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Comic Review: April/May Round-Up

As I emerged from a gruelling diet of deadlines, I was pleasantly surprised to find a bumper crop of excellent graphic novels and trade collections coming out in the past few weeks and the upcoming month. In fact, 2012 as a whole is shaping up to be rather spectacular as DC and co pull out all the stops while the indie market continues to grow at a steady pace.

Here then are some of the highlights that have crossed my path, including a daringly recoloured Flex Mentallo, some inspiring débuts, the latest from two of the most prominent women creators in the industry, and rising talent in the small press. As ever, all reviews are spoiler free!

Hit the jump for the mini-reviews.
April/May Comic Highlights

Flex MentalloFlex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery
By: Grant Morrison and  Frank Quitely
Publisher: Titan/DC
Release Date: Out now
Review: It's no small secret that I'm a fan of Morrison's more brain-melting work, and Flex Mentallo is no exception. A spin off adventure for the character that graced the pages of Morrison's Doom Patrol, this is a standalone story that embraces the writers interest in the intersection between fiction and reality, paper universes and meta-heroes. The eye popping colour explosion is significantly toned down from the original, at the request of Quitely and Morrison who have overseen the newer look (by colourist Peter Doherty). Newer technology has allowed the new collection to ignore many of the compromises taken with the original issues, and the result is a twisting story with typically fabulous artwork from Quitely, complimented rather than distracted by the colouring.

Flex has long been out of print and this first collection is very welcome indeed, with several bonus pages of original sketches and artwork by Quitely.  Like The Filth and The Invisibles, Flex is a story that gives you something new on each re-reading, and makes your brain delightfully itchy.

SpandexSpandex: Fast and Hard
By: Martin Eden
Publisher: Titan
Release Date: 25th May
Review: Rarely do I get a comic that compels me to read the whole thing before I've even got out of bed in the morning, but Spandex had me glued from not only the first page but the cover itself. The simple artwork and flat colouring works to the story's advantage, and allows the characters to really stand out on their own terms. Eden has billed this as the first all-powered, all-gay superhero team which has predictably stirred great nerd debates, but regardless of pedigree he has at the very least created a bloody good read. There is a lot of joy to be had here, and the teasing of some wonderful subplotting that has me wanting more.

I'll be backing this book for sure and encourage anyone to give it a try - see if you're able to put it down once you start!


Are You My Mother?Are You My Mother?
By: Alison Bechdel
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Release Date: 31st May (out now in US)
Review: Bechdel is of course someone who I consider a Godmother of comics. Inventor of the Bechdel Test, creator of Dykes to Watch Out For, and author of the modern classic Fun Home, I've even studied her work as part of my masters degree. Fun Home is undoubtedly one of the best autobiographic comics of the last ten years, with Bechdel examining her childhood and dysfunctional family life, ultimately addressing both herself and her father's psyche. It's a gut wrenching read, and a master-class of comics construction, with looping and repetitive storytelling used to build up a layered and complex picture.

The title of her latest work indicates that Bechdel's attention has shifted to her mother, but that is only part of the story. Unlike Fun Home, Are You My Mother? has opened to mixed reviews. Bechdel mixes psychoanalysis of her relationship with her mother with family history, and the history of psychoanalysists, psychologists, and Virginia Woolf. While Fun Home featured small excerpts of other works, Are You My Mother? consistently features pages of these clinical notes, and the result is quite jarring - a meeting of themes that are at turns too subjective and too broad. Later in the book this shifts focus to look more at Bechdel's mother rather than historical figures, and further readings make the transition smoother. There are glimpses of greatness here and when those shine, the book is absolutely gripping.

By: Mark Waid and Paolo M Rivera
Publisher: Marvel
Release Date: Out now
Review: Daredevil has always been my favourite of the Marvel heroes. One of the few crime fighters from a working class background,  Matt Murdoch has been put through the ringer time and time again, enough to make Batman look like he's having the time of his life. What a joy then to see Daredevil finally get a little bit of slack in Waid's run! That's not to say that we are seeing a return to the goofy antics of vintage Marvel, nor is Matt suddenly cracking jokes like Peter Parker. What we do have though is a real feel of energy and enthusiasm as Daredevil kicks ass, takes charge, and protects the little guy.

Rivera's visuals are stunning, using cut out panels to startling effect and keeping the energy moving at all times. It's in his interpretation of Daredevil's 'sight' though that we can really see the artists genius. More please!

Please God, Find Me A Husband!Please God, Find Me A Husband!
By: Simone Lia
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Release Date: Out now
Review: Lia is one of my favourite artists, and Fluffy, perhaps her most famous book, is one I think every comic fan should have. Her latest work then somewhat caught me off balance, as I rather ignorantly assumed the title was facetious. Having been raised as Christian but no longer subscribing to such, my hackles immediately raised when I realised that this was a genuine religious journey tale - a reaction that was entirely unwarranted! Lia's open and honest account of her travels and conversations are a joy to read, and do not require a shared religious conviction to enjoy. Her imaginings of herself and a red herring along the way are particularly amusing, and her cute style fits the innocence of her journey very well.

This is also a comic I feel that would appeal to a wide range of people, particularly in terms of age. I can quite easily see my Grandma enjoying this story, which is a real rarity amongst comics!

Batman IncorporatedBatman Incorporated
By: Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette, Chris Burnham
Publisher: DC
Release Date: Out now
Review: Following Morrison's Batman and Robin, and The Return of Bruce Wayne, and before the New 52 scrambled everything up,  Batman Incorporated saw the expansion of the Batman franchise to a global scale, which subsequently segued nicely into the New 52 line-up. Here then, Stephanie Brown is still Batgirl and Babs is Oracle, while the rest follow the later line-up: Cass as Black Bat, and with the introduction of Batwing, Nightrunner and others. Morrison has used extremely tight storytelling here, which feels pulpy and new, and the result is a cast of characters enjoying themselves while being spun in villainous circles. I'm giving many bonus points for brilliant portrayals of Catwoman and Batwoman, and the references to the original Kathy Kane.

Morrison's notes at the back of the collection point out the various Easter Eggs and ties to Bat-history that many may miss, and may I point out that the Iron Lady yelling "BY BLOOPEETA, CRIKEY and THATCHA!" made my week.

The Wolf ManThe Wolf Man
By: Sigmund Freud, Richard Appignanesi and Slawa Harasymowicz
Publisher: SelfMadeHero
Release Date: Out now
Review: It will shock few people to know that I am not a fan of Freud, however The Wolf Man, as a historical graphic novel, cannot be faulted. My dislike of Freud makes reading about the man an unappealing task but Harasymowicz's exquisite pencil work completely enraptured me. As a method of learning history, graphic novels are clearly a fantastic tool, and I am now far better grounded in my own opinions on Freud in particular, and psychoanalysis in general. A very worthy read.



By: Maarten Vande Wiele, Erika Raven, Peter Moerenhout
Publisher: Knockabout Comics
Release Date: Out now
Review: This fabulously eye-catching collection from Knockabout combines both of Vande Wiele's graphic novels: I Love Paris, scripted by Erika Raven, and I Hate Paris, scripted by Peter Moerenhout. Billed as "the very first graphic trash novel in the universe", the book stars three fashionistas in search of fame and fortune in the French capital. The humour here is very black indeed, as Hope, Faith, and Chastity all struggle to fulfil their dreams, and pay the price that fame demands. Be warned, there are some uncomfortable scenes, but Paris is aimed squarely at satirising the glamorous façade of beauty.

That said, the art is wonderfully chic, and I would hope to see this widely reviewed in the fashion magazines. great fun!

The Vicar WomanThe Vicar Woman
By: Emma Rendel
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Release Date: Out now
Review: Wonderfully strange art accompanies a wonderfully strange, and rather discomforting story, on a remote (Scottish?) island. A new female vicar arrives to find a very enthusiastic congregation who seem desperate to find absolution in her sermons. The island is portrayed as normal, but the parishioners are all in ownership of bizarre faces - from dog muzzles to duck heads - giving the story a veneer of grotesque fantasy which hints at the horrors hidden beneath. Fans of psychological and subtle horror will love this, as will those who enjoy impressionist art and uncomfortable truths.

This is a story that will stay with you long after you read it, from a remarkably unique and talented artist.

Anthology OneAnthology One
By: Stephanie Scott, Charlie Parsons, Rebecca Rolland, Calum Sutherland, Louise Cadger, Samantha-Jo Ross, Claire Roe, Jamie Buchanan
Publisher: UniVerse
Release Date: Out now
Review: The first anthology from a new imprint specially created to provide exposure for the work of students at the University of Dundee and the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. Dundee is at the heart of British comics and if this collection is anything to go by, a hotspot of future industry professionals. Anthology One collects the work of those at the DOJ this past year, and features some truly stunning work as well as a cover courtesy of Colin MacNeil. Charlie Parsons' Hubert and Remington is a particularly promising indication, with an industrial sci-fi flavour and artwork that many writers would kill to work with. Jamie Buchanan's Calvin the Dog is another stand-out contribution with fantastic comic timing, panel usage, and a style that reminded me rather nostalgically of Rocko's Modern Life.

The second volume is out in summer featuring the work of myself and course mates on the Comic Studies MLitt at the University of Dundee!

Available at conventions and upon request.

Girl & BoyGirl & Boy
By: Andrew Tunney
Release Date: Out now
Review: Girl & Boy is the latest comic from kick-ass creator Tunney and is a snip at only £1.50. The Manchester based artist's gallery is nothing short of spectacular, and the bitter-sweet Girl & Boy is definitely an indicator of great things to come. This single issue comic packs more emotional punch than many can achieve in a series, and the ending takes a wonderfully non-typical turn. I'm really looking forward to seeing more.

Preview and buy here. 




By:  L Phillips
Release Date: Out now
Review: A new small press supernatural series with a difference - a focus on strong women and subverting the expected. Phillips' soft art is a wonderful contrast to the violent and twisting story, that pitches vampire and werewolves headlong into the fray alongside humans in a brutal AU that is a welcome change from sparkling emo boys and furry boy-toys. The story writing here is really very good, with a lack of superfluous exposition that often trips up other small press books. Another creator I will be following with interest!




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  1. Another interesting article, great read. Once again I disagree with just about everything (Liking Grant Morrison? Disliking Freud? Can you still not see that something’s wrong with you?) but since I stumbled upon this site about a month ago, I keep coming back and reading all your stuff…so I might as well just leave a compliment. It’s just all so well written and so well argued, I wish there was much more quality stuff like this out there on comics. And I didn’t know anything about any Graphic Freud, so thanks for the recommendation. I’ll be sure to check that out, sounds like fun.

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