Tuesday, December 6, 2016

SUICIDE SQUAD BLU-RAY GIVEAWAY!


It feels good to be bad. Assemble a team of the world’s most dangerous, incarcerated Super Villains, provide them with the most powerful arsenal at the government’s disposal, and send them off on a mission to defeat an enigmatic, insuperable entity. U.S. intelligence officer Amanda Waller has determined only a secretly convened group of disparate, despicable individuals with next to nothing to lose will do. However, once they realize they weren’t picked to succeed but chosen for their patent culpability when they inevitably fail, will the Suicide Squad resolve to die trying, or decide it’s every man for himself?


With a huge thanks to the DVD & Blu-Ray release of SUICIDE SQUAD, available from December 7th, we have 3 copies of the Blu-ray to give away!

To go into the draw for your chance to win all you need to do is comment "Will you be part of my Squad," and tag the person you'd most like to be on a team of bad guys with and you'll be entered in the draw.

Terms and Conditions:

Only entries made on the Facebook Page will be included in the draw, then entries will go into the All Star Barrel and winners will be drawn at random.

Entries close 6pm Monday 12th of December and winners will be announced Tuesday the 13th. Winners will be notified by Facebook as to when their prizes will be available to be collected. 

Winners must produce photo ID upon pick up. 

Prizes MUST be picked up no later than a week after the draw. 

Any remaining prizes after this date will be given away at our discretion to make sure they don't go to waste.

A huge thanks again to the DVD & Blu-Ray release of SUICIDE SQUAD, available from December 7th.

Monday, December 5, 2016

ALL STAR RECOMMENDS FOR DECEMBER 6TH


December 10th and 11th sees the Women in Comics Festival hit the store, headlined by several hours of Hope Larson signing as well as a female creator's market, a Q&A with some top flight talent, and local fave Jess Parker teaching a kid's drawing class. 

I really can't write a better intro that that, can I? 

So it's an all female creator week here at the Recs and if you're wisely thinking about popping along, you might also want to check in and see if the crew can get you a copy of The Complete Wimmen's Comix, published at the top of the year by Fantagraphics. Collecting more than 20 years worth of the long out of print Underground Comix classic over two beautifully designed and slipcased hardcover volumes, The Complete Wimmen's Comix is a real publishing highlight from the year - arguably the most historically significant project of 2016 and, no, I have not forgotten it's the year that the rights to Moebius' work were finally untangled. 


Featuring work by Trina Robbins, Phoebe Gloeckner, Alison Bechdel, Melinda Gebbie, Carol Tyler, Mary Fleener, Lynda Barry, Lee Marrs, Aline Kominsky-Crumb and many, many more, the 17 issues (plus extras) of The Complete Wimmen's Comix collected within still feel fresh and subversive, dated only by certain colloquialisms but even they have their charm in the context of historical feminist documents. 
It's the most punk rock book of the year and the earliest material dates back to 1970. There's something a little strange about that and I hope that as we celebrate the female voices of our medium, we can look back as well as forward and keep pushing creatively into, as with Wimmen's Comix, sometimes challenging places. Judging by this week's webcomics, I'm pretty confident that many artful and angry women are sharpening pencils and preparing to let their comics speak. And loudly at that. 

(Artwork above by Carole, from "Breaking Out" found in The Complete Wimmen's Comix)



COMIC OF THE WEEK : WONDER WOMAN: THE TRUE AMAZON
By Jill Thompson
Published By DC Comics

What a tremendous year Wonder Woman has had. From Greg Rucka returning to her main title along with Nicola Scott and Liam Shape handling the art, to the trailer to her long-overdue debut solo film looking, easily, like the best DC Comics translation to the big screen so far. However, capping 2016 off as a highpoint in the character's history is Wonder Woman: The True Amazon by Jill Thompson, a seven-time Eisner award-winner, who writes and paints (*swoon*) an original graphic novel chronicling the early years of Princess Diana of Themyscira. 

We all may be suffering a bit of origin overkill thanks to the proliferation of comic book movies, retcons, reboots, parallel timelines and alternate worlds, and the idea of once again revisiting Diana's birth, as well as Amazonian history prior to it, may immediately cause some justifiably burned out readers to stifle a yawn. But the draw here is Jill Thompson who, through her watercolours alone, brings a completely fresh aesthetic to the character and packs the storytelling skill to make even the most bored origin reader forgive the project's tired premise and willingly tumble into her beautiful pages.

Thompson holds to the version of Wonder Woman's origin that has her created from clay by her mother Hippolyta. The pages detailing Diana's creation are some of the book's loveliest as Hippolyta's lullaby to the unmoving sand sculpture of her ideal child reaches the heavens of Mount Olympus and stirs the emotions of the assembled gods to such an extent that tears filled with divine power rain down and bring the sculpture to life. From Poseidon depicted as almost a gargantuan and luminous fighting fish, to ocean waves frozen in time as they crest similarly to those of a classic Japanese print, to tears of gold, copper and silver cascading down, this is the Wonder Woman birth scene to immortalise -- it's as epic and richly symbolic as Martha Wayne’s free-falling pearls.

From here, we look on as Diana grows quickly and disappointingly into Wonder Brat, coddled and spoiled by her status as the island's princess and all that comes with it - wealth, finery, servants who enable rather than correct. It reads rather wonderfully like an expanded take on one of those children's books about learning to share or ceasing to say "no" all the time and, as in those books, Diana's brattishness is tempered by Thompson visually imbuing the character with such expressive life that she's difficult to truly dislike even as she torments her tutors and humiliates her servants. 

From here, Diana grows into an arrogant but adventurous teen, still unaware of her hubris and determined to conquer Themyscira's plentiful mysteries. More mythic energy can be found in this section as Diana completes an almost Amazonian version of the Herculean Labours, slaying monsters, reclaiming treasures and all the while remaining thoroughly cocky and oblivious to the impending tragedy that's about to unfold even as she falls for the one person who refuses to fawn over her - Alethea, the Queen's stable girl.


This all might sound kind of like a female version of the original Marvel Thor Odinson who, let's not forget, was banished to Earth for his arrogance on Asgard and tied to form of a physically challenged mortal until he earned his karmic comeuppance. However, Thompson's ironic twist is cruel, dark and so shockingly unsentimental that it makes Spider-Man failing to stop the criminal who subsequently murders his Uncle Ben look like a My Little Pony story. Diana's actions are so unforgivable in fact that readers may even have a difficult time moving past them - I certainly did -- but this inevitable humbling is powerful in execution and fitting given how self-obsessed and blind to her actions this incarnation of the character is.

Visually Wonder Woman: The True Amazon is flawless. Thompson's character designs, from her Amazons to her gods to her monsters, are perfect and her painted artwork is warm and rich and never less than striking -- there are simply too many excellent visual moments to spotlight. The action sequences are fluid and thrilling and its quieter narrative moments are touching. My one problem is that, perhaps inevitably, it does feel very much like prologue (perhaps it is) and as such it lacks a truly compelling conclusion. This quibble aside, however, Wonder Woman: The True Amazon is a terrific book, possibly as perfect an introduction to the character as we will get. Readers dissatisfied with Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette's 2015 Wonder Woman: Earth One should take particular note as they would almost certainly, and enthusiastically, gravitate to Thompson's far more mythically and chronologically classic work. Side by side, however, both books showcase Wonder Woman's striking flexibility as a fictional character.

Finally, it's heartening to see DC showcase Thompson's work in such a premiere way and kudos to them for continuing to stick with the original hardcover graphic novel format (something Marvel appears to have all but abandoned, sadly). Hopefully their support endures for subsequent volumes of Jill Thompson's lushly, lovingly illustrated take on comics flagship female character, for as much as I gripe about this feeling like all prologue, I would certainly come back for Act One.


WEBCOMIC OF THE WEEK : RESIST!
By Various

Although submissions have closed for all you aspiring artistic revolutionaries, Resist! seeks to help mend hearts, minds and souls broken by the recent U.S election through the wonder of comics and I think we can all get behind that. I'm not going to pick a single comic from the "Daily Image" section of what will eventually be a tabloid-sized comics newspaper to be distributed on The Orange Goblin's Inauguration Day in January, but the creators are overwhelmingly identified as female and have quite a lot to say, sometimes with very minimal visual language. There's some great stuff here and I can't think of a better way to showcase the diversity of female talents currently hacking away at their comics-making stations. Have a scroll here:





COMICS VIDEO OF THE WEEK : CHANTAL MONTELLIER, LA PART D'ENFANCE

I say it all the time - we are spoiled. This is arguably the greatest period of English-language comics availability ever. From the manga we can read, to the rights to Moebius' work being untangled, to the arrival of Guido Crepax in gorgeously oversized hardcovers, to Hugo Pratt's canonical Corto Maltese stories being presented as they truly should be read, this really is a period embarrassing in its funnybook riches.

However. 


How. Ever.


2016 has almost ended. Announcements for 2017 are rolling out and there is still not a sniff of freshly translated Chantal Montellier comics on the publishing winds. The last time, to my knowledge, her classic work appeared in English was the 1980s in Heavy Metal (feel free to peruse old instalments of this column for my recaps of her work there). The last time we saw new work by her in English was her 2008 adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Trial. It's fast becoming one of the great mysteries of comics - why and how is the work of this woman, evergreen in its relevance and stylishness, continuing to be ignored by American publishers? It's baffling.

Here is Montellier still at work and speaking in French without subtitles, which is embarrassingly fitting given the untranslated status of the bulk of her work. For over 40 years she's been at it, blending pop art with dystopian SF with a searing social conscience. We should ask HER about her feminist agenda. I imagine we'd get quite the response.



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, December 4, 2016

New Comics For Wednesday 7th of December



Before we get to comics, this Saturday and Sunday the 10th and 11th of December, the All Star Women's Comic Book Club proudly presents the WOMEN IN COMICS FESTIVAL! Lining up to be one of the finest comic events this year, the festival is a chance to celebrate women involved in the comic book industry and it's all totally for FREE!
A brief on the two days looks something like this:
-A two day comic market
-Signing from Batgirl writer Hope Larson 
-Q and A from top female creators within the industry 
-Comic drawing class

All this and other activities will be taking place over the two days, we want to invite all to join in on this fantastic comic event!

Now comics!

Renae De Liz's gorgeous 9 part series chronicalling Diana's formative years on Themyscira is finally collected in LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN HC

The team behind DC's Batgirl of Burnside are back with a brand-new, super-charged sci-fi action series MOTOR CRUSH #1, through Image comics.

The story behind the best pilot in the galaxy, Poe Dameron is revealed in STAR WARS POE DAMERON TP VOL 01 BLACK SQUADRON, and although his popular run on Darth Vader may have finished, Kieron Gillen is back with STAR WARS DOCTOR APHRA #1, as the fan-favourite character starts a new journey in the Outer Rim!

A big week for Mark Waid fans with the release of FLASH BY MARK WAID TP BOOK 01, collecting the beginning of his legendary, decade-long run on Wally West, and all-new drama with the Riverdale gang in ARCHIE TP VOL 02. Talking Archie, you love him, you hate him, see what Riverdale's most obnoxious personality in REGGIE AND ME #1 (OF 5) is getting up to in this new series! 

The return of a much loved character headlines the most recent series for Marvel's Space Cop, NOVA #1 NOW.

The classics never get old and for good reason. Take a look behind the pages and creative processes of three icons of the industry in DITKO UNLEASHED HCJACK KIRBY PENCILS & INKS HC and LIFE & LEGEND WALLACE WOOD HC.

Grab a copy of STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION ADULT COLORING BOOK and STAR TREK ORIGINAL SERIES ADULT COLORING BOOK and boldly colour where no person has coloured before...as long as you stay within the lines!

Marian Churchland's beautifully coloured artwork and Bradon Graham's masterful storytelling are back continuing their fantastical tale from 8HOUSE:ARCHLIGHT in new ongoing series ARCLIGHT #3.

Nick Spencer's controversial Cap series kicks off in CAPTAIN AMERICA STEVE ROGERS TP VOL 01 HAIL HYDRA. See how Steve and those around him deal with a massive revelation from his past!

After watching the film, catch up with Marvel's Doctor of the Dark Arts in the latest Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo, DOCTOR STRANGE TP VOL 01 WAY OF WEIRD 

We are all pretty big fans of this line of figures, and they've done it again with BATMAN ANIMATED SERIES NBA CLAYFACE DLX AF. Several shaped arms and one angry face come extra in another awesome sculpt!

Reminiscent of the days of the "Mix-Tape", BOOM has again put out a collection of shorts focusing around music in BOOM BOX 2016 MIX TAPE #1. Think stories that embodies "Tunes That Make You Think in Pictures".

Two 70's TV icons come together in this action-packed mini series WONDER WOMAN 77 BIONIC WOMAN #1 (OF 6).

A must have for Tim Burton fans, the BIRTH MOVIES DEATH MAGAZINE TIM BURTON ED looks like a great insight to this director's body of work.

Continuing to jump through parallel worlds, trying to reunite his family, see just hard bad lead Grant McKay can mess things up this time in the latest BLACK SCIENCE TP VOL 05 TRUE ATONEMENT 

More fun, hate filled adventures with Gertrude as she figures out how to run a country she despises! All hail Queen Gertrude in I HATE FAIRYLAND TP VOL 02 FLUFF MY LIFE.

New LUMBERJANES TP VOL 05!  See how Jennifer and Maise deal with the fact that they've been drafted into two different roller derby teams. What kind of strain will it put on their friendship?

What would happen if all books began to rebel, and only one single librarian could fix it? Image has always been one to push the boundaries, this weeks sees the release of W. Maxwell Prince's experimental graphic novella ONE WEEK IN THE LIBRARY GN.

An amazing week of release just before an amazing weekend of comic events! See something you are after just let us know before Wednesday morning we'll get it sorted.


MARVEL
A YEAR OF MARVELS UNCANNY #1
ALL NEW WOLVERINE #15
AVENGERS #2
CHAMPIONS #3
CLONE CONSPIRACY #3 (OF 5)
DEADPOOL #23
MOON KNIGHT #9
NOVA #1 NOW
SCARLET WITCH #13
SLAPSTICK #1 NOW
SPIDER-MAN 2099 #18
STAR WARS DOCTOR APHRA #1
UNWORTHY THOR #2 (OF 5)

DC COMICS
AQUAMAN #12 VAR ED
BATMAN #12 VAR ED
CYBORG #6 VAR ED
DEADMAN DARK MANSION OF FORBIDDEN LOVE #2 (OF 3)
DEATH OF HAWKMAN #3 (OF 6)
FLINTSTONES #6 VAR ED
GREEN ARROW #12 VAR ED
GREEN LANTERNS #12 VAR ED
HARLEY QUINN #9 VAR ED
JUSTICE LEAGUE #10 VAR ED
MIDNIGHTER AND APOLLO #3 (OF 6)
NIGHTWING #10 VAR ED
SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL #3 VAR ED
SUPERMAN #12 VAR ED

VERTIGO
EVERAFTER FROM THE PAGES OF FABLES #4
UNFOLLOW #14

BOOM
BIG TROUBLE LITTLE CHINA ESCAPE NEW YORK #3
BOOM BOX 2016 MIX TAPE #1
GIANT DAYS #21
GOLDIE VANCE #8
JIM HENSON STORYTELLER GIANTS #1
WOODS #28

DARK HORSE
ALIENS DEFIANCE #7
BOUNTY #5 (OF 10)
PREDATOR VS JUDGE DREDD VS ALIENS #3
RISE OF THE BLACK FLAME #4 (OF 5)
WORLD OF TANKS #3

DYNAMITE
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA GODS & MONSTERS #2
FLASH GORDON KINGS CROSS #2 (OF 5)
WONDER WOMAN 77 BIONIC WOMAN #1 (OF 6)

IDW
ADV OF AUGUSTA WIND LAST STORY #5
ANGRY BIRDS COMICS (2016) #12
ATOMIC ROBO AND THE TEMPLE OF OD #5 (OF 5)
DIRK GENTLY SALMON OF DOUBT #3
DUCK AVENGER #2
ELECTRIC SUBLIME #3 (OF 4)
MICKEY MOUSE #15
OCTOBER FACTION DEADLY SEASON #3
TRANSFORMERS MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE REVOLUTION #1
X-FILES ORIGINS #4 (OF 4)
YAKUZA DEMON KILLERS #2 (OF 6)

IMAGE
ARCLIGHT #3
BLACK SCIENCE #26
CANNIBAL #3
ECLIPSE #4
GLITTERBOMB #4
INVISIBLE REPUBLIC #13
ISLAND #13
MOTOR CRUSH #1
NAILBITER #27
REVIVAL #45
RINGSIDE #8
SAVAGE DRAGON #218
VIOLENT LOVE #2
WALKING DEAD #161
WICKED & DIVINE #24

ONI
MIGHTY ZODIAC #6 (OF 6)
SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME #7 (OF 8)

VALIANT
A&A #10
FAITH (ONGOING) #6
NINJAK #22

MISC
CHIMERA BRIGADE #3 (OF 4)
HARD CASE CRIME TRIGGERMAN #3 (OF 5)
JOSIE & THE PUSSYCATS #3
MIRACULOUS #7
PROVIDENCE #11 (OF 12)
REGGIE AND ME #1 (OF 5)
SPOOKHOUSE #2
UBER INVASION #1

TRADES
ABSOLUTE INFINITE CRISIS HC
ARCHIE TP VOL 02
AWAKE TP VOL 02 ESCAPE FROM GREMON
BALTIMORE HC VOL 07 EMPTY GRAVES
BATMAN 66 TP VOL 05
BEAUTY TP VOL 02
BIRTH MOVIES DEATH MAGAZINE TIM BURTON ED
BLACK SCIENCE TP VOL 05 TRUE ATONEMENT
BLUE MONDAY TP VOL 02 ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS
BOBS BURGERS ONGOING TP VOL 04 CHARBROILED
BY THE NUMBERS GN
CAPTAIN AMERICA STEVE ROGERS TP VOL 01 HAIL HYDRA
COLDEST WINTER HC
CONAN OMNIBUS TP VOL 01 BIRTH OF LEGEND
DEADPOOL BY POSEHN AND DUGGAN OMNIBUS HC
DEJAH THORIS SOLDIER OF MEMORY TP
DITKO UNLEASHED HC
DOCTOR STRANGE TP VOL 01 WAY OF WEIRD
FIRESTORM THE NUCLEAR MAN UNITED WE FALL TP
FLASH BY MARK WAID TP BOOK 01
GUARDIANS OF GALAXY BY BENDIS OMNIBUS HC VOL 01
HEARTTHROB TP VOL 01 NEVER GOING BACK AGAIN
JACK KIRBY PENCILS & INKS HC
I HATE FAIRYLAND TP VOL 02 FLUFF MY LIFE
INJUSTICE GODS AMONG US YEAR FIVE HC VOL 01
INJUSTICE GODS AMONG US YEAR FOUR TP VOL 02
JUSTICE LEAGUE TP VOL 08 DARKSEID WAR PART 2
LADY MECHANIKA STEAMPUNK COLORING BOOK
LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN HC
LIFE & LEGEND WALLACE WOOD HC
LUMBERJANES TP VOL 05
ODYC HC VOL 01 CYCLE ONE
ONE WEEK IN THE LIBRARY GN
OUR MOTHER GN
POKEMON COOKBOOK HC
SPREAD TP VOL 03 NO SAFE PLACE
STAR TREK NEW VISIONS TP VOL 04
STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION ADULT COLORING BOOK
STAR TREK ORIGINAL SERIES ADULT COLORING BOOK
STAR WARS EPISODE IV TP NEW HOPE
STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS ADAPTATION HC
STAR WARS KANAN OMNIBUS HC
STAR WARS POE DAMERON TP VOL 01 BLACK SQUADRON
TYSON HESSE DIESEL IGNITION ORIGINAL GN
UNCANNY X-MEN HC VOL 02
WEAPONS OF THE METABARON HC
X-MEN EPIC COLLECTION LONELY ARE HUNTED TP

MERCH
BATMAN ANIMATED SERIES NBA CLAYFACE DLX AF
BATMAN ARKHAM KNIGHT BATGIRL ORACLE AF 2 PACK
HARLEY QUINN RED WHITE & BLACK STATUE
MARVEL ANIMATED STYLE DEADPOOL STATUE

BACK IN STOCK

DOOM PATROL #1 2ND PTG

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

CINEMANIACS 2017 YEARLY DOUBLE PASS GIVEAWAY!




Thanks to those wonderful cinema loving folks from Cinemaniacs and their newly announced screening line up for 2017, we are giving you the chance to win a Yearly Double Pass for you and a friend to attend every single one of these cult hit films! Just look below for the Cinemaniacs 2017 Line Up.


To go into the draw for your chance to win all you need to do is comment "I'm a Cinemaniac just like you, " and tag the person you'd most like to take along with you for a year filled with classic cult hits. .

Terms and Conditions:

Only entries made on the Facebook Page will be included in the draw, then entries will go into the All Star Barrel and winners will be drawn at random.

Entries close 6pm Monday 5th of December and winners will be announced Tuesday the 6th.
The winner will be notified by Facebook as to how to collect their prize. 

Winners must produce photo ID upon pick up. 

Prizes MUST be picked up no later than a week after the draw. 

Any remaining prize after this date will be given away at our discretion to make sure they don't go to waste.

A huge thanks again to Cinemaniacs and their newly announced screening line up for 2017.

Find the Cinemaniacs at :
https://www.facebook.com/cinemaniacsmelb/?fref=ts
or 
http://www.cinemaniacs.net/

ALL STAR RECOMMENDS FOR NOVEMBER 29TH

 

Hi there,
I have a bed-ridden wife demanding lemony drinks, so let's skip the preamble. Political thrills await.



COMIC OF THE WEEK : CENTURY'S END
 By Enki Bilal & Pierre Christin
 Translated by Edward Gauvin
 Published By Titan

Thank you Titan Comics, thank you, thank you, thank you. Not only does the astounding imagination of Philippe Druillet have a home with the English publisher but so does that of another artistic titan of the BD scene - Enki Bilal. This year alone has seen the release of Bilal's iconic solo work, The Nikopol Trilogy, and mere weeks ago two classic tales by Bilal and writer Pierre Christin were bundled together and released as Century's End. Before we go any further, praise must be heaped on the publisher and editor Lizzie Kaye for not just bringing these projects back into English, but also for just how they have been presented. Both The Nikopol Trilogy and Century's End (and Druillet's Lone Sloane books) have been given what Titan is dubbing the Masterpiece format. Essentially the original French album size, these are generously proportioned books with heavy, thick hardcovers, showcasing the artwork as it was truly meant to be seen. Big thumbs up.


Century's End compiles both The Black Order Brigade and The Hunting Party, two dense political thrillers that highlight the dangers of utopian beliefs and severe ideological leanings whilst remaining exceedingly handsome artistic projects in the process. Bilal is naturally the draw for readers, but Christin also proves a formidable talent, providing scripts that are tense, expansive and clever enough not to hammer the reader over the head with the morals of his stories. The Black Order Brigade and The Hunting Party are also incredibly different reading experiences structurally. The sprawling, non-stop, continual motion of The Black Order Brigade (which feels a lot like Spielberg's excellent Munich but with a bunch of geezers in the lead) and the contained nature of The Hunting Party, which arguably could be staged as a play if a director were clever enough and only expands beyond the bounds of its main locale of a mansion and surrounding woodland in an opening expositional sequence set on a train and some frequent, wonderfully phantasmagorical flashback sequences.

In genre terms, The Black Order Brigade is something of a "geezer noir," a subgenre of crime fiction that places elderly protagonists in the lead role, carrying out the action to its inevitably grim and violent end. In Spain, an entire village is wiped out by a group of old, right wing terrorists who last saw action during the Spanish Civil War committing atrocities in Franco's name. In London, a balding, pipe smoking reporter names Prichard gets word of the massacre and finds some familiar names amongst those said to be responsible. Prichard, it turns out, was part of a rag tag group of left wing soldiers in the International Brigade who "fought for weeks and weeks against every last bastard" who has resurfaced. Frustrated at having his hands tied journalistically, Prichard reaches for the phone and begins dialling old comrades from across the globe, making an impassioned plea to pick up their firearms once more and, forty years after they last battled, take out The Black Order Brigade once and for all.

From the moment the group assembles, the story does not stop until the final pages, ripping through Europe as fast as these old codgers can manage. The initial romanticism begins to dwindle as the plot progresses, with the script cleverly highlighting the group's physical limitations in numerous sequences as well as seeding in doubt as to the righteousness of their actions and what, if any, meaning can be found in the death and destruction left in the wake of this essentially secret war.


I'm struggling to be even remotely objective about The Black Order Brigade. It simply ticks to many of my own personal favourite story elements - geezer noir, moral ambiguity, espionage, failure, paranoia, unexpected and quiet death, loud and violent death, car chases with tiny European cars -- it's all here and it all climaxes in a nihilistic and epic gun battle that would make Sam Peckinpah proud. There's even a few droll laughs packed in for good measure. Underneath all this pulpy gloss, however, is a real message about the dangers of fervent ideology (on both sides) and a real stab at heroes and martyrs which, as Cristin notes in an interview included at the rear of the book, "seem linked in a way that is as distressing as it is inexplicable." It's an incredible comic.

The Hunting Party slows things down, trading the romp across Europe for a contained tale of quietly building suspense. A group of Communist leaders meet at a remote mansion to do some hunting in the surrounding forest. It's the dead of winter and Bilal's cold, snowy landscapes match the icy expressions on his aging, stone-faced characters. Much of The Hunting Party is set up, introducing our hunters one by one and through flashback and nightmarishly strange imagery (allowing Bilal an escape from the rigidity of the story's structure and the similarity of the environment) we see the group in their youth, mingling with Lenin and fighting in the numerous conflicts that spanned the century. Cristin is quick to remind readers that he's once again not interested in black and white, listing the heroic accomplishments of the most prominent amongst the assembled, Vassili Alexandrovich Tchvtchenko, right before all the death and displacement he was responsible for a military figure.



There's no real clue as to what's happening for much of the story, even as tension slowly builds, there is a conflict coming, the reader can feel it during the hints dropped by characters and the bloody deaths of all sorts of animals they stumble upon in the woods. A bloody political manoeuvre is in the planning and it's clear that someone is on their last hunting trip. The final, unexpected punch provided by the creators is superb and the artistic discipline Bilal shows in bringing Cristin's dense tale of intrigue to life is admirable, tracking decades worth of war on his pages, alongside winter-dead trees and the stately but emotionally cold exterior of the mansion.

Hopefully, Titan isn’t done yet and we get more Bilal and Cristin in the coming year. Their Legends of Today trilogy, which precedes work found in Century's End, awaits Titan's Masterpiece format and hopefully there's enough interest to bring it into English. The Black Order Brigade and The Hunting Party are smart, sophisticated and beautifully created comics by a pair of creators who worked intensely, each challenged by the prodigious talents of the other to push for better and better work. Century's End is yet another reprint highlight in a year stuffed full of them and a reminder that there's quite possibly never been a better time to be reading comics. We are utterly spoiled for top shelf material.


  
WEBCOMIC OF THE WEEK : UNTITLED PAINTING BY ENKI BILAL

There's something about this painting by Enki Bilal, coming to us once again via The Bristol Board, that perfectly encapsulates his pessimistic, grimy, post-industrial looking futures. Maybe it's the ordinariness of a soccer match, the crows circling overhead and the grey concrete of the backdrop that brings to mind the colour-stripped years of West Berlin juxtaposed with the garishly dressed players in their nationalistic uniforms, the main figure heading the ball into the net for England. Whatever it is, it's terrific and, seeing as I could not find a Bilal comic online, a fitting inclusion for this here space.






COMICS VIDEO OF THE WEEK : ENKI BILAL: THE DORMANT BEAST

Playing out almost like an avant-garde film is this brief look at the masterful Enki Bilal using practically anything he can his hands on to smear his visions onto the page. Schizophrenic and jarring editing lend this little film an air of unreality, perfect really for watching this craftsman at work amidst his piles of paints, brushes, pens and pastels. Pretentious? Sure, but essential viewing particularly for artists.




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.