad to see the imprint’s struggles, creatively and editorially, over the last few yearsand if there’s no reader support anymore, just end it and let books like Unfollow find an audience elsewhere – I can’t help but think that if it was an Image title, it would be all anyone would be talking about.


WEBCOMIC OF THE WEEK : THE COMMON DANDELION
By Claire Connelly

One more from the prolific and versatile Claire Connelly, “The Common Dandelion,” which she apparently drew on a lunch break.

It has probably the shortest reading time of any webcomic I’ve included in the history of this column, but will likely resonate with the most. Created quickly, it’s the perfect example of just how simply and cleverly comics can convey emotional weight and reflect back at us, in good times or bad, something essentially human. Lovely work.



COMICS VIDEO OF THE WEEK : DAN CLOWES/EZRA EDELMAN – WTF PODCAST WITH MARK MARON #714

Dan Clowes sits down in Marc Maron’s garage and chats about his life, his comics and his process. Informative and engrossing, Maron is his typically easy-going self and Clowes proves a fascinating and forthcoming interviewee. Process nerds will love it. Come for Clowes, but don’t fast forward past documentary maker Ezra Edelman, who’s on first to discuss his surprisingly complex seven-hour documentary series, OJ Simpson: Made In America, which filters the birth of modern tabloid journalism, fame, wealth, race relations and narcissism through its subject. A perfect subject for a week in which we feature Unfollow.



See you next week. Love your comics.


Cameron Ashley spends a lot of time writing comics and other things you'll likely never read. He's the chief editor and co-publisher of Crime Factory (www.thecrimefactory.com). You can reach him @cjamesashley on Twitter.



Sunday, June 19, 2016

New Comics For Wednesday 22nd of June



Anyone watching that new Voltron series on Netflix?! WOO! It's great! Anyway...

Another great week of books, plus the All Star Women's Comic Book Club June Meet Up from 5pm Saturday, June 25th. This month the group is discussing the award winning, This One Summer among other comic relate subjects, crafts and comic swaps! Even if you haven't read this month's book or it's your first time coming along, you are more than welcome because all you need is a keen interest in talking or just listening in about comics.

So here is what's on the menu this week!

The new Civil War is far reaching in that everyone in the Marvel Universe has an opinion on the moral issue at the heart of it, CIVIL WAR II CHOOSING SIDES #1 following smaller stories with characters dealing with the heavy decision making at hand. DEADPOOL VS GAMBIT #1 is clearly bringing sexy back. How will these lovers and fighters get along? Hard to say but it should be worth the look to find out.

Six months since the film hit the big screen and a few months after the Blu-ray release, you can now relive your favourite new Star Wars moments in comic form in STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS ADAPTATION #1

Selling out almost as soon as they hits the shelves, the next round of DC Rebirth issue 1's see release. Dream like the new series from Image SHE WOLF #1 is a coming of age tale with a surreal horror twist. Get the original appearance of the All New Wolverine back when she was still X-23 in the new printing of NYX COMPLETE COLLECTION TP.  

The wonderful story of a little girl that feels like and outsider being befriended by a red T-Rex displaced out of time is collected in MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR TP VOL 01 BFF. If you even remotely liked 80's classic sci-fi like The Last Starfighter, you should absolutely be checking out LEGENDARY STAR-LORD TP VOL 03 FIRST FLIGHT. 

The DC Rebirth juggernaut rolls on with the next batch of #1's AQUAMAN #1, FLASH #1 and WONDER WOMAN #1. Demon hunting takes a new shape in the from of the Sons Of Anarchy creator, Kurt Sutter new series LUCAS STAND #1 from BOOM! 

ID GN from Emma Rios plays with the theme of identity in this new graphic novel. Warren Ellis delivers a new and exciting take of one of the world's favorite spies in JAMES BOND HC VOL 01 VARGR

If the title NEIL GAIMANS HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES HC isn't already enough to get you interested, along with the inclusion of Gaiman, you also have art from brothers Gabriel Ba and Fábio Moon and a story that could be the female switch of Earth Girls are Easy, sign up now! 

Any other titles that take catch you interest, definitely let us know before Wednesday, so we can do our best to secure you a copy. As you'll notice this week a couple of the new DC Rebirth titles are either already sold out or close too due to late orders. If you are interested in picking up any of the new Rebirth titles it is definitely best to let us know ahead of time to make sure you don't miss out!

MARVEL
CAPTAIN AMERICA SAM WILSON #10 CW2
CARNAGE #9
CIVIL WAR II CHOOSING SIDES #1 (OF 6)
DARTH VADER #21
DEADPOOL VS GAMBIT #1 (OF 5)
DOCTOR STRANGE #9
DRAX #8
GUIDE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE AGENTS SHIELD SEASON ONE
GWENPOOL #3
MARVEL UNIVERSE ULT SPIDER-MAN CONTEST CHAMPIONS #4
MIGHTY THOR #8
MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #8
MS MARVEL #8 CW2
NIGHTHAWK #2
POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #5
ROCKET RACCOON AND GROOT #6
SCARLET WITCH #7
STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS ADAPTATION #1 (OF 5)
TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #7 CW2
ULTIMATES #8 CW2
UNCANNY AVENGERS #10
WEB WARRIORS #8

DC COMICS
ACTION COMICS #958 (ALREADY SOLD OUT DUE TO LATE ORDERS)
ADVENTURES OF SUPERGIRL #4
AQUAMAN #1 VAR ED
CYBORG #12
DEATHSTROKE #19
DETECTIVE COMICS #935 (ALREADY SOLD OUT DUE TO LATE ORDERS)
FLASH #1 VAR ED (EXTREMELY LOW STOCK)
HARLEY QUINN #29 VAR ED
JUSTICE LEAGUE #52
ROBIN SON OF BATMAN #13
SUICIDE SQUAD MOST WANTED DEADSHOT KATANA #6 (OF 6)
TEEN TITANS #21
WONDER WOMAN #1 VAR ED 

VERTIGO
RED THORN #8

BOOM
ADVENTURE TIME ICE KING #3
ADVENTURE TIME ICE KING #5
ADVENTURE TIME ICE KING #6
LUCAS STAND #1
MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS #4
MUNCHKIN #18
STEVEN UNIVERSE & CRYSTAL GEMS #3

DARK HORSE
BTVS SEASON 10 #28
DEPT H #3
PLANTS VS ZOMBIES ONGOING #12 BOOM BOOM MUSHROOM
TOMB RAIDER 2016 #5
USAGI YOJIMBO #155

DYNAMITE
GRUMPY CAT & POKEY #5 (OF 6)
JAMES BOND #7

IDW
ACTION MAN #1
BACK TO THE FUTURE #9
GODZILLA OBLIVION #4 (OF 5)
MY LITTLE PONY FRIENDS FOREVER #29
TMNT BEBOP & ROCKSTEADY DESTROY EVERYTHING #4
TRANSFORMERS MORE THAN MEETS EYE #54
X-FILES (2016) #3

IMAGE
ALOHA HAWAIIAN DICK #3 (OF 5)
AUTUMNLANDS TOOTH & CLAW #11
BITCH PLANET #8
BLACK ROAD #3
CRY HAVOC #6
DRIFTER #12
FASTER THAN LIGHT #7
PRETTY DEADLY #10
RUMBLE #11
SHE WOLF #1
SNOWFALL #5
THIEF OF THIEVES #32

ONI
HEARTTHROB #3

VALIANT
DIVINITY II #3 (OF 4)
RAI #14 CVR A MACK (4001 AD)

MISC
ALL NEW CLASSIC CAPTAIN CANUCK #2
AMERICA #1
ARCHIE #9
B & V FRIENDS COMICS DOUBLE DIGEST #248
LIFE DEATH AND SORCERY #1
PRINCELESS RAVEN PIRATE PRINCESS #9
PUSS IN BOOTS #3 (OF 4)
SECRET VOICE #1
SECRET VOICE #3
STREET FIGHTER UNLIMITED #7

MAGAZINES
IMAGE PLUS EXTRAS #3 (WALKING DEAD HERES NEGAN)

TRADES
ACTIONVERSE TP
ART OF DOUG SNEYD TP
BATMAN ARKHAM KILLER CROC TP
BLOOD FEUD TP
COLONUS TP
COMPASS SOUTH GN
CRIMSON HC VOL 02
DARK CORRIDOR TP VOL 01
DC THE NEW FRONTIER TP
DEADPOOL DRACULAS GAUNTLET TP
DISNEY PIXAR FINDING DORY CINESTORY TP
ELEPHANTMEN 2260 TP BOOK 04 ALL COMING EVIL
ELF CAT IN LOVE GN
GANGSTA GN VOL 02
GOD IS DEAD TP VOL 08
GRANT MORRISONS 18 DAYS TP VOL 02 HEROES AND LEGEN
HARLEY QUINN HC VOL 04 A CALL TO ARMS
HARLEY QUINN TP VOL 03 KISS KISS BANG STAB
ID GN
INFINITY WATCH TP VOL 02
IRENE GN VOL 06
JAMES BOND HC VOL 01 VARGR
LARA CROFT AND THE FROZEN OMEN TP
LEGENDARY STAR-LORD TP VOL 03 FIRST FLIGHT
MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR TP VOL 01 BFF
MYTHIC TP VOL 01
NEIL GAIMANS HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES HC
NORTHLANDERS TP BOOK 01 THE ANGLO SAXON SAGA (MR)
NYX COMPLETE COLLECTION TP
POSTAL TP VOL 03
POWER UP TP
RED WOLF TP MAN OUT OF TIME
REGULAR SHOW TP VOL 06
SIMPSONS COMICS COLOSSAL COMPENDIUM TP VOL 04
SPAWN THE SATAN WARS TP
STAR TREK COUNTDOWN COLL TP VOL 01
STAR TREK COUNTDOWN COLL TP VOL 02
STAR TREK MANIFEST DESTINY TP
STAR WARS LEGENDS EPIC COLLECTION TP VOL 01 REBELLION
SUPERMAN PANIC IN THE SKY TP NEW ED
TOBINS SPIRIT GUIDE OFF GHOSTBUSTERS ED HC
WELCOME TO SHOWSIDE TP VOL 01

MERCH
POP MARVEL DEADPOOL THUMBS UP VINYL FIG

BACK IN STOCK
FUTURE QUEST #1 2ND PTG
GWENPOOL #2 LEE 2ND PTG VAR

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

ALL STAR RECOMMENDS FOR JUNE 14TH


Hi there,

I’m back to ramble at you once more. Comics are great aren’t they? Here’s some to keep you busy.


COMIC OF THE WEEK: GOODNIGHT PUNPUN VOLS 1&2
By Inio Asano
Published By Viz

After multiple attempts, I’ve realised that there is no way to succinctly describe Inio Asano’s Goodnight Punpun. First published in Japan between 2007-2013 as Oyasumi Punpun, Goodnight Punpun is a coming of age story. It’s a teen drama. It’s the banality of modern Japanese life gone dirty realist. It’s surreal, psychedelic, funny, perverse, awkward, grotesque, voyeuristic, sweet, sad and, despite the fact that its protagonist is scrawled out by Asano as a cartoon bird, incredibly realistic. 

In Goodnight Punpun, Everyday life is revealed in all its banality but commonplace events and encounters are given disturbing twists and turns, revealing, ultimately (well, by the end of the two volumes published so far in English), a sickness at the heart of adulthood. Teen adventure and romantic entanglements are given a sinister spin thanks to grown-ups, such as when a porn video found on the street by the book’s randy teen boys reveals a pre-recorded murder confession, or when a certain illicit relationship reveals a tortured family history, a “shameful” abortion and actual forced imprisonment of a minor. Adult role models, such as teachers and parents, are neurotic, disturbed wrecks all in need of some serious psychoanalytic help and are in no way fit to guide the youths they mentor or parent into adulthood. In this week’s video, an interview with Asano, the author says, “The older we become, the more we try to hide or forget about aspects [of ourselves that we do not like]. I, however, explicitly try to depict them in my manga.” This statement is crucial in understanding the world the manga’s youthful characters find themselves in.

Another attempt at definition: Goodnight Punpun is like every high school TV show turned into a Lynchian nightmare. No, that’s not quite right either – it has too much exuberance, too many moments of true sweetness for that description to stick. At the heart of it (whatever it actually is) is Punpun Punyama, a real boy in a real Japan who just so happens to be drawn in the style of something you might doodle whilst on the phone. Punpun’s mother, his father and his uncle are all drawn similarly, but everyone else is drawn in Asano’s typically slick, seductive blend of exaggerated manga and absolute realism. Punpun and family’s appearance is made even stranger through Asano’s use of photographic reference in composing most of his backgrounds and the result is that the family literally appears as though torn from some child’s art book and pasted into another world. Initially discombobulating the reader even further is the fact that every other character perceives Punpun to be human and that Punpun and family are given such striking depth and dimension that they read (and very quickly feel) just as real, if not more so, than anyone else populating the story. Strangely, and see this week’s video again for this, Asano’s own editor, in discussing the battle Asano had with both her and the publisher in getting Punpun approved, describes Punpun as a “faceless protagonist” showing a fairly baffling lack of understanding and appearing astonishingly dismissive of both Asano’s immense talent and just how expressive sketchy little Punpun actually is.

You only really need to look at the work of Kitaro creator Shigeru Mizuki (or, to a lesser extent, that of Astro Boy’s Osamu Tezuka) to know just how long manga has been blending the real with the cartoon. Mizuki worked similarly, giving his backgrounds an astounding amount of realistic detail but his characters a cartoonish bounce. Asano, an admitted admirer of Mizuki’s, takes this technique and completely updates it, inserting it into a kind of hallucinogenic Japanese Degrassi Junior High (Again: not quite right). Yet despite how seamlessly Goodnight Punpun works, the hesitation on the publishing side to pull the trigger on the project is understandable from a commercial viewpoint – it remains a strikingly odd choice for an artist capable of such beautifully human characters, coming off a mega-hit with the poppy dramatics of Solanin, to turn arguably his most human creation into a squiggle-blob with stick limbs and a beak (and later a triangle). How does Punpun “really” look? That’s totally up to you and me. He is briefly described as being handsome at one point, but aside from that throwaway moment he is exactly as the reader chooses to envision him. Imagine him tall, short, fat, Indian, whatever. As a protagonist – he is yours to make. Being quite anthropomorphically inclined, I’m personally quite happy to take him at face value, pun intended

Despite how he’s drawn, Punpun’s really just an average boy in school. Sure, he sees God in the form of a perpetually grinning, afro-wearing, bespectacled Japanese man who says some pretty intense and disturbing things to him, but he’s ultimately just another kid, sweet and meek and awkward. Punpun’s shy, he has good friends that he struggled to make, his hormones are raging, he’s in love with a girl named Aiko and he has an extremely troubled family life. His father is abusive towards his mother and his uncle Yoichi is forced to move in with him and his mother (Yoichi’s sister). Punpun’s mother shows her young boy no love or even much affection. Again: adulthood is a horrible thing in Goodnight Pupun, a world filled with mental illness, closeted horrors, violence, failure, uselessness and intimacy turned sour, all personified in the forms of Asano’s clammy, leering, twitching grown-ups existing a state of extreme repression.

Reader sympathy naturally will gravitate toward the kids in the book, travelling inevitably into unfortunate maturity that will be explored as volumes continue, and will likely extend to shiftless Uncle Yoichi who, in his early thirties, may be the “cool uncle” but struggles with becoming a fully-functional adult, works part time in a video shop, suffers through a loveless relationship and is haunted by a past affair of a sordid, distressing and destructive nature (detailed in possibly the most compelling hundred-odd pages of comics I’ve read this year in volume two). Ironically, it’s probably Yoichi’s lack of maturity that makes him both relatable and sympathetic – in resisting the trappings of adulthood, he’s avoided the craziness it seems to create. 

Goodnight Punpun is not a static work with a status quo, as found in many a project with quirky anthropomorphic families up front and centre. In Asano’s world, people grow and change on the page as they do in real life and the cruel inevitability of Punpun’s (and by extension our own) eventual arrival into adulthood lends the comic an extra cloud of sadness. At various points, things get personal to the point of reader discomfort – you will feel incredibly intrusive about halfway through volume two, I guarantee it. The need to step away and let the characters impossibly maintain some kind of private dignity on the page is quite acute but I was, guiltily, too engrossed to stop reading, voyeuristically peeping in on the events of these lives.

Asano has built his reputation in works such as Solanin and A Girl on the Shore on the heartbreak and inter-personal relationships of his young characters. Even the psychological horror of his Nijigahara Holograph put its characters at the forefront of the story. Yet Punpun, a character that he may well have first drawn with his eyes closed, is as expressive and fleshed out as any of them. Famed for his “pretty” art and visually emotive characters, Asano has stripped it away with Goodnight Punpun, bravely, crazily, brilliantly proving that comics can do literally anything. I can’t imagine Goodnight Punpun translated into another medium with any real success – it’s the flexibility of comics and the fluency of its readers familiar with the medium that allows it to succeed.

Having a look at Goodnight Punpun’s Wikipedia entry, it appears as though Asano himself was unhappy with attempts to categorise the work as either “surreal” or an example of utsumanga (“depressing manga”) because those descriptions do nothing but “pigeonhole.” The experimental willingness to take on seemingly every single available genre (with the story even becoming something of a “road movie” in forthcoming volumes) and mash them into a comic about a teenage boy growing up takes remarkable confidence from its creator. It’s unsurprising Asano resents attempts to pin it down – I once again admit my failure to do so meaningfully. It’s an overused expression, but there is nothing, *nothing* else like Goodnight Punpun. It’s a Frankenstein melange of a story that just should not work, let alone be as genuinely riveting in every aspect as it is, from its drama, to its horror, to its romance, to its surrealism, to its heartbreak, to even its badminton matches. My only complaint is that the wait between these Viz two-in-one volumes is far, far too long, even as with each subsequent volume arriving, poor Punpun grows, ages, changes and eventually and probably tragically, becomes a man.



WEBCOMIC OF THE WEEK:YOUR WILD CITY: STORM CLOUDS ARE BAD DANCERS
By Maris Wicks & Rosemary Mosco

At the intersection of the animal world, the plant world, the meteorological world and your very own house sits Your Wild City a wonderfully fun and informative webcomic by past ASC Recommends-highlighted creators Maris Wicks and Rosemary Mosco. Taking in everything from cloud formations, to bird songs, to various trees and seasonal change, Your Wild City is perfect for young readers and will also give old dummies like yours truly a bit of a biological learnin.’

Picking one to highlight is a difficult choice, but I’m going with “Storm Clouds Are Bad Dancers,” adorably explaining how lightning occurs. So cute!




COMICS VIDEO OF THE WEEK: INIO ASANO INTERVIEW

A couple of months back, I included a pretty amazing video featuring Master Keaton’s Naoki Urasawa chatting with Goodnight Punupun’s Inio Asano about manga, craft and working digitally. If you never saw that, YouTube pulled the video (boo), but here’s another upload of it for you (yay). Watch it if you have the time and the inclination, it’s fascinating stuff.

This week, however, we go back a few years from the filming of Urasawa’s manga documentary series to an interview with a far shaggier, exhausted-looking Asano who was at the time knees deep in the construction of Goodnight Punpun. Opening with something of a retrospective of his work to that point (it’s staggering to think that a work as special as Nijigahara Holograph caused his career major damage), the interview shifts to Punpun, breaks awkwardly but thankfully briefly in the middle for some bilingual chat by the original TV show host in studio, and then returns for another look at Asano at work. Frank in a quintessentially Japanese way, Asano gives honest and fairly succinct answers to questions presented providing a uniquely objective look at his work and what he perceives to be his strengths and weaknesses. Great stuff.



See you next week. Love your comics.



Cameron Ashley spends a lot of time writing comics and other things you'll likely never read. He's the chief editor and co-publisher of Crime Factory (www.thecrimefactory.com). You can reach him @cjamesashley on Twitter.