Thursday, August 27, 2015

PIXELS PREVIEW SCREENING DOUBLE PASS GIVEAWAY!


In Pixels, when intergalactic aliens misinterpret video-feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war against them, they attack the Earth, using the games as models for their various assaults. President Will Cooper (James) has to call on his childhood best friend, ’80s video game champion Sam Brenner (Sandler), now a home theater installer, to lead a team of old-school arcaders (Dinklage and Gad) to defeat the aliens and save the planet. Joining them is Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten (Monaghan) a specialist supplying the arcaders with unique weapons to fight the aliens.

Thanks to those arcade wizards at Sony Pictures and Pixels, in cinemas September 10th, we have 10 Double Pass to the Preview Screening of Pixels at Hoyts Melbourne Central on Sunday 6th September at 11am.

To go into the draw for your chance to win all you need to do is tell us, "If you had to play one classic 80's/90's video game for the survival of the human race which game would you have the best chance of "clocking", hence defending the earth?"

SPECIAL NOTE: As this prize is for a specific time and date, please only enter if you can attend the screening.

Terms and Conditions:

Only entries made via the comments on the Facebook post will be included in the draw.
All entries will go into the All Star Barrel and winners will be drawn at random.
Entries close 6pm Tuesday the 1st of September and winners will be announced Wednesday the 2nd.
Tickets will be available to pick up from the store and with valid ID.


Again thanks to Sony Pictures and Pixels. Only at the Movies! September 10.

www.PixelsMovie.com.au
PIXELS © 2015 CTMG. Other IP TM & © 2015 of applicable property owners. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

ALL STAR RECOMMENDS FOR AUGUST 25TH



Hi there,

Lots of things to get through this week, so onward as I steal the format from old Marvel Bullpen Bulletins!

ITEM! As I’m sure you’re sadly aware, TVs Batgirl, Yvonne Craig, died last week at the age of 78. While I always found Catwoman (whomever was playing her) more appealing than Batgirl (calling Dr Freud!), Yvonne Craig’s effervescent presence on the show was always more than welcomed. As noted by news sources everywhere, she also tried to kill Kirk in Star Trek and kissed Elvis in movies, so I think we can all consider that a life pretty much full of triumph. Rest in peace, Ms Craig, thank you for your hard work and ever-enthusiastic portrayal of our beloved Babs Gordon. See this week’s Comics Video for a wee treat with Ms Craig in full Feminist Icon Batgirl mode acting in a clip you may not have ever seen…

ITEM! In honour of the mighty Becky Cloonan visiting our shores, our state and, yes, our favourite shop on September 4th and 5th, next week this particularly long-serving Cloonanite will present an all-Cloonan column. How many more times can I write “Cloonan?” We’ll all find out next week, but I’m wagering my Cloonan collection that it will be a lot. Bust out your Shiraz and get ready to go deep, brothers and sisters, into the work of this high priestess of the four-colour form…

ITEM! Your help desperately needed! Did anyone else out there read Vertigo’s collection of The Names by Peter Milligan and Leandro Fernandez last week? If so, please, please leave a comment or tweet me or write me a letter and drop it off in-store, or come over to my house with scotch and cookies and a suave therapist’s chaise lounge because I have been unable to stop thinking about it for days now. Just what the hell is this thing? Is it brilliant? Is it terrible? I honestly have no idea.

Vertigo has been described many times as the HBO of comics. Yet The Names, with its forced expository dialogue, bewildering structure, ludicrous character interactions, baffling sequences, but yet genuinely compelling cliffhangers, recalls instead the thoroughly cheeseball efforts of American network television, like The Following or 24 or CSI: Whatever. I became so convinced of Milligan’s intent to bring this cornball TV aesthetic to comics that I started Googling and actually found this interview with the writer, in which he says, “I wanted [The Names] to feel like one of those fast-moving, complex TV shows.” Indeed, even as I sat there reading it and shaking my head at how silly it was, I found myself reaching for a non-existent box of popcorn and flipping the pages ever faster, constantly unsure of which end of the good-bad spectrum this comic fell under…a state in which I tragically remain.

Fernandez is, as ever, brilliant and really carries the load here. If you were to flip through the book without reading any of it, it would probably be an instant buy for anyone who likes their comics shadowy, their characters stylised, their layouts imaginative.

Cantered around Katya Walker, a young widow obsessed with finding out the truth behind her rich husband’s alleged “suicide,” The Names sees Katya spiralling into a complex and paranoid plot featuring a group of stock market manipulators called The Names which is filled with assassins, in-fighting and transparently evil one-percenters. This would all be complex enough, but throw in the fact that the algorithms used by The Names to manipulate the markets are becoming not only sentient, but also able to infect flesh and blood humans and the comic becomes stuffed full of more “High Concept” than a two hour pitching session at Writers Victoria.

The Names is either a brilliant satire of high concept action TV shows and financial thrillers or it’s a surprisingly schlocky and amateurish work by a hugely accomplished writer. I really, truly have no idea. Either way, make no mistake, it’s totally recommended. You’ll likely either love it, or find it as bizarrely compelling as something like Neal Adams’ bonkers, so-bad-it’s-amazing Batman: Odyssey or the hilariously terrible Dexter: Down Under.

ITEM! Last week’s promised discussion of Savers-bought Diabolik fumetti is delayed due to brain poisoning by Peter Milligan and Leandro Fernandez. Come back in two weeks for discussion of that.

Spoiler – this sums up my general feelings towards said Diabolik comics:





COMIC OF THE WEEK : MOX NOX
By Juan Cornella
Published By Fantagraphics

Looking like a Little Golden Book designed by Satan, with a spine of explosions and guns and blood in place of cute Disneyfied animals and flora, the print collection of Joan Cornella’s Mox Nox arrived in store last week. 56 pages long, Mox Nox features grotesque six panel gag strips that are so hideously, hilariously wrong Mrs Ashley actually said, “Stop showing me this stuff!” even as she laughed guiltily and pretended not to be interested when I ran back up to her and shoved another page under her poor eyeballs.

Cornella’s work proves that there is no limit to human stupidity, cruelty and dysfunction, but his gift is to render all this with such undeniable humour that you’ll find yourself giggling along with the unending parade of psychopaths -- many of whom clearly believe they are doing the right thing -- populating his surreal strips and are presented with such colourfully warped glee.

The cover is a perfect example of the comics within – a cute brown bear peels its face off as if a mask, revealing a pink-skinned cartoony approximation of a bear underneath, its anthropomorphism warped, perverted, re-imagined with a madman’s off-kilter sense of what relatable adorableness actually looks like. The pages within are filled with similarly grotesque and grinning humans, animals and things in-between engaging in all manner of taboo-smashing awfulness (take that, Crossed!). Murder, maiming, death, aberrant and deviant sexuality, it’s all here, presented with absolute relish and a genuine gift for comedic timing by the author.

It’s the characters’ bizarre sense of heroism that creates the best of Cornella’s punchlines. The strips are arguably at their most potent when clean cut white men rush to the aid of someone in distress only to amplify the horror of the situation and yet still walk away, blank-eyed and grinning, with self-satisfaction at a job well done.

At once wonderfully clever and supremely gross, Mox Nox comes highly recommended for the reader who likes their comics strange and their humour with a lot of bite. 



WEBCOMIC OF THE WEEK : PHANTOM HARVEST
By Claire Connelly

Halloween comes early as we welcome Claire Connolly back to this column. Her latest, Phantom Harvest, sees a bewildered hobo out late at night encountering an agriculturalist of unusual and supernatural origin…

Silent, colourful and quirky, Phantom Harvest is short and as such is tough to talk about without spoiling. It’s good fun, however, with the whiff of lost folklore about it – one can easily imagine the startled transient character endlessly telling everyone he meets riding the rails from city to city about the apparition he once sighted in a field out in Hicksville.

Rich colours, attractive character designs and terrific shot choice highlight this little comic and a splash page of the tale’s mystery farmer, standing shovel in hand, ominously backlit by a blood red moon above, is a terrific and somehow cute nod to a million backwoods horror movies. I’m fast becoming a big fan of Claire’s work and really look forward to seeing what she’s up to next.




COUNTDOWN TO MOZ METAL: HEAVY METAL SEPTEMBER 1977

Oh, this letters column! Packed with as much sass as Yvonne Craig in this week’s video! Between the responses to the stoned-to-the-gills missives received and jaw-droppingly crafted editorials (no, really, this issue’s is incredible), I wonder if I should just stop talking about the comics this magazine printed and type these text pieces out whole and unabridged…

One baffled but eager reader, S. Gredler, complains, “Some boxes did not flow i.e. pertaining to action. Some artwork could be more intricate. Some boxes could be smaller to allow more action…”

“You got us there, S.,” comes the snarky reply from editorial. You can almost hear the guffawing from the office as this letter was passed around along with the bong, echoing through the pages almost forty years later.

Anyway, on with the show.

“Quiet. I fear some beast prowls the catacombs.” Ulp. Yes, Corben’s “Den” continues as he and his ridiculous appendage traverse landscapes composed of orange and indigo and end up on the run from subterranean beasties. A quick digression – I read most of Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving’s Annihilator today and I’m struck by how if anyone is the likely inheritor of Corben, it’s Irving. On the surface, it’s likely a weird comparison to make, as the two artists are fairly dissimilar at first, second and likely third glance. Irving has no time for the hyper-masculine men and ultra-pneumatic women that litter Corben’s terrifying, bad trip weird fiction worlds, but both artists are possessed of singular visions, similar gift with hue and a seeming ease with the utter strangeness of their work. More on this when I visit Annihilator some time shortly. But back to HM! It’s September ’77 after all and this was a real ad:


Sergio Macedo’s wonderfully rad Psychorock stories conclude with “Orcyb” in which our rockers-turned naked space hippies traverse from their utopian, Garden of Eden space station, listening to a device which turns cosmic radiation into music, to battling Orcyb—our protagonist’s “shadow in the cosmos”—in unarmed combat, to the death. The denouement has the unfortunate whiff of Buck Rogers finale about it, with the whole battle being a “dream” caused by these far-out tunes man, but despite this, Psychorock still stands tall as a pretty happening piece of ‘70s cosmic comic books.

Also of note: “Polonius” by Picaret and Tardo continues, a short story by the legendary fantasist Roger Zelazny (If you are a fan of this kind of HM craziness and have not read Lord of Light, it’s highly recommended you do so), “Is There A Demon Lover in The House?” which sees Jack The Ripper visiting a movie theatre playing a snuff film, and a double-dose of Moebius, with the full colour “It’s a Small Universe,” and the lengthy. Black and white, “Major Fatal,” which introduces the character of Major Grubert one of the stars of possibly Moebius’ most enduring solo work, The Airtight Garage, which begins in earnest next issue. It is a given that both of these pieces are dreamy, stunningly illustrated and deserving of serious re-reading. The iconic image of Grubert, having apparently trophy hunted some monstrous reptile, adorns the back cover and this alone could be pored over for hours.




COMICS VIDEO OF THE WEEK : AS BATGIRL, YVONNE CRAIG FOUGHT FOR EQUAL PAY

By 1973, the Batman TV show was long gone and well on its way to being both somehow simultaneously derided and acting as a gateway drug for the next generation of comics readers (of which I absolutely was a part). I was born a year after this amazing advertisement, made by the U.S. Department of Labour (Wage and Hour Division), aired which makes me feel really quite old. In this 30-second video, a disgruntled, fired up Batgirl rescues a tied up Batman and Robin, stops a ticking time bomb and complains about her working conditions and wages. There’s some serious sass in Craig’s voice as she delivers the line, “Same job, same employer means equal pay for men AANNDD women.”

Amazing.

Thank you again, Yvonne Craig.



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.

Monday, August 24, 2015

New Comics For Wednesday 26th of August




Another big week filled to the brim with comic goodness. The first stop is making sure you are down for our next local comic launch, THE SWEET COMICS LAUNCH! The launch is happening this Saturday the 29th from 1PM-4PM will see the release of 6 different books. Truly there is something for everyone in this lot and well worth your time to check out!

The second stop. The following Saturday 5th of September, with special thanks to Sugar City Con, we'll be doing our best not to lose our minds over presenting Becky Cloonan for a instore signing and Q and A session. Ah, so good!

Third stop...well Comics! So here's the list!

Finally after what seems a loooong wait in limbo, HELLBOY IN HELL #7 sees Big Red returns to the shelves! ZODIAC STARFORCE #1 is like a smash up derby of the style of JEM and with the friendship Lumberjanes, well worth the look in! Can DRIVE #1 based on the novel that inspired that incredible film be as cool as either versions that came before it? We are willing to find out. STRINGERS #1 gives us the gritty side behind newsreporting and getting framed. Finally back in print, Ellis and Immonen's classic tale of the NQR hero squad, NEXTWAVE AGENTS OF HATE COMPLETE COLLECTION TP is here to mess up your day. Revolutions never come easy and most times there is a bloody backstory to those who pursue them as we find out in INVISIBLE REPUBLIC TP VOL 01. It must be the gloomy time of year when we all put ourselves through the heartache of Rick's survival in WALKING DEAD TP VOL 24 LIFE AND DEATH. Risque and honest, the next collection of the hit SUNSTONE OGN VOL 03 is out. Acclaimed graphic novelist, Craig Thompson takes a rest on moving slice of life work and turns in a kids tales in SPACE DUMPLINS GN VOL 01

The latest Previews is also in with the store copy available at the ground floor counter to look through. Anything else we need to put aside for you, just let us know! 


MARVEL
ANT-MAN LAST DAYS #1 SWA
CAPTAIN MARVEL AND CAROL CORPS #3 SWA
CIVIL WAR #3 SWA
DEADPOOLS SECRET SECRET WARS #4 (OF 4) SWA
E IS FOR EXTINCTION #3 SWA
HANK JOHNSON AGENT OF HYDRA #1 SWA
MAGNETO #21 SWA
MARVEL UNIVERSE ULT SPIDER-MAN WEB WARRIORS #10
MARVEL ZOMBIES #3 SWA
MODOK ASSASSIN #4 (OF 5) SWA
OLD MAN LOGAN #4 SWA
SHIELD #9
SPIDER-WOMAN #10 SWA
STAR WARS LANDO #3 (OF 5)
WHERE MONSTERS DWELL #4 (OF 5) SWA
X-MEN 92 #3 SWA

DC COMICS
AQUAMAN #43 BOMBSHELLS VAR ED
BATGIRL #43
BATMAN 66 #26
BATMAN ARKHAM KNIGHT GENESIS #1 (OF 6)
CYBORG #2
DEATHSTROKE #9 BOMBSHELLS VAR ED
FLASH #43 BOMBSHELLS VAR ED
GOTHAM BY MIDNIGHT #8
GRAYSON #11 BOMBSHELLS VAR ED
HARLEY QUINN #19 BOMBSHELLS VAR ED
HE MAN THE ETERNITY WAR #9
JLA GODS AND MONSTERS #3 (OF 3)
JUSTICE LEAGUE 3001 #3
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #3 BOMBSHELLS VAR ED
PREZ #3 (OF 6)
SINESTRO #14 BOMBSHELLS VAR ED
SUPERMAN #43 BOMBSHELLS VAR ED
TEEN TITANS #11 BOMBSHELLS VAR ED
WE ARE ROBIN #3

BOOM
ADVENTURE TIME FIONNA & CAKE CARD WARS #2 (OF 6)
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA #15
HACKTIVIST VOL 2 #2 (OF 6)
LUMBERJANES #17
MUNCHKIN #8
SONS OF ANARCHY #24

DARK HORSE
CONAN THE AVENGER #17
FIGHT CLUB 2 #4
GRINDHOUSE DRIVE IN BLEED OUT #8 (A)
HALO ESCALATION #21 
MULAN REVELATIONS #3 (OF 4)
NEW MGMT #1
PASTAWAYS #6
TOMORROWS #2 (OF 6)
ZODIAC STARFORCE #1

DYNAMITE
SWORDS OF SORROW SONJA JUNGLE #2 (OF 3)

IDW
DIRK GENTLYS HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY #3 (OF 5)
DRIVE #1 (OF 4)
GHOSTBUSTERS GET REAL #3 (OF 4)
GODZILLA IN HELL #2 (OF 5)
MAXX MAXXIMIZED #22
MICKEY MOUSE #3
RAGNAROK #6
SHERLOCK HOLMES 7 PER-CENT SOLUTION #1 (OF 5)
SKYLANDERS #12
TMNT CASEY & APRIL #3 (OF 4)
TRANSFORMERS ROBOTS IN DISGUISE ANIMATED #2
TRANSFORMERS MORE THAN MEETS EYE #44
WALT DISNEY COMICS & STORIES #722

IMAGE
COVENANT #3
EAST OF WEST #20
ISLAND #2
LOW #9
RASPUTIN #8
ROCHE LIMIT CLANDESTINY #4
RUMBLE #6
SONS OF THE DEVIL #4
SPAWN #255
SPREAD #9
THEYRE NOT LIKE US #7
THIEF OF THIEVES #30
VALHALLA MAD #4

MISC
BOOK OF DEATH FALL OF NINJAK #1
DEAD DROP #4 (OF 4)
DOCTOR WHO 2015 FOUR DOCTORS #3 (OF 5)
LADY MECHANIKA #0 (OF 5)
NINJAK #6
PRINCELESS BE YOURSELF #3 (OF 4)
RICK & MORTY #5
SIXTH GUN VALLEY OF DEATH #3 (OF 3)
STRINGERS #1 (OF 5)
WE CAN NEVER GO HOME #4 (OF 5)

MAGAZINES
MARVEL PREVIEWS SEPTEMBER 2015
PREVIEWS #324 SEPTEMBER 2015

TRADES
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN TP VOL 04 GRAVEYARD SHIFT
ANGRY BIRDS COMICS HC VOL 03 SKY HIGH
ARMY OF DARKNESS ASH IN SPACE TP
ART OF SATOSHI KON HC
BLOOD & HONOR FOREWORLD SAGA GN VOL 01
COWL TP VOL 02 THE GREATER GOOD
CRIMSON HC VOL 01
DO-GOODERS HC
EFFIGY TP VOL 01 IDLE WORSHIP
FIVE GHOSTS TP VOL 03 MONSTERS & MEN
GI ZOMBIE A STAR SPANGLED WAR STORY TP
HERO CATS TP VOL 02
IMAGE GIANT SIZED ARTISTS PROOF ED WALKING DEAD #1
INHUMANS BY PAUL JENKINS AND JAE LEE TP NEW PTG
INVISIBLE REPUBLIC TP VOL 01
IRON FIST LIVING WEAPON TP VOL 02 REDEMPTION
IXTH GENERATION TP VOL 01
JENNIFER BLOOD BORN AGAIN TP
JOE FRANKENSTEIN HC
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK TP VOL 06 LOST IN FOREVER
LEGENDS OF ZITA THE SPACEGIRL GN
MARVEL UNIVERSE ALL NEW AVENGERS ASSEMBLE DIGEST TP VOL 02
MY LITTLE PONY PAGEANTS & PONIES TP
NEXTWAVE AGENTS OF HATE COMPLETE COLLECTION TP NEW PTG
NURSERY RHYME COMICS 50 TIMELESS RHYMES HC
POWERPUFF GIRLS SUPER SMASH-UP TP VOL 01
PRIEST & BRIGHTS QUANTUM & WOODY TP VOL 01 KLANG
RETURN OF LIVING DEADPOOL TP
RUNLOVEKILL TP VOL 01
SCALPED HC BOOK 02 DELUXE EDITION
SPACE DUMPLINS GN VOL 01
STAR WARS LEGENDS EPIC COLLECTION RISE OF SITH TP VOL 01
SUNDOWNERS TP VOL 02
SUNNY SIDE UP GN
SUNSTONE OGN VOL 03
TITHE TP VOL 01
TUROK DINOSAUR HUNTER TP VOL 03 RAPTOR FOREST
UNCANNY AVENGERS TP VOL 01 COUNTER EVOLUTIONARY
USAGI JANE AND THE SKULLBUNNIES GN VOL 01
USAGI YOJIMBO SAGA TP VOL 04
WALKING DEAD TP VOL 24 LIFE AND DEATH
WAYWARD TP VOL 02
WOLVERINES TP VOL 04 DESTINY
X-O MANOWAR TP VOL 09 DEAD HAND
ZOMBILLENIUM HC VOL 03 CONTROL FREAKS

MERCH
BATMAN BLACK & WHITE STATUE DARWYN COOKE 2ND ED
CHEW CASES OF THE FDA CARD GAME
DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS LOIS LANE STATUE
LOZ WIND WAKER LINK NENDOROID

BECKY CLOONAN BACK IN STOCK MENU
CHANNEL ZERO TP COMPLETE COLLECTION
CONAN TP VOL 13 QUEEN O/T BLACK COAST
DEMO TP
GOTHAM ACADEMY TP VOL 01 (N52)
TRUE LIVES OF FABULOUS KILLJOYS LTD ED HC
TRUE LIVES OF FABULOUS KILLJOYS TP

BACK IN STOCK

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #1

Sunday, August 23, 2015

ATTACK ON TITAN DOUBLE PASS GIVEAWAY!


Japan, present day. The sudden arrival of the Titans—mysterious, gigantic humanoid creatures who devour human beings one after the other—brings mankind to the brink of extinction. Fast-forward more than 100 years later. What remains of the human population now live in relative peace behind massive walls that were erected to defend themselves against the Titans. Yet once again, that peace is shattered when a Titan measuring over 50 meters tall smashes through the wall, allowing a horde of other Titans to enter.

Our hero, Eren, had been resigned to a life confined behind these walls. “Nothing I do would make a difference”, he ponders. But when he joins the ‘Outer Wall Restoration Team’ set up to fight against the Titans, he is reunited with Mikasa, a childhood friend and someone he had long regretted not being able to save. The new recruits embark on a mission to obtain explosives, which had become rare and precious, before getting past the waves of Titans to plug the gaping hole in the wall, with humanity’s survival on the line. Will there be a future for Eren and Mikasa, and for mankind itself?


Thanks to those massively awesome folks from the Cinema Nova and Attack On Titan, starting a limited release season from 27th of August, we have 5 Double Passes to the Thursday, 27 August, 8:40pm session at Cinema Nova to give away.

To go into the draw for your chance to win all you need to do is tell us, "there are a few different classes of Titans, some with unique abilities, all of them creepy. What type of Titan would you be?" Feel free to create your own class and type of Titan.

SPECIAL NOTE: As this prize is for a specific time and date, please only enter if you can attend the screening.

Terms and Conditions:

Only entries made via the comments on the Facebook post will be included in the draw.
All entries will go into the All Star Barrel and winners will be drawn at random.
Entries close 6pm Tuesday the 25th of August and winners will be announced Wednesday the 26th.
Winners will be notified via Facebook message as to how to collect their tickets.

Being a limited release season, click HERE if you want to check for other session times.

Again a HUGE thanks to Cinema Nova and Attack On Titan, starting a limited release from 27th of August.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

ALL STAR RECOMMENDS FOR AUGUST 18TH

    

Pop Quiz:

You’re at Savers. You have twelve dollars in hand and so can afford to choose exactly four from a selection of forty or so issues of Italian comic Diabolik published in the last decade that your friend Andrew told you about. You cannot read a word of said comics and they aren’t even the most attractive things ever – I mean they’re quite nice, like Vertigo mid-00s nice when Will Dennis started recruiting all those Euro guys, but it’s not like instant-buy Katsuya Terada art books or something. Still, your blindingly obsessive need to have some of said comics leads you to choose. How do you do it? If you’re anything like me, you would judge these fumetti (as in Italian comics not photo comics) by their covers. I hope you’ll agree I think I did okay.

Created in 1962 by the Giussani sisters – yes *sisters* -- Angela and Lucianaand continuing to this very day, Master thief Diabolik steals from criminals, drives a cool ‘60s Jaguar (“but the engines are terrible!” my car loving friends scream, “It is not a functional getaway car!” Shut up. It looks amazing) and wears a bunch of lifelike masks like a Scooby-Doo bad guy. He does not know his real name, was raised on an island by a criminal organisation and took the moniker “Diabolik” from a panther (thanks to Wikipedia for a bunch of that – I am no expert).

Probably best known to Western audiences from master giallo filmmaker Mario Bava’s 1968 film Danger: Diabolik (see this week’s video), I’ll go through these four digest-sized books over the coming week and report back with my impressions. Spoiler Alert: Le Tracce Del Lupo unfortunately does not feature an actual werewolf. 


COMIC OF THE WEEK : MASTER KEATON
By Naoki Urasawa, Hokusei Katsushika &Takashi Nagasaki
Published By Viz Media

Because I am an old man with a sketchy, faltering memory, I have a tendency to binge read my manga. Sprawling, complex storylines filled with dozens and dozens of characters and their convoluted motivations does not make for the most seamless of reads, I find, particularly when published in installments several months apart. The immense body of work by legendary, multiple award-winning manga-ka Naoki Urasawa is no exception to this rule of mine. I had a dozen issues (half) of his epic 20th Century Boys before I dipped into that world, all eight volumes of Pluto (his reworking of the famous Astro Boy story) before I read it start to finish and with Monster being re-published in quarterly omnibus editions currently, it probably will be the end of the year before I start ploughing into that.

It was also supposed to be this way with Master Keaton, an earlier Urasawa work created with writers Katsushika and Nagasaki and originally published from 1998-1994. Curiosity got the better of me, however, and three volumes into the new English translations by Viz here we are, all of them ripped through. It’s a good thing I did too as broken into largely stand-alone adventures, Master Keaton could conceivably be picked up at any point, requiring little to no backstory or expository material to follow along.

Taichi Hiraga Keaton is half-Japanese and half-English. His Japanese father is a retired zoologist, his English mother a somewhat mysterious “noblewoman.” He himself is an archaeologist by passion, an insurance investigator by trade and an ex-SAS Sergeant by a fortune need for self-discipline. I’m aware of how ridiculous this sounds as Keaton could easily be the character of a series of terribly titled thriller novels and the first volume does spend much of its time finding both its feet and its balance between Keaton’s battles with assassins and drug-dealers, his love of pre-European history and his relationship with his father, Teihei, and his daughter, Yuriko.

Yet, for all its info-dumping tendencies and occasionally ludicrous suspense scenarios, once the balance between the personal and professional is found, Master Keaton’s immense popularity in Japan becomes not only understandable but totally shared, for it is at heart a character piece.

Completely unpredictable in setting, Keaton bounces around Europe and Japan from one tale to the next, diffusing IRA bombs with chocolate like some sort of MacGuyver gone academic, or chasing after ice cream trucks with reputedly incredible artisanal rum and raisin on bicycle and, in the process, realising that his divorce forced him to grow up even more than the army did. Possessed with a boyish joy for life but tempered with a melancholic streak underscored by his desire to give up his insurance work and do nothing but study ancient European civilisations, Keaton’s wonderfully rounded and surprisingly deep for a character that seems to have the solution to any and every problem on the tip of his tongue. He’s frequently faced with violence, yet always manages to find the least violent solution to the conflict and always finds time for a quick drink or a fine meal, making him the distinguished gentlemen of action-adventure. Honestly, Tintin kicks more ass than Keaton does but Keaton would easily drink him under the table. You pick your side.

The family dynamic is especially good and we’ve yet to even meet Keaton’s mother. Keaton’s parents divorced when he was five, Keaton himself divorced when daughter Yuriko was five. Both he and his father (despite the old man’s womanising tendencies) still love their wives and think of them nearly constantly. The creative team early on realise that they have something here, that Teihei Hiraka, with his soft face, droopy moustache and collection of dogs (most notably Tasuke, a poor, battered mutt with the super sense of smell) deserves not only further exploration but his own adventures. An absolute highlight of the three volumes so far published is the story “Flowers for Everyone,” where Teihei and ugly-cute pooch Tasuke help a childhood friend of Keaton’s, now not so co-incidentally a beautiful woman, track down her missing dog and in the process re-unite long separated lovers. In an example typical of the series’ eclecticism, this story is immediately followed by “Black Forest,” where Keaton is hunted through Germany’s Black Forest by gun-wielding racists and must not only survive but disarm and disable his neo-Nazi foes. The reader literally has no idea what’s coming next even as the series constantly returns to themes of family and the new destroying the old and the greedy and capitalistic putting wealth before history and tradition.

The bottom line, I suppose, is that Master Keaton is the perfect demonstration of both manga’s flexibility and its sheer breadth of scope. This is a comic where what is ostensibly an action hero can disappear to a holiday home in the countryside with his father to ponder how they both can repair their broken marriages and yet end up obsessively recreating the their respective ex-spouses tastiest recipes for almost thirty sequential pages. And it’s pretty riveting in the process.

Ultimately, Master Keaton is a family drama masquerading as espionage-action. It’s also quite likely the first time I’ve ever been disappointed when the action ramps up in a comic and the intricacies of inter-generational relationships stops. This is not a knock on the bulk of the action-adventure stories, for many of them are taut and gripping and allow Urasawa to flex his chops at easily, beautifully drawing *everything* on the planet. Keaton’s stalked by an army trained dog, left to die in a desert, caught up in a tense hostage negotiation and all of these stories and more are highly readable and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s a testament to the strength of the core characters, however, that I find myself hoping for the unlikely scenario that Keaton retires in volume 4 and we get eight more volumes of him knocking back dangerous job offers from Lloyds of London and instead going for long walks with his daughter and father, shopping for the finest pastries he can find and having uneventful drinks with old colleagues he hasn’t seen in a decade.

  

WEBCOMIC OF THE WEEK : THE GROOM
By Emily Carroll

Yes, yes. More Emily Carroll. I realise you must drink now according to the rules of this column, sorry about that.

“The Groom” is Carroll’s latest short, another wonderful little slice of creepiness unfolding over seven scrolling pages. Two girls find an ornate diorama of a wedding scene, only the groom is missing. Making up intricate stories for the missing husband-to-be, they create a replacement out of pipe cleaners and insert him into the scene with quite chilling results. I’ve hurled enough superlatives at Emily Carroll over the course of this column, so suffice it to say she does not disappoint yet again even as she continues her preoccupations with dark family secrets and spectral visitations. Amazing to think I’ve yet to see her take a creative misstep with work of such calibre. Have you?




COUNTDOWN TO MOZ METAL: HEAVY METAL AUGUST 1977

Man, I love these HM editorials. The August ’77 issue, sporting a cover by Bernie Wrightson, opens with “…Thus…,” a brief little chat from editor to audience about mail received and why the magazine is titled what it is. It’s like a transmission from a comics-obsessed William Burroughs – forget the occasional charm of 2000 AD’s Tharg, the anonymous, seemingly doped-up beatnik from the future who wrote these pieces needs a firm pat on the back and a free top-up of Mowie Wowie for these efforts. He/she/it concludes, “…Heavy Metal is for those who grasp the gravity of the situation.”

Indeed.

For all the praise I’ve heaped on Philippe Druillet thus far in these ramblings, here is where I shall sadly cease – “The Black Queen” (this issue’s first narrative cab off the rank) is a hastily, roughly rendered story by this comics master, as if done solely out of obligation to its writer, Marcel Gorlib. Druillet also contributes “Hamilton Potemkine,” which I also find largely forgettable.

Moving on.

Richard Corben goes all-action in this issue’s chapter of “Den” with our hero’s beloved Kath kidnapped by stunningly drawn “insect warriors” soaring into a stunningly drawn sky that resembles something like a beautiful oil slick. Remarkable stuff. But not as remarkable as this:

“Heavy Metal is fantastic! It’s better than being stoned. Almost,” says -- no joke – a reader’s quote that tops a subscription information page. Amazing. This is an outfit that clearly knew how to appeal to its readership.

“Roger” by Loquet and Souchu, last seen in May’s issue, returns to sadly conclude its fumetti (as in photo comics not Italian comics) action figure existentialism in full sparkler-lit force (no seriously, sparklers are used to simulate the effects of teleportation). In order to escape Roger’s rule, action figure Jim must find Zoe (Barbie to his Ken, if you will) and construct their own reality. “Guided by a visceral necessity to rediscover his real universe, he decided to sink more profoundly into his own fantasies,” reads a particular caption, right before Jim emerges from Zoe’s head into this new reality – a desert for him to presumably populate with ideas and creations as he sees fit.

It’s amazing.

Also tucked away in this issue is “Package For You Missus Jones,” a short by Alesc about a woman sent a package of horny ectoplasmic goop, and the opening chapter of “Polonius” by Jacques Tardi and Picaret, the tale of an escaped slave who seeks to “scour the corruption” from a city. It’s a near fantasy take on ancient Rome and showcases yet another side to the versatile Tardi. Also here worth mentioning is “The Green Hand” by Zha and artist Nicole Claveloux is a striking short in a popping rainbow palette that revolves around the bizarre three way relationship between a woman and the jealousy her giant flightless bird feels for her new sentient plant. I’ve skipped over 1996 by Chantal Montellier constantly, for space issues rather than quality, but this issue’s one-pager featuring a pack of monosyllabic flak-jacketed hunters shooting woman in the streets whilst screaming things like “Hey! Idza FEMALE!” seems like it was a comment made by a current webcomics creator plunging particularly sharp and bent satirical acupuncture needles into the year 2015. Both weird and sad that it still stings with relevance.

But don’t switch off yet! The main event is here! Part Two of Moebius and Dan O’Bannon’s “The Long Tomorrow!” Featuring at least two virtually breathtaking pages by Moebius, “The Long Tomorrow” wraps up playfully, mocking noir tropes in such a successful way I’m struggling to recall why Part One left me a little cold from a story-perspective (I believe it felt to wacky for merely the sake of it). Dangling plot threads be damned! I’m all turned around on this one.

Ending with a Pioneer receiver ad that literally brags that it’s *heavier* than its competition, August 1977 proved to be another amazing month for Americanised Euro-comix.


COMICS VIDEO OF THE WEEK : DANGER: DIABOLIK!

Do you love ‘60s TV Batman? Then steel yourself for some next level stuff. Imagine the world of Batman ’66 where there is no Batman and Frank Gorshin is dashing, handsome, toned, sexually active and just flat out robbed folks without the riddles and you’ve scratched the surface of this nutty piece of cinema.

Armed with a swinging soundtrack by the ubiquitous Lalo Schifrin, this 1968 feature film adapted from the digest-sized fumetti, directed by Mario Bava (Bay of Blood, Black Sunday) and starring John Phillips Law as Diabolik and Marisa Mell as Eva Kant, this film rightfully stands as a cult classic from a time when everyone sexy was all hair and eyes and everything else was all curves, steel and glass. Come for the cars, the heists, the songs, the babes, the ridiculously crazy sets and the police incompetency and stay for how utterly terrifying Law looks as Diabolik in real life. Sumptuous, lush and oh so camp, with any luck you’ll have Diabolik-dreams, where everything is crystalline and sexy and life is but a romp on a ridiculous bed covered in millions of dollars you’ve successfully heisted.

Sigh.


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.