Monday, 29 September 2014

Richard McGuire's Here: journeying through space and time from the corner of the living room

I'd never heard of Richard McGuire's Here until Oliver sent me a link to an article about an impending collected release a couple of months back, and I'll admit I was rather dismissive; it sounded interesting enough, but the piece didn't do a great job of placing context or telling me why I should care. And then, this past week, I came across both Jennifer Schuessler's article 'Sharing a Sofa with Dinosaurs,' discussing McGuire's book and an exhibition of his work, and the Tumblr photo-set Austin Kleon assembled showcasing a number of interior spreads from Here, and I was immediately sold.

Originally released back in 1989, Here was McGuire's first published strip, making it's debut appearance in Raw. It was set in the corner of a living room, a location it never left, although it moved forwards and backwards in time with each panel depicting that exact same space and what was occurring in it (and what is yet to happen) from year to year- jumping forward decades and then backwards hundreds of years. The use of inset panels within panels allowed McGuire to further cut windows into different eras, so that a single panel could show a resident of the house that sometimes stands there as a baby, as a young man, and then elderly and bowed. Another panel is divided into four smaller sections, each one showing the same woman cleaning in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996- the banal repetitiveness of life quietly passing acutely captured. It's such an ingenious concept, presented over only 6 pages and in 35 panels.

However, despite a couple of attempts, and interest from publishers, McGuire never got around to expanding on, or finishing the strip -until now. From 35 panels, Here is now a 300+ page full colour book due for publication this November, and covering the periods between 500,957,406,073 BC and 2033 AD, with (from what I can tell) many of the individual panels presented as double page spreads that allow you to take in all that is happening. If that is indeed the case, I wonder if it will lessen the impact somewhat, of one page encompassing a multitude of time and eras, and the weight and awe that that imposes. The book also sees McGuire look to the future more, from rising seas, radioactive disasters, new life, and the dying of the sun.

Hand-prints on stones, dinosaurs, the lifetimes of men, man's lifetime, futuristic landscaping, the known past, and the imagined future; history and hope all considered and posed via this one small corner of the world- Here looks to be as unmissable as a book can get. (And to answer your question, yes, I feel pretty damn stupid for being dismissive of it.)

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Comics Shelfie: Sam Alden

Schedule's still in a state of flux, so posting when I can, but comics shelfie is still here every fortnight, this time with Sam Alden. I've written about Alden's work a few times and it's difficult to pithily sum up why so many people are excited about his work. I think the thing that makes me excited about it is the sense of passion and investment in the medium I get from him; he's unafraid to experiment from penciled comics to water colour and pixelated comics, playing around with narrative, addressing difficult, knotty subjects -and to be immensely prolific on top of all that- it's hard not to be interested. Uncivilized Books published Alden's It Never Happened Again this year, which contains the story Anime, which, along with the Haunter, is probably my current favourite comic from him (and the ones I'd recommend picking up). More on both soon, but for now, here's Sam to talk you through his comics/book collection:

'So it's important to note that I've moved around a lot in the last few years, and that constant process of sloughing off books after every move does weird things to my comics collection.  There's a handful of books that follows me everywhere, which I know that I'll actually look at in the future (off the top of my head: Tank Tankuro, Krazy Kat, Moomin, Susumu Katsumata, Chihoi, Jim Woodring, and some minis). But then my childhood bedroom in my parents’ basement is still full of boxes of like, Transmetropolitan and Rose Is Rose anthologies. Plus some books that I feel like I ought to have in my library that won't change my life anytime soon. So here are those books! Welcome to my parent's basement, everyone.

This is the aforementioned childhood room in parents’ basement, where I’m staying for this week before I move back out. This room is now this weird empty storage space for whatever detritus I accumulate elsewhere. Like, what grownup lives like this. That guitar is not mine, I don’t know what that’s doing there. Anyway, here is bookshelf 1.

I own a lot of Tezuka because I love having big, bricky books of fast-burning manga. Some Krazy Kat up top, some DeForge books. All my Weird Heroes. And there’s Swann’s Way in between Inuyasha 2 and 6 because comics aren't just for kids etc. 

Rumiko Takahashi's rad; I think I've still got a bunch of Maison Ikkoku volumes somewhere but I can't find them. We used to own this 90s mangaka interview book that featured her, and her interview was about two pages shorter than everyone else's because halfway through she was like, I'm sorry, I have to go, and then the interview ends "[Rumiko Takahasi rises and returns to her studio, where she continues working]". It was badass.

Man, yeah, a lot more manga than I knew that I owned. It accumulates so fast! I’m not cool enough to own any original Garos or obscure anthologies, I mostly just buy whatever big D+Q tome is out. I think Sophie Franz is still borrowing my Seiichi Hayashi books.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Chris Ware's new comic, The Last Saturday, serialises in The Guardian

In case you have somehow missed this: The Guardian began serialising Chris Ware's new comic in both their print and digital editions on September 13th. Titled 'The Last Saturday,' which instantly brings to my mind Jordan Crane's 'The Last Lonely Saturday,' which is an equally Ware-ian title in name. The first installment introduced six characters from the town of Sandy Port, Michigan, while the second got things going atypically grim, following young Putnam Gray as he ponders the vastness of the universe before being beaten by a couple of boys. The 'interactive' facet currently doesn't extend beyond a roll-over magnifying capacity, but we're only two updates into the weekly comics, so there's room for potential exploration within the parameters of the digital platform should Ware wish to experiment. He's previously tested the boundaries of print, playing around with format,and size, so it's not unfathomable that he may intend something similar here. 

On a related aside it's been interesting watching the Guardian's coverage (in the online edition of the newspaper, at least) expand beyond all things Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, and seeing what they do choose to write about: large pieces on UK kids weekly The Phoenix, but also (unsurprisingly) a lot of articles on superheroes, largely Marvel properties- tied in, no doubt, to interest in the movie franchise, along with pieces on 'female Thor'  and the Falcon taking on the mantle of Captain America, ruminations on DC's TV shows. They did, however, also report on The Eisners this year, as well as a nice look at cities as depicted in comics, and what seems to be a new monthly column, appraising mainstream releases. It's been a bit of a mixed bag, but those latter pieces encouraging to see; hopefully it will continue to grow and evolve.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Seconds: fool me twice

Seconds, by Bryan Lee O'Malley (writer/artist), Jason Fischer (drawing assistant) , Dustin Harbin (letterer), Nathan Fairbairn (colourist) 

I try to avoid reading reviews of books I'm interested in, and even more so if I'm intending to review a title myself. I'm the worst kind of person- very easily swayed in any direction as long as the point is cogently and convincingly made. So I like to avoid reviews, in hope of keeping my own reaction to a text as unadulterated, and truthful, and as mine as possible. With highly anticipated books by popular authors- it's a little more difficult to exercise- even if you're not actively clicking on links, there are opinions on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, headlines that lean one way or another  Case in point: Bryan Lee O'Malley's Seconds.

I don't have the fondness for the Scott Pilgrim series many people do, even as I can recognise it as good (perhaps even seminal in terms of impact) piece of work; it's simply a matter of taste, and that, to me, is the essence of objectivity: acknowledging that something works/excels/is poor beyond your personal preferences. Similarly, that doesn't mean texts can't connect with the reader despite their leanings; preferences expand and evolve. The upside with subjectivity is that you can gauge where a person's preferences lie, and absorb their opinions on material accordingly. The word around Seconds had all been overwhelmingly positive, and yet -cartooning aside- it's a book I struggled to find merit in, with a confused, underwhelming narrative that fails to make the points it so clearly wishes to express.

Katie's a 29 year-old chef, the owner of Seconds, a successful, well-regarded restaurant, and currently in the process of opening her second eatery. But she's suffering from arrested development- things with the new building aren't progressing as quickly as she'd like, she's separated from her boyfriend after a breakdown in communication about who would be doing what with which business, and she's embarked on an ill-judged, messy entanglement with the new chef at Seconds. On top of all this, her apartment's located above Seconds, where she still acts like the main chef, bossing people around, generally in charge, even though she no longer works there. Skipping down the line some, Katie discovers Seconds is home to a house-spirit, Lis, who directs her in the usage of a magic mushroom that allows the consumer a do-over, erasing any event they wish and providing them with a re-start. Lis gives Katie one mushroom, to rectify an accident, but Katie avoids her warnings and soon is popping the shrooms like pills and re-writing her life, honing it to the ideal she'd like it to be.

It's a widely relate-able premise: even when things are good and going well, or appear so to others, often within yourself you feel an insecurity, an uncertainty- that you should do more, or that things may fall through, about whether you're on the right path. I'd imagine having success young and achieving what you set out to may possibly exacerbate the feeling further; the need to go bigger, the next THING, hitting a plateau, and becoming a little frozen within that mindset. In Katie's situation, some of her youthful ambition and fire has quelled, and facing problems at this moment when things are changing makes her question herself, and then decide to go back and fix things. And this too, is understandable; there are things we would all like to go back and change, predicting a better outcome if only we had done that, or said such-and such, but accepting all the steps and decisions -good and bad- are what have bought us here to where we are today, to the place you're in, to the person you are. It's that ball of schmaltz you know is right, and yet continue to struggle with; life is better than you think/appreciate what you have/live in the now/ what's done is done/you can't change the past. 

So those are broadly the intended messages Seconds is selling; the lesson Katie is supposed to learn- the idea of getting a do-over and being able to change things to make your life perfect, simply means things would turn out differently, other problems would arise- with Lis acting partly as a sub-conscious. Own the choices you've made and move forward.  But it just didn't work for me, partly because O'Malley doesn't follow through. 

One jarring aspect is the narration. There's an omniscient narration and then you have Katie 'talking to herself' but responding directly to what the omniscient narrator is relating- as if it were her inner thoughts and she's pushing back, which also often breaks the fourth wall. It reads rather like Pushing Daisies, but it's not as effective on paper (perhaps because that show was so sure of it's identity and this feels less so, like it's trying to be various things and not quite hitting any)- it's too much; going for a line between fun and serious, but inhabiting the middle ground uncomfortably, coming across as a forced affectation. But the biggest flaw -and the book's undoing- is O'Malley's treatment of Katie. Specifically where the use of the seconds mushrooms begins to become more and more about getting her boyfriend back, with her happiness and sense of resolution now tied into the achievement of that goal, ignoring the fuller picture of her wishes, and stunting the arc of her personal 'development'- initially presented as something else- of which losing Max was part of the problem, but not THE problem. It doesn't gel with the portrayal of the character readers have thus far been introduced to- which is fundamental because the overtness of what O'Malley's saying and its ability to be effective is dependent on the way in which it is embedded in the story and characters-, and both fail and lose function as a result.

Where Seconds does excel is in the cartooning department; from Harbin's lettering to Nathan Fairbairn's colouring is wonderful. Fairbairn in particular does a superb job, imbuing the whole book with appropriate atmosphere and emotion; warmth and chatter in the restaurant scenes, the ominous oranges and yelows he uses to transmute an other-ess as the worlds of the spiritual and begin to meld dangerously. One of the things I really enjoy about O'Malley's books is how he's a dab-hand at giving his characters a personality through their sense of style and fashion- not enough comic artists pay attention to clothing, which is weird because how invested are we in that as a form of identification in reality. It's always a pleasure to look at the outfits he's put together. He and Fischer have stepped up with the backgrounds and detail here: there's a gorgeous splash page in which giant skeletons walk over the burning town and houses below, as grey ash snows down against a pink sky . The new old hotel building is beautifully rendered, the crowded restaurant scenes give a real sense of hustle-bustle. The layouts, too, are good, the incorporation of negative space, and panels falling away as Katie abruptly ends one revision and begins another well done.

Whilst I think O'Malley is perhaps a writer I'm unlikely to connect with, Seconds is hugely let-down by a lack of a sure touch, a narrative uncertainty about what it is, and not simply what it would like to be.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Dust jacket: Off

Continuing a (very loose) series of posts looking at book design, this time at the actual hard-back covers of dust-jacketed books (rather than the actual dust-jackets themselves- that's for another day). Prior to deciding to focus on this aspect, I'd wanted to do a piece looking at book-spines, but came up short, despite owning almost 1000 comic-books (and I mean books, not floppy issues) now- most simply have the title and/or author in a particular font, with perhaps a small image -often a partial of the cover illustration-placed at the bottom; not really much innovation going on there. There's somewhat of a better effort made with jacketed hardback books covers- there isn't really a separate term for the cover underneath (that I know of), but there should be!

Ostensibly, you have the same options available -spot gloss/laminate/emboss/deboss/cloth binding (like these sweet Batman covers) etc.- that you would with any non-jacketed hardback book cover, but the tendency is to favour designs that are smaller, more subtle, minimal, and less expensive. Which is understandable on a level, because the jacket is rarely going to come off, but to my mind, the jacket acts a protector for the book and its 'real' cover, so an effort should be made with what it conceals. Below, I've put together various examples, showing books with and without their jackets, and looking as what makes both good and bad

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K Vaughan and Niko Henrichon: I like this- the brown earthiness of it, the simplicity of the deboss (only recently learned that emboss is raised, deboss is impressed). I like that the stylised 'Pride of Baghdad' font has been carried over, so you have that connection between the two covers, but moved to an upper central position, making room for the softer pride of lions below it, and bringing both elements together. A spot gloss/laminate, or foil wouldn't have fit here- too flashy, and not really in keeping with the subject at hand, so a blind deboss is a good choice, with the addition of the lions giving it a point of visual appeal.

The Gigantic Beard by Stephen Collins: Simple, but effective. I know it's only a tree, but the size: taking up almost all the A4 cover, and central positioning, along with the black glossy deboss make it just about intriguing enough to hold the attention. The tree mirrors the growth/life theme, but its also doesn't give anything away- a lot of jacketed hardbacks lost title and author credits when it comes to the actual cover (usually reserved to the spine), and the very precise oval shape adds another dimension of interest. This maybe loses some of it's effect in photographs- there's something more imposing in holding a large black hardback book in your hands.

The Book of Human Insects by Osamu Tezuka: This is probably one of my favourites, because the jacket design, while incredibly effective in its own right with those tall, bold red letters emblazoned  at an angle over the newsprint collage of images, is totally different to what's underneath, and someone's taken the opportunity to come up with a cover that's thematically unifying and incredibly striking in its own right. The expression of the horrified face (taken from the comic) is pretty great: the horrified eyes, the hands pushing the cheeks upwards, the gaping mouth, but isolating it to create a black and red repeat pattern is what makes it excellent. The use of the red, the only pop of colour- but strong enough that it's the only one that's needed, is what sets off both covers; imbuing them with connotation (the images on either cover, in association with the red bring to mind certain situations and ominous events) and visual strength.

Mouse Guard: the Black Axe by David Petersen: I think this is a poor cover- muddy and boring. I can see what it's going for: a sort of olde epic feel, with the axe being an object of significance placed emphatically in the middle, but the mint/yellow border is nondescript and doesn't do enough to frame, the pattern behind the axe is rather bland. The eye should be drawn to particular points of focus, but here they skim over the whole thing, not resting on any aspect. This is a good example of a hardback cover that could be vastly improved by either a metallic foil- imagine some gold or silver emboss picking out that border and pattern instead of the lighter green- much more arresting, whilst still retaining the mythic tome feel. Love the dust-jacket cover though; there's not much that David Petersen's illustrations can't improve.

Echoes by Rahsan Ekedal and Joshua Hale Fialkov: Transparency is effective when innovatively used, especially when it's interfaced with both the jacket and the cover, as here. The  only section that's transparent here is that one small central window which gives the reader a glimpse into something bloody and sinister. In removing the jacket you get the full horror of the bloody, creepy doll. Again the splash of a single, vivid colour breaks up the monotony of black/grey/white. It's also a rare case where the title is not on the dust-jacket but on the hard-cover, in keeping with the 'uncovering/unearthing' theme, although I'm not sold on the 'Introduction by Steve Niles' text running across the bottom, considering neither artists or writer are credited- it's out of place and the red lettering draws unwanted attention to it.

The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde, illustrated by Craig P Russell: So you've got Craig P Russell illustrating a lovely glossy dust-jacket: job done there. but what about the cover underneath? What I appreciate here is that they've used the opportunity to pay a little tribute to Wilde, with a simple, familiar portrait, picked out elegantly in white, positioned centrally towards the top. The use of white is an unusual, unexpected choice, which I think works because the illustration is fine, and not large, so it's not as stark. The olive spine, whilst not the most inspiring colour, combines with the cheeriness of the yellow, providing a block of contrast. 

In the Kitchen with Alain Passard by Christophe Blain, and Feynman by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick: Three keywords here: simplicity, colour, and placement. Similar to the Wilde in  different ways: Blain's use a deep shade of red with a contrasting black deboss illustration and the repetition of the title (in a nice touch, a partial of the illustration can also be found on the spine). The Feynman book uses it's background sea of turquoise  and a white motif, which provides a sharp, refreshing contrast that again serves the fine lines better. The choice of illustration is a loose and dynamic, complete with sfx, and a lower right positioning. You'll note in all three covers, the placement of the image is never slap-bang central- you don't want a small picture drowning in an ocean of negative space. Keeping it in the middle, but moving it definitively towards the top or bottom is compositionally pleasing, with colour curtaining away from it. The Feynman's lower right is unusual but effective, because it's not too extreme and fits with the activity and motion of the character.

Batman: The Killing Joke by Brian Bolland and Alan Moore: I haven't included the original jacket cover for this, because we all know what that looks like, right- it's as iconic as they come. This is brilliant, and the kind of thing that sets print apart, for me; these sort of touches that can be felt and admired in physical form only. It's rare, too, that you see a full cover deboss illustration like this, particularly a coloured one, but look at how amazingly special this is. There is what looks like a purple metallic edition of this also- I believe the older editions are in green and the newer reprints in purple, but I may be wrong. Neon green and purple- the Joker's colours, and pretty arresting when used in this manner.

The illustration is, of course, from the famous joke-telling sequence, the panel in which Batman's clapping the Joker's shoulder, both of them laughing hysterically at the latter's joke; the rain lashing around them, the 'EEEEEE' of the sirens clashing with the 'HA HA HA HA's.' Colour deboss just looks gorgeous, here and it's actually rather liberally applied, in a way- the main blocks of green filling the Batman's and Joker's silhouettes, and then used to outlines the sfx, as a framing border, and for rain. The title at the bottom is there if you need it, but secondary, really. On the back cover -and now I'm going to eat my words and take back what I previously wrote about central positioning- is a playing card featuring the Joker and Batman, a cherry on the icing. The central positioning isn't as relevant here (although it still holds true- all you have to do is imagine this as a main front cover, and it's nowhere near effective)  because it's a back cover- it's impressive enough that the back has anything on it at all. A fantastic cover, and worth protecting.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Second Stickleback collection due for release in November

It's been pretty quiet in terms of comics news; perhaps we're approaching the autumnal lull (which I just made up, but is now totally real and a thing). I've been trying to figure out this post on the blog while writing for other outlets thing- I don't think it's really working, as you may have noticed, but I'm as stubborn as fuck and determined to see out the year at least, and as originally planned. One of the things I love about writing here is it allows me to interact with people, where on big, multi-authored sites it can be a bit like shouting into the ether. I guess the onus is one me to step up, or not give a shit. Can't figure out which one.

Which is to say not much has me sitting up and taking notice at the moment, but this has me excited: 2000AD/Rebellion will be publishing a second Stickleback collection, due for release on November 6th. Ian Edginton and D'Israeli made a return to the series in the 2000AD anthology earlier this in 2014, more than six years after the initial run. If you're not familiar, here's how Ian Edginton describes his titular character:   

'He's a villain. He's the Pope of crime who rules the underworld in a fantastical version of London that's the love-child of Charles Dickens and Mervyn Peake. He's called Stickleback because he was born with a second, splintered rib cage growing out of his back. He boasts that he came into the world a murderer, as he ripped his mother apart whilst she was giving birth to him.'

And yet there's something strangely beguiling and almost vulnerable about him and his ragtag group of deformed freaks, oddballs and semi-supernatural entities, despite everything. Set in the nineteenth century, Stickleback returned from the dead rather changed, and to find his position as head honcho of London's criminal fraternity in perilous question; namely in the form of a new, mysterious figure stationed on an airship high above the city. It's a mix of steampunk (and for those of you who have an aversion to the word- it's done properly, and liberally) and crime, and supernatural, all bought to curious life by the masterful D'Israeli. When I first started delving into 2000AD's output, it was the collections of Stickleback, Stone Island, Cradlegrave, and more that stuck with me. I missed reading this in issues, so very much looking forward to getting a copy.

Preview: Zac Gorman's readies for Halloween with Costume Quest

There's a veritable deluge of good comics out this September and October; so much so that I don't know whether to feel glad or frustrated that I don't have any money to spare right now. One of the ones I'd really liked to have got is the Costume Quest book by Zac Gorman- you might remember me writing about it when it was fist announced. It's an original graphic novelisation of an existing video-game, Costume Quest, which finds it's young protagonist and friends battling through candy-snatching beasts called Grubbins on Halloween, in order to travel to another dimension and retrieve their kidnapped twin (players can choose which twin to play as- Reynold or Wren). Gorman's comic book is being released in conjunction with the second installment of the game, and will turn that scenario on its head, instead following a 'good' young Grubbin called Klem, and narrating his adventures on that same Halloween. None of this really matters to me, because I don't game at all- all I know is I'm a big fan of Gorman's comics and art (looking forward to his Retrofit comic, which I think will be out before the end of the year), and I think this will be good- I mean, look at these pages below.


Monday, 15 September 2014

Comics is a flat circle... with bumps

A new pop-up book! It is such a lovely, lovely thing: a solid little red square that comes in a matching slipcase, Le Petit Nicolas was released in 2008 (I'm only 5 years late) and is based on  a series of French children's books, penned by RenĂ© Goscinny and illustrated by Jean-Jacques SempĂ© in the 60's. I can't remember where I saw some picture of this, and had to investigate further. Obviously I can't read it, having no French, but that's secondary, really- there's only about a line on each page anyway. It's beautifully done in largely black and white with only minimal pops of unobtrusive colour- some red here, some pink there. I like the use of clear plastic -particularly to subtly connect two aspects, e.g. a flying football and the leg it was kicked by, and the reflective mirror card and cut-outs. Nice perspectives too, with layered elements to provide depth, and raised platforms. It's just so charming. A little treasure. Have some photos:

Oily comics- Have to confess I haven't checked out Oily in a while, but I've been reading the awesome-ness that is Daryl Seitchik's Missy comics on Tumblr and realised that Oily had published print editions, so had to get my hands on some. The Missy strips switch between being seemingly loosely based on Seithcik's own experiences and those of the Missy persona as she grows up, navigating school and friendships. It's caustic and vulnerable and funny all at the same time, and most of the strips are freely available to red on Seitchik's Tumblr, which you should take immediate advantage of.. Charles Forsman's risographed Luv Sucker looked too appealing to pass up- seems to have an 80's aesthetic going on, along with that minimal fashion illustration line- looking forward to reading it.

I popped into OK on the way home from work, and Oliver -being so fucking good at his job as he is- showed me Cinebook's latest, Kenya, just as I was about to leave, so of course I had to buy it. It's written by Rodolphe and drawn by Leo (of Aldebaran, Antares, and Betelgeuse fame), who I like very much- he's great at drawing beasts and dinosaurs- but whose people all look the same: characters with neatly symmetrical features, very white teeth, distinguishable by hair and skin colour only. Kenya continues a dubious European tradition of containing copius amounts of racism and sexism explained away by being set decades back (1947)- aka When Things Were Different, so that's okay, right? 

This is the first in (I think) 4 volumes- maybe more- which sees a hunting expedition disappear without trace after they encounter an impossible creature. Naturally, the British, being the nosy meddling types they are, send an undercover schoolteacher to investigate further, and as she picks up the trail, she makes startling discoveries of her own. I wouldn't be into this, apart from, y'know, weird and wonderful beasts and dinosaurs being my Achilles heel. Some panels from Kenya below: nice splash page of the huge, furry, brown giraffe the writing expedition bumps into, an opulent castle in the desert complete with eccentric rich dude, another mysterious hairy, stumpy creature viewed from a plane- it's all lined up to keep me reading, dammit.

Nobrow have done such a gorgeous job with the printing/production of Roman Muradov's (In A Sense) Lost and Found- gorgeous cloth-covered spine with gold embossed pattern. I saw Michael Cho's Shoplifter in the flesh for the first time the other day, and the production job on the cover is pretty horrible: a stiff, shiny glossy paper that seems to be poorly glued around a thicker cardboard cover. Pantheon sent me an uncoloured advance proof a few months back, and I liked the book enough to want to buy a copy upon release, but that wrinkled, shiny paper put me right off. That sort of thing baffles me- Cho's done a beautiful job with the art and cover, it's his first graphic novel, I read somewhere it's Pantheon's first comic as a publisher, and that's the treatment it gets? 

Roman's book is the best thing I've read from him yet, and as mentioned, it's fantastic to see it given proper treatment: larger pages, lovely paper stock- all the better to show off his stunning art. Here's an excerpt from the review I wrote of it for Publisher's Weekly: 'F. Premise awakes one morning to find her innocence has gone missing, much to her father’s shame and also to the horror of strangers, as she discovers after fleeing her home. Innocence here is depicted as a literal, tangible thing that can be seen —or visually hidden from—and the story examines the manner in which society labels and judges this quality. As Premise pursues the thieves who stole her innocence to a mysterious lair, she becomes more and more ensnared by a strangely mundane world, one in which she must decide what it means be innocent and what that might be worth. The art that takes center stage in the metaphorical narrative, shapes and colors working together harmoniously to produce an utterly immersive beauty.'

Andy gave me this ages ago (my friends all have better taste than me), and only now that my feelings towards the Dredd-verse -namely Judge Anderson- are warmer, have I opened it to read. That cover is so good, especially the fluorescent pink and green which really gives it life, coupled with the image of Anderson trapped in that eyeless grill. This is the Judge Death story that contains the iconic 'Gaze into the fist of Dredd!' panel, which is cool, but the visual I liked much better was the double page spread of all four dark judges together, looking bad-ass and bat-shit, although it's illustrated by Brian Bolland and he's done a unarguable job on the whole thing. I'm still at that stage with Dredd, Anderson et al, that I'm reading all the widely considered excellent stories first, and this is another one of them.

Been in two minds about whether I was going to pick up Wild's End or not- it sounded like I might enjoy it, but also something that could go wrong- it's being pitched as Wind in the Willows meets War of the Worlds- but after seeing what a magnificent job Ian Culbard's done on the art here, I was swayed. Don't want to reveal too much, but a space ship crashes in a field, witnessed by a fox, which eventually leads to a small group of animals going to the alleged crash-site to investigate further. I'm trying to scale back my spending, but it's impressed enough that I've added it to my pull- it's only 6 issues, so hopefully the damage won't be too bad. Credit to Abnett and Culbard- they're created a strong first issue with a real sinister undertone to it, despite the bright colours and rotund cheerful amiability you see. 

Snapped a couple of pages I liked: the pink page on the left is near perfect; look at them colours- the pinks, green, purple, and the turquoise of the sfx. The way the pink window frame cuts through the green and purple, the outside looking in, drawing closer, giving a sense of crosshairs and entrapment. Love the blue and orange combination of the night sky and fox-fur on the right page, as well. All Culbard's animal characterisations here are superb- look at that pig, and the fox- they retain their inherent animal features, shapes, and associations, but on two legs. Excited about this now- hope it lives up to he standard it's set.