Troy Trailblazer and the Horde Queen


By Robert Deas (David Fickling Books)
ISBN: 978-1-910200-46-9

In January 2012 Oxford-based family publisher David Fickling Books launched a traditional anthology comics weekly aimed at girls and boys between 6 and 12 which revelled in reviving the good old days of British picture-story entertainment intent whilst embracing the full force of modernity in style and content.

Each issue offers humour, adventure, quizzes, puzzles and educational material in a joyous parade of cartoon fun and fantasy. In the years since its premiere, The Phoenix has gone from strength to strength, winning praise from the Great and the Good, child literacy experts and the only people who really count – the totally engaged kids and parents who read it…

The magazine inevitably led to a line of superbly engaging graphic novel compilations, the latest of which is a rollicking space opera romp that will delight readers with a profound sense of fun and unchecked imaginations.

From that fabulous first year and created by Robert Deas (November, Manga Shakespeare: Macbeth, Pride & Prejudice, Medikidz) comes impetuous stellar sentinel Troy Trailblazer – who originally appeared in The Phoenix #10, 18 and 27-32 – in a riotous complete adventure which mixes light-hearted sidereal shenanigans with just a touch of dark and dreadful doom…

Thanks to the double-page pin-up ‘Meet Team Troy’ you’ll quickly become familiar with the valiant lad, his advanced tactical droid Blip, animalistic alien associate Barrus and super-cool former bounty hunter Jess Jetrider.

Moreover the schematics for ‘The Pathfinder’ will provide all you need to know about the freelance heroes’ astounding starship, so there’s no need to pause before racing into ‘Chapter 1: Mistakes of the Past’ which finds the questing quartet bombastically retrieving the Infinity Jewel with a maximum of collateral damage from the Royal Palace on planet Thagus

Congratulating themselves on a job well done the astral adventurers celebrate by setting course for the sunny beaches on Solus, but before too long battle-hardened Jessica is roused from hyper-sleep by a disturbing dream and acknowledges a distress call from ice-world Siberas

On awakening, the baffled lads are far from happy to be wading across glaciers in beachwear and when the arctic conditions wreck the Pathfinder’s engines they lose all sense of proportion. It’s quickly regained, however, when a gigantic snow-beast starts chasing them and hurt feelings turn to pure terror when a clutch of horrific bug-like parasites easily bring the shaggy carnivore down…

Pushing on rapidly through the snows the cosmic champions soon find the mining colony which issued the distress call, only to discover the workers possessed by more of the creepy bugs. Most disturbing is the fact that Jess is seemingly hearing voices and acting weirdly distracted…

Things come to a grisly head when they recover a holo-message from security chief Alan Ripley which describes how deep excavations disinterred a monstrous hive-creature from an entombed starship. His warning is cut off mid-sentence and almost instantly our heroes are running for their lives from the bug-wearing, mind-locked miners who tirelessly hunt their would-be rescuers…

Somewhere amidst all the chaos Jess gets separated from her companions and, apparently answering a mental siren call, wanders off into the deepest part of the pit…

There’s a brief tension-break for ‘Blip’s Autopsy Report’ – wherein the robotic science wizard dissects and provides dissertation on the diabolical parasites – before the shocking suspense resumes with the Pathfinder crew following Jess but ultimately failing to stop her being taken over by the Horde Queen and becoming the malevolent monster’s perfect weapon of complete conquest…

After a frantic panic and race to escape the story resumes fifteen years later in ‘Chapter 2: The Fate of the Future’

Over that dark period the Horde Queen’s spawn have erupted into space and devastated planet after planet. On Troy’s homeworld of Nova 2, the older, wiser and battle-weary Trailblazer is now leader of the hard-pressed Horde Resistance, fighting a losing battle against the ghastly melding of his best friend and the parasite-mother.

The determined freedom-fighters have lost every battle but thanks to brilliant Blip have devised a last chance solution which might win the war. Unfortunately, just as they activate the cobbled-together time-machine and head back to Siberas to stop Jess ever falling under the Queen’s spell, the triumphant horror bursts in and follows Troy and Barrus back to the beginning…

What happens next is both astoundingly heroic and bitterly tragic and reveals what happy endings actually cost.

Fast-paced, fun and not afraid to be really scary when it counts, this is a superb interstellar saga, excitingly told in a broadly manga manner which will delight space freaks and thrill seekers of all ages.

Text and illustrations © Robert Deas 2015. All rights reserved.

Troy Trailblazer and the Horde Queen will be released on June 4th 2015 and is available for pre-order now.

Batman Adventures volume 1


By Kelly Puckett, Marty Pasko, Ty Templeton, Brad Rader, Mike Parobeck & Rick Burchett (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-5229-8

Batman: The Animated Series aired in America from September 5th 1992 until September 15th 1995. The TV cartoon show – ostensibly for kids – was devised and designed by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm and quickly revolutionised the image of the Dark Knight, subsequently resulting in some of the absolute best comicbook tales in the Dark Knight’s decades-long publishing history as the series spawned a comicbook spinoff.

By employing a timeless visual tone (dubbed “Dark Deco”) the TV episodes mixed iconic elements from all iterations of the character and, without diluting the power and mood of the premise, perfectly honed the grim avenger and his team into a wholly accessible, thematically memorable form that the youngest of readers could enjoy, whilst adding shades of exuberance and style that only most devout and obsessive Batmaniac could possibly find fault with.

Naturally the comicbook version became a cast-iron certainty for collection in the newly-emergent trade paperback market which stormed into and out of shops in the mid-1990s. Now those titanic all-ages tales have been rediscovered and gathered here are the first ten titanic tales epics The Batman Adventures comicbook (first seen from October 1992 to July 1993) in a smashing, straightforward sampler of Fights ‘n’ Tights fantasy.

The moody magnificence action begins with ‘Penguin’s Big Score’ by Kelly Puckett, Ty Templeton & Rick Burchett. Each story was divided into three chapters and ‘Charm School Dropout!’ found the Bird of Ill Omen taking tips on how to rehabilitate his nefarious reputation from The Joker, whilst in ‘Top of the World, Ma!’ the Foul Fowl’s new standing as a philanthropist had all Gotham agog.

The sinister scheme was finally exposed by Batman in the climactic third act ‘Power of the Press’, but the hero had no idea that the real winner was the Clown Prince of Crime…

In issue #2, ‘Catwoman’s Killer Caper’ (Puckett, Templeton & Burchett) kicked off with a gem heist before, on Joker’s insistent urging, sultry Selina Kyle visited England’s Tower of London to swipe ‘The Family Jewels!’

In hot pursuit, the Gotham Gangbuster headed across The Pond to quell ‘Panic over Londontown’ and solved the mystery of a seemingly impossible theft in ‘Midnight Madness’ – but not before the Harlequin of Hate snatched the real prize…

All that crafty conniving culminated in ‘Joker’s Late-Night Lunacy!’ from #3 by Puckett, Templeton & Burchett, with Gotham’s airwaves hijacked and Commissioner Gordon kidnapped by the larcenous loon who made himself literally unmissable viewing in ‘A Star is Born!’

‘I Want My JTV!’ saw District Attorney Harvey Dent make it onto the Joker’s inhospitable guest list, but Batman was again one step ahead of the game and lowered the boom in the explosive ‘Flash in the Pan!’

Writer Marty Pasko and penciller Brad Rader joined inker Burchett for a gripping two-issue tale of terror guest starring Robin as ‘Riot Act’ describes ‘Panic in the Streets’ after a strange plague caused citizens to lose the ability to read.

Even with utter chaos gripping the city the Teen Wonder’s ‘Help on the Wing’ results in a huge step forward but when ‘Robin Takes a Fall’ the mastermind reveals himself and the drama intensifies in #4 with ‘Riot Act: Johnny Can’t Read!’ as the Scarecrow steps up his campaign to teach all the slackers of the modern world a harsh lesson….

However, the Dynamic Duo are well aware of the ‘Hi-Fi Hijinx’ at the root of the problem and, with the help of a repentant henchman, end the crisis in ‘Those Who Can’t Do!’

Next comes a crafty change of pace as Bruce Wayne is arrested for murder in ‘The Third Door!’ Crafted by Puckett, Rader & Burchett, the cunning locked-room mystery opens with ‘The Party’s Over’ as the prime suspect details the facts of the case to young Dick Grayson, before being locked up with a mob of dangerous thugs in ‘Crime and Punishment’, leaving the wonder kid to ferret out the real killer in tense conclusion ‘War and Peace’

After a mere half-dozen superb stories the comicbook adventures took a step towards utter perfection when then-rising star Mike Parobeck assumed the pencilling duties.

Although his professional comics career was tragically short (1989 to 1996 when he died, aged 31, of complications from Type 1 Diabetes) Parobeck’s gracefully fluid, exuberant and magically kinetic fun-fuelled animation-inspired style revolutionised superhero action drawing and sparked a resurgence of kid-friendly comics and merchandise at DC and everywhere else in the comics publishing business.

His timeless tenure began with ‘Raging Lizard!’ which sees shady pro wrestler Killer Croc face a long dark night of the soul in ‘Requiem for a Mutant!’ when he’s scheduled to fight Masked Marauder – a grappler who had humiliated and broken him in their last match…

Batman meanwhile is searching for Chicago mobster Mandrake who’s planning on taking over Gotham by ousting reigning crime czar Rupert Thorne in ‘Eye of the Reptile!’ Naturally all those trajectories converge in the third act for a major throw-down ‘Under the Waterfront!’

From issue #8 ‘Larceny, My Sweet’ begins with the hunt for an unstoppable thief who can ‘Break the Bank!’ with his bare hands, whilst TV reporter Summer Gleeson divides her time between chasing scoops and being romanced by a dashing stranger in ‘Love’s Lost Labours’. Sadly when the Gotham Gangbuster crushes the crime-wave he also exposes monstrous old muck menace Clayface and ends the affair of ‘Beauty and the Beast!’

In #9 ‘The Little Red Book’ everyone is chasing holds all Thorne’s dirty secrets and Commissioner Gordon is presiding over a ‘Gangster Boogie!’ With the cops and entire underworld looking to win out over ‘The Big Boss’, it takes all Batman’s energy and wits to bring the diary to DA Dent for the beginning of ‘Rupert’s Reckoning!’

Wrapping up the all-ages action is‘The Last R?ddler Story’ which describes ‘Nygma’s Nadir!’ as the perpetually frustrated Prince of Puzzlers considers retirement. Dispirited and despondent because the Caped Crusader always solves his felonious games, the villain grudgingly accedes to his faithful hench-persons’ pleas to give it one more try in ‘Days of Wine and Riddles!’

How upset would Eddie Nygma be if he knew Batman isn’t even aware of him, absorbed as he is in apprehending infamous trio Mastermind, Mr. Nice and The Perfesser in ‘Triumph or Tragedy …?’

Breathtakingly written and iconically illustrated, these stripped-down rollercoaster-romps are quintessential Bat-magic, and this long-awaited compilation is a treasure every fan of any age and vintage will adore.

Pure, unadulterated delight!

© 1992, 1993, 2014 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Flawed Dogs – The Year-End Leftovers at the Piddleton “Last-Chance” Dog Pound


By Berkeley Breathed (Little, Brown & Co.)
ISBN: 978-0-316-71359-7

After an all-too-brief and glittering career as a syndicated strip cartoonist and socio-political commentator (so often the very same hallowed function) Berkeley Breathed retired his deadline-crushing Bloom County and Outland strips to become a writer and illustrator of children’s books.

He lost none of his perception, wit or imagination, and actually got better as a sequential artist. He never completely abandoned his entrancing cast of characters and always maintained the gently excoriating, crusading passion and inherent bittersweet invective which underscored those earlier narratives.

An adventurous – if accident-prone – man with a big heart and love of animals, in 2003 Breathed crafted a stunningly moving, achingly heartbreaking and darkly hilarious painted hardback picture-book which presented itself as a brochure of no-hope pooches (and their former owners) being offered one final chance to escape the needle at a Podunk animal shelter deep in the wilds of Vermont…

The Piddleton “Last-Chance” Dog Pound is the place other institutions send all the dogs who have failed to find homes anywhere else, but even it has space limitations. The tireless organiser of the annual push to re-home all these one-of-a-kind, misunderstood mutts is Miss Heidy Strüdleberg; a former President of the American Kennel Club and prominent dog show judge who had a close encounter with a three-legged Dachshund that changed her life forever.

Rejecting that unforgiving and artificially idealised society, she resolved to strike a blow against a world that shuns the flawed and only has time for perfection. And here you can see in all their homely glory a host of uniquely lovable last-chancers like Bipsie, Noodles, Titus and Sam the Lion, all accompanied by pictorial examples of how they achieved their current sorry states with pungently potent verses of doggerel describing their meagre blandishments…

The success of this book led to notional sequel/prequel Flawed Dogs: The Shocking Raid on Westminster and Heidy’s tale will be seen as a forthcoming major motion picture…

Less a story than a crushingly captivating cartoon catechism for canine deliverance, delivered in sharp and lyrical rhyme, this is a book to trigger consciences and promote (considered) dog adoption which will make a grown man howl and children sit up and beg. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll think hard before going online and adopting a pet that needs a home…
© 2003 Berkeley Breathed. All rights reserved.

Dungeon: Twilight – the Complete Set (Dragon Cemetery, Armageddon and The New Centurions)


By Joann Sfar & Lewis Trondheim, Kerascoet & Obion, translated by Joe Johnson (NBM)
ISBNs: 978-1-56163-460-6, 978-1-56163-477-4 & 978-1-56163-578-8

As cunningly crafted by prolific artisans Joann Sfar (Professeur Bell, Les olives noires, The Rabbi’s Cat) and Lewis Trondheim (La Mouche, Kaput and Zösky, Little Nothings) with assorted associates of their New Wave-ish collective of bande dessinée creators – most often seen under the aegis of independent publisher L’Association – the Donjon saga has generated more than thirty interlinked volumes since it launched in 1998 and has become a massive cult hit all over the world.

These slim, translated (and re-released-in-one-complete-3-book-package) tales form a mere sub-division of a vast, generational, eccentrically raucous and addictively wacky franchise which welds starkly adult whimsy to the weird worlds of fantasy fiction, and these Twilight tomes take the loony legion of horribly human anthropomorphic characters into territories even wilder than those seen in Dungeon Early Years, Parade, Zenith, Monstres and Twilight.

All wholly defined sub-series of a truly vast epic, these all offer time-separated glimpses of a fantastic magic castle on the magically unstable world of Terra Amata. Inhabitants of this weirdly surreal universe include every kind of talking beast and bug as well as monsters, demons, smart-alecs, wizards, politicians and stroppy women-folk. Whenever and wherever you look there’s always something happening and it’s usually quite odd…

The nominal star is a duck with a magic sword which enabled – and eventually compelled – him to channel and be possessed by dead heroes and monsters. By this declining period on a dying world former hero Herbert of Craftiwich has risen to the unassailable rank of Grand Khan – though he’s still not quite sure how – and the doddering but still puissant old guy is steeped in Total Evil…

Crafted entirely by Sfar & Trondheim, Volume 1: Dragon Cemetery is composed of two original French albums (Donjon Crepuscule: Le Cimetiere des Dragons and Le Volcan des Vaucanson) from 1999. At this time the globe has ceased to spin, with one half eternally seared by light whilst the obverse is frozen into chilled darkness. Life only thrives on the narrow band between the extremes but is as harsh and unforgiving as it ever was…

When a little talking bat is enticed to become the eyes of immortal blinded dragon and political exile The Dust King, the act prompts a cascade of events which will shake and shatter the dying world. The unchanging saurian is a mage of incredible power under perpetual house arrest on the orders of the Khan and, ravaged by ennui, has decided to die at last…

Although Dust King has decided to end it all he is still too mighty for simple suicide. He needs to journey to a special place and requires a little assistance…

He and the Khan were once great friends, but over intervening years the potentate has become increasingly wicked and isolated by a coterie of unctuous, ambitious hangers-on and would-be usurpers.

The dragon’s decision has been detected at the Black Fortress of Gehenna by one of those parasites and vile functionary Shiwomeez fiendishly facilitates the prisoner’s escape. The tedious journey is soon being scrupulously monitored by the malign major domo who despatches waves of military goons with orders to await an opportune moment to strike. The last unit also have instructions to eradicate the sundry soldiery. The plotter believes the old wizard is travelling to the legendary and mystically significant “Dragon’s Graveyard” and doesn’t want too many menials knowing its location…

The trek is more complex than the sneaky pursuers realise. The Dust King needs the assistance of elusive shaman Orlandoh to pass over and is keenly aware that he is being followed. When he catches a crazy red rabbit warrior named Marvin the Destroyer he acts with precipitate haste and almost ends a willing would-be ally…

The obnoxious newcomer – named for a mighty killer of ancient times – attaches himself to the expedition and is stunned to find he is travelling with an old warrior who once also went by the legendary name Marvin…

After finally finding Orlandoh, the Dust King’s necropolitan journey takes a strange diversion and before long the pilgrims are battling Shiwomeez’s murderous minions and a host of diminutive horrors known as Olfs in their colossal citadel of Poopooloo. At long last the trek ends and the original Marvin prepares to let everything go…

However, events take a bizarre turn after the schemer’s mystic meddling accidentally drags long-eared young Marvin and the bitty bat to the Black Fortress where the crimson crusader’s manic skill with a sword causes utter carnage…

Not only is the pitiful plotter unable to stop the intruder but Shiwomeez also disturbs the long-distant Grand Khan, calling him back to the mundane world… and the overlord seems to know everything…

Casually blasted back to the Dragon Cemetery, Marvin and the bat can only await further developments…

The Dust King’s demise isn’t going well and after awhile the blind antediluvian gives up attempting to expire. Deciding to find what has become of his odd acolytes, the testy titan stumbles across red rabbit Marvin dallying with some rather lascivious cat women.

The ancient mage has an announcement: seemingly emboldened by his brush with death he has decided to force a meeting with his old friend the Khan. All they have to do is retrace their wearisome path and fight their way through the legions of warriors determined to stop them…

The expedition results in a vast pile of exotic corpses but one fine day old Marvin and his former friend Herbert have their long-deferred conference. The Dust King pleads with the Grand Khan to renounce Evil and his ultimate power. Of course if he does Terra Amata will begin to rotate again and soon explode…

Naturally Herbert refuses and with no other option The Dust King tries to kill him. The cataclysmic clash ends inconclusively and Herbert, mentally displaced by one of the many monsters which periodically possess him, gives orders for the blind beast and his puny companions’ capture and execution…

Fleeing on giant war-bats into the nocturnal zone the trio soon arrive at the troubled military outpost of Craftiwich, built on a huge volcano. The site is an armoury operated by fanatical duck soldiers, ruled by the Grand Khan’s son Arch-duke Papsukal. It also houses Herbert’s ogre son Elyacin and his libidinous, troublesome daughter Duchess Zakutu. There’s no love lost between this father and these children…

Papsukal is developing firearms and explosive ordnance, and to make conservative warriors give up swordsmanship he’s ordered that all smiths are to be hunted down and destroyed…

Pretending to be an envoy from the Grand Khan, bunny Marvin tricks the military technicians into fitting him with the first fully functional suit of nitro-powered super armour…

His impersonation – and assignation with the sexually voracious but insecure Zakutu – come a cropper, however, when the Khan arrives at the head of an army and resumes his death duel with the Dust King…

 

Illustrated by Kerascoet, the saga resumes in Volume 2: Armageddon (containing the French albums Donjon Crepuscule: Armageddon and Les Dojo du Lagon from 2002 and 2005) with the fugitives hiding out in the village of the cat women. The Dust King had been terribly maimed in his struggle with the Khan but was still unable to die and had regained a terrible power which he anticipated would come in most useful when their pursuers finally caught up with them…

Packing the women off with Red Marvin as guardian, The Dust King stays to meet the deadly duck forces. The result is the end of the Khan’s army and ambitions but in the aftermath, as birdlike shaman Gilberto helps the dragon and his faithful little bat hunt down his missing limbs, the surface of Terra Amata detonates, fragmenting into thousands of tiny floating islands above a core of lava…

Jaunting from islet to islet the mystic duo eventually track down old Marvin’s missing parts before landing in the remnants of once-formidable Poopooloo. Here they encounter no Olfs but a far more deadly, invisible threat…

Pausing only to pillage a vast store of magic botanicals and thaumaturgic vegetable pharmaceuticals, the voyagers flee the hidden horrors but blunder into the free-floating Olf bastion of Boobooloo where they are condemned to death…

Whilst awaiting execution the emotionally repressed Dust King shares some of Gilberto’s plundered stash and in a traumatic daze relives the dogmatic days of dragon philosophy which lost him his family and the subsequent event which cost him his eyes…

When he comes to his senses again the Olf courtroom is a shredded, burning wreck and what few survivors remain are fleeing in terror. Gilberto too has swallowed too many drugs and is stricken with a debilitating parade of incredible new powers. One of them makes him a perfect predictor of every floating island’s path whilst another inflicts random, uncontrollable teleportation upon him…

Forced to escape by more prosaic means (at least by Terra Amata standards), old Marvin and his bat buddy find their way to Orlandoh and the drifting Hut of Spirits to await fate’s next move…

One day Red Marvin turns up and is promptly recruited as the Dust King and shamans of the Spirit Hut make plans to combat the remnants of the Grand Khan’s forces. Despatched on an infiltration to the rapidly approaching remnants of Craftiwich, the dry old lizard unexpectedly goes off the reservation and drags his bunny disciple to a passing islet inhabited by dragons. As the bunny makes eyes at a reptilian firebrand who subsequently swipes his super-armour, the elder Marvin is meeting a seductive sorceress who was once, so long ago, his wife…

The Dust King is desperate to amend the sacrilege which drove them apart and is astounded when he meets his grandchildren. The rabbit meanwhile has joined a school of dragons learning how to be true warriors. Sadly, he is having trouble being taken seriously by the colossal students, let alone their grizzled old tutors. It takes a few pointers from the crestfallen Dust King to make the mockers pay proper attention to his eager friend…

And once he’s got them listening, the saurian sage goes about dismantling the doctrinaire dragon religion which cost him his love, his children and his eyes before the heroes return to their shamanic mission in time to rescue Duchess Zakutu from a parched death.

However taking the faithless trollop back to the dragon isle proves a big – almost fatal – mistake for the besotted rabbit…

 

Volume 3: The New Centurions

The final volume starts with the world’s various exotic survivors eking out a perilous existence on isolated islands chaotically afloat hundreds of metres above a global sea of molten lava…

Again comprising two translated albums it all kicks off with ‘The New Centurions’ (formerly Donjon Crepuscule: Nouveaux Centurions from 2006 illustrated by the delightfully adroit Kerascoet). Herbert has lost much of his might and is being increasingly bullied by his advisors. Moreover his kids have also joined the ranks of those trying to remove him…

The Dragon students forge a tenuous association with the ducks of Craftiwich and are being fitted with flying armour as the vanguard of a new type of super-soldier ,but carmine lepine Marvin has started to chafe under the Machiavellian intrigues and back-biting which dominate life in the ruined court-in-exile of the Khan. Tasked with training assorted soldiery who still won’t take a rabbit-warrior seriously, yet keenly aware that the vultures are circling, boy Marvin knows that when the take-over attempt by Herbert’s double-dealing lieutenant Fayez begins, no one will be ready…

Inevitably that day comes and the usurpers are victorious, even though Herbert survives to regroup: however mammal Marvin and his mentor Marvin the dragon are fed up with the whole interminable push-and-shove of politics and promptly quit.

Sneaking away they go looking for some uncomplicated adventuring among the floating Islands in the Sky…

In ‘Revolutions’, with art by Obion, the nomadic duo become stranded on a giant chunk of land slowly rotating in a downward spiral. With their flying beast dead and Marvin’s armour lost to carnivorous grass the wanderers are forced to continually climb upwards just to stay in place. The alternative is a rapid and terminal plunge to the surging lava-lakes below…

Eventually they come across a group of bears and other unfortunate creatures endlessly hauling a gigantic villa and attendant gardens in a circle around the tiny world, keeping everything one step ahead of the rotational doom.

Why do the bedraggled and exhausted volunteers pull so determinedly? Is it for the eight hours of rest and sustenance in the paradisiacal arbours they are granted every third shift? Is it the favours of the willing women of tiny Lord Takmool’s family? Or is the diminutive aristocrat simply the slyest snake-oil salesman and most duplicitous capitalist conman in the universe?

The Dust King is not so easily fooled but even he eventually joins the eager Marvin on the team – it is, after all, the only game in town. However this Garden of Eden supplies its own temptations and serpents and the darkly satiric allegory looks set to come to a bloody end until unexpected catastrophe strikes the entire island and a whole new world comes into being in the spectacular aftermath…

Surreal, earthy, sharp, poignant, hilarious and brilliantly outlandish, these wittily sophisticated fantasy comedies are subtly addictive to read whilst the vibrant, wildly eccentric cartooning is an absolute marvel of exuberant, graphic style. Definitely not for the young reader, Dungeon Twilight is the kind of near-the-knuckle, illicit and just plain smart read that older kids and adults of all ages will adore, but for a fuller comprehension – and even more insane fun – I strongly recommend buying all the attendant incarnations too.
© 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2009 Delcourt Productions-Trondheim-Sfar-Kerascoet-Obion. English translation © 2006, 2010 NBM.

Lulu Anew


By Étienne Davodeau, translated by Joe Johnson (NBM/Comics Lit)
ISBN: 978-1-56163-972-4

In 2010 Bande Dessinée artist, writer and designer Étienne Davodeau completed a two-volume tale he’d started in 2008. Already popular, award-winning and extremely well-regarded for his reality-based and reportage style comics work, Lulu femme nue was something that was special even for him. Within a year the story had been made into a much lauded and celebrated film by Solveig Anspach.

Davodeau was born in 1965 and, whilst studying art at the University of Rennes, founded Psurde Studios with fellow comics creators Jean-Luc Simon and Marc “Joub” Le Grand. His first album – L’Homme qui aimait pas les arbres (The Man Who Did Not Like Trees) – was released in 1992.

He followed up with a string of thoughtful, passionate and beautifully rendered books such as The Initiates, Les Amis de Saltiel, Un monde si tranquille, Anticyclone, Les Mauvaises Gens: une histoire de militants.and Le Chien Qui Louches. Consequently he is now regarded as an integral part of the modern graphic auteur movement in French and Belgian comics.

NBM have translated and collected both volumes of the dreamily moody mystery into one stunning hardback edition and Lulu Anew is definitely going to be regarded as one of the very best graphic novels of the year – if not decade…

It all starts with a sort of wake as a number of friends gather to learn the answers to a small, personal but immensely upsetting event which has blighted their lives of late.

Xavier is the first to speak and relates what they all already know. Lulu, a frumpy 40-something with three kids and a very difficult husband, has been missing for weeks. She went off for yet another distressing job interview and never came back.

It wasn’t some ghastly crime or horrible abduction. Something simply happened when she was in the city and she called to say she wasn’t coming home for a while…

The sun goes down. The attendees calmly imbibe wine and eat snacks whilst a number of her friends and family share their independently gleaned snippets of the story of Lulu’s aberration: a moment of madness where she put everything aside – just for a little while – and what happened next…

Bizarre unsettling phone calls to the raucous family home precede a quiet revolution as Lulu, without any means of support, inexplicably goes walkabout along the magnificent French Coast, living hand-to-mouth and meeting the sorts of people she never had time to notice before. Through interactions with strangers she learns about herself and at last becomes a creature of decisions and choices rather than shapeless flotsam moved by the tides of events around her…

Related with seductive grace in captivating line-&-watercolours, the gently bewitching examination of Lulu’s life, her possible futures and the tragic consequences of the mad moment when she rejects them all unfolds with uncanny, compulsive visual magnetic force.

Told through and as seen by the people who think they know her, this isn’t some cosmic epic of grand events, it’s a small story writ large with every bump in the road an inescapable yet fascinating hazard. None of the so-very-human characters are one-sided or non-sympathetic – even alcoholic, often abusive husband Tanguy has his story and is given room to show it – and Lulu’s eventual hard-earned resolution is as natural and emotionally rewarding as the seemingly incomprehensible mid-life deviation which prompted it.

Slow, rapturous and addictively compelling, Lulu Anew is a paragon of subtlety and a glowing example of the forcefully deceptive potent power of comics storytelling.

Every so often a book jumps comics’ self-imposed ghetto walls of adolescent fantasies and rampaging melodrama to make a mark on the wider world, and this elegiac petit-epic will make that sort of splash. Why not dive in now before the rush starts?
© Futuropolis 2008, 2010. © NBM 2015 for the English translation.

Neroy Sphinx: Back in the Game


By Daniel Whiston, Johnny McMonagle, James Kircough, Dave Thomson & Bolt-01 (FutureQuake Press)
ISBN: 978-0-9931849-0-1

If you grew up British in the last half century and read home-produced adventure comics you were primarily consuming either war or science fiction tales – and preferably both.

2000AD launched in February 1977 and quickly reshaped the minds of a generation of readers. It has been doing so ever since, consequently affecting and inspiring hundreds of creators…

Very much in the mould of the anarchic, subversive and wickedly cynical weekly comes this superb collection of tales starring a devious and irredeemably self-serving chancer with the fate of humanity unhappily piled on his shifty, unwilling and mostly uncaring shoulders.

Neroy Sphinx first began intermittently appearing in Indie comics sensation FutureQuake – specifically between issues #4-20, from 2005 to 2012 – and his quixotic escapades have now been fully remastered and gathered in this bombastic black-&-white paperback book, supplemented with two new tales.

Any further background you might require is eagerly included in ‘Who is Neroy Sphinx? – Foreword by James Lovegrove’

Written throughout by Daniel Whiston, a peek into the legendary wrong-un’s murky history is first provided by ‘Blast from the Past: Prologue’, illustrated by Dave Thomson and set in the final days of EarthFed when sleazy politico and trade-whore Neroy saw most of his Ponzi-scheme style deals with alien races coming adrift all at once.

He didn’t care. He was using government resources to sift space for priceless Pre-Collapse artefacts and relics. A fortune could be made with the smallest shard of 10,000-year-old tech and he’s been stockpiling them for years…

However when über-psionic Clarence Griffin located a high-potential prospect, Sphinx, with assistants Anubis and Bast, discovered an asteroid-sized armaments cache of the Ancients and allies quickly became enemies. Sphinx was the only one to return, escorting a lethal and lovely autonomous weapons-system and concealing a deadly secret…

From FutureQuake #4, ‘One Last Job’ (art by Johnny McMonagle with grey-tones by Thomson) opens ten years later with Neroy now a scuzzy conman and partial amnesiac, fallen foul of elderly, astoundingly vicious mobster Mr. Dubblz. The wizened felon wants Sphinx to shepherd an art-heist but hasn’t reckoned on his cat’s-paw fooling not just the cops but also his employer…

Free and finally off-planet, ‘The Job From Hell’ (James Kircough/Thomson) finds the aging grifter on Proxima and slowly recovering memories. Unfortunately the first thing he remembers is that he removed certain recollections himself, in an effort to excise something too horrible to deal with.

In a certain place a decade ago he and Griff had accidentally unlocked a gate which had kept out voracious things from beyond human space for ten millennia. Griffin had done something to slow them down but with the door open they would certainly return one day soon… and now Sphinx again knows they’re coming…

An aimless wanderer, the mountebank resurfaces on a feudal backwater and becomes a pawn in a royal power-grab on ‘The De’Splurge Job’ (McMonagle/Thomson) before getting stuck as an indentured labourer on a privately-owned planet where his native cunning soon exploits the exploiters in ‘Fall to Rise’ (Kircough/Thomson)…

Glimmers of a long-term plan of counterattack can be discerned but things get decidedly hinky after Sphinx’s libidinous nature drags him into a transgender trap and another scammer’s scheme to steal a precious treasure in ‘What You See Ain’t What You Get’ (McMonagle/Thomson), after which more suppressed memories are revealed in ‘Ice Woman’ (Kircough/Thomson) as he is reunited with Fenris, the living weapon he once resurrected.

The meeting is brief and not amicable…

With human space gradually being infested by alien intruders ‘Cassiopian Queen’ (Kircough/Thomson) sees the Machiavellian miscreant captured by the sorry remnants of EarthFed security, only to turn the tables on both cops and the crazy space pirates challenging them for mastery of the void with exactly the kind of illicit tech everyone is chasing him for…

A valued old associate Neroy doesn’t remember fortuitously returns in ‘Enter the Griffin’ (Kircough/Thomson) when Sphinx is infected with a nano-virus to make him a much more motivated thief. Sadly for the gang boss with the antidote, the fabulous fraudster’s former friends haven’t forgotten him…

By now aware of the alien hell that’s coming, the getaway genius finds himself in a most unpleasant Institution beside humanity’s foremost expert on Galactic History, but as he now has a plan to deal with the incipient incursion all Neroy needs is a little more background information before ‘Breakin’ Outta the Bughouse’ (Dave Thomson)…

The final piece of the puzzle means heading back to poor, shattered Earth and a reunion with Griff and Fenris, but sadly ‘Old Familiar Places’ (Thomson) often house bad memories too and Mr. Dubblz has exceptional recall but no mercy…

Everything ends with a tantalising taste of things (hopefully) to come as last survivor Ensign Eudora Carver barely escapes her final skirmish with alien horrors thanks to an infuriating holo-message and bequest from the legendary Neroy Sphinx himself in the Thomson limned ‘Blast from the Past: Epilogue’

To Be Continued…

But Wait, There’s More…

Rounding off the extraterrestrial experience, ‘Extras’ offers a pulchritudinous pin-up of ‘Princess Alloria’ by McMonagle, a handy ‘Timeline of the EarthFed Universe’ and ‘Script Notes & Sketches’ by Daniel Whiston & McMonagle, plus Dave Thomson’s ‘FutureQuake #20 Cover’ of the diabolical Mr. Dubblz.

Ambitious, gloriously engaging and exceedingly well-executed; this is contemporary space-opera with a broad scope and a deft touch that will delight lovers of edgy but light-hearted fantastic fiction.
© 2014 Daniel Whiston. All rights reserved.

Neroy Sphinx – Back in the Game is a mere £5.00 (plus P&P) and the latest issue of FutureQuake and companion mag Zarjaz are also available at the shop on their website.

A Town Called Dragon


By Judd Winick & Geoff Shaw, with Jamie Grant (Legendary Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-93727-840-3

Legendary Comics (a print adjunct of Legendary Pictures – responsible for the latest Batman/Dark Knight movies as well as The Hangover, Man of Steel and 300) is an outfit that seems to specialise in graphic narratives tailored for big screen film franchises, and this latest trade paperback release feels like their best potential blockbuster offering yet…

Gathering a 5-issue miniseries (from September 2014 to January 2015) this no-nonsense thriller-romp is written by Judd Winick, illustrated by Geoff Shaw and coloured by Jamie Grant, and opens just before the end with a valiant band of outsiders facing the most terrifying creature in history…

Flashing back to Norway a thousand years ago a bit of backstory reveals that at that time an army of Norse heroes slew the last dragon in the world… but not before an egg was laid.

The vile wyrms were the greatest threat to mankind ever known, fast, deadly and voracious. Only after uncounted deaths over centuries did the Northmen finally devise a way to kill the monsters, and then only when they had matured. Newborn dragons hatch out fast, starving and utterly invulnerable…

The deadly seed also proved to be immune to all efforts at destruction, but the wise men had learned that intense cold kept them from hatching. Thus, wary King Olaf Truggvason, after exhausting every effort to destroy the ominous ovoid, bade intrepid explorer Leif Erickson to take the damned egg to the other side of the world and leave it there in the coldest place he could find…

Discovering a new continent after an epic voyage, Leif and his dedicated followers carried the lethal load halfway across the country, climbed a snow-capped mountain, sealed themselves in a cave and lay down to die…

In 2014 Dragon, Colorado is just another small town in the skiing belt trying to attract the tourist dollar, but not every citizen is on board with the Mayor’s schlocky schemes to capitalise on the name by turning every store and public building into a simulated saurian playground.

Failed football star and Olympic javelin hopeful Cooper Runyon is happy with his diner as is, big city outsider and very bad waitress Kelly is more interested in making sculptures and farmer Pete just wants to sell produce, not gussy-up his cows into some kind of tacky petting zoo…

Sheriff Castro’s kids Sam and Eric are having too much fun blowing up stuff to even get into drugs and other normal crap let alone dragons, solitary old man Garvey gives off a spooky CIA vibe and wants to be left alone and PhD. Malcolm just wants to study his ancient languages.

…And then there’s poor troubled, bi-polar Mickey who spends all his time scaling mountains like Devil’s Peak looking for a purpose to his life and perhaps a good way to die…

It’s whilst on one of those rash escapades that the climber discovers a bunch of German scientists secretly excavating a cave and, after alerting the disbelieving township, heads straight back up to the summit in time to see the egg hatch and all hell break bloodily loose…

Back home his crazy warnings aren’t disbelieved for long. Soon after he gets to town livestock starts disappearing, a strange lizard-skin is found in a tree and of course there’s the twenty-foot dragon ripping up Main Street and torching citizens just as a blizzard cuts off the rural paradise from all outside contact…

Trapped, terrified, vengeful but far from helpless, an unlikely team of heroes thrown together by a rather heavy-handed Fate are soon following instructions left by a thousand-years-dead Viking and attacking the greatest threat to modern humanity ever seen… but even after their astoundingly improbably triumph there’s a terrifying further threat in store…

Also incorporating a beautiful gallery of covers – in both pencilled and fully coloured final versions – this fast-paced, razor-sharp, witty and astoundingly action-packed monster mash rattles along with vivid characters and smart set-pieces in the manner of Tremors, Critters, Them! or perhaps even Bubba Ho-Tep: a satisfying scary rollercoaster romp tailor-made for transferral to the silver screen.

More please!
© 2015 Legendary Comics LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Angry Youth Comics


By Johnny Ryan (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-56097-867-1

This book is full of rude and vulgar words, nasty sex and terrible pictures. There’s also lots of disgusting violence but that’s generally acceptable to most people.

So, if such adult-oriented material offends you, don’t read this review or the book.

You will however have to find something else to get angry and complain about…

Graphic narrative and cartooning, despite our regular protestations of comprising a comparatively small pond, cover a vast range of genres, formats, disciplines and tastes. From Tintin or Raymond Brigg’s Snowman through the various escapist mainstreams to the edgy, unpredictable and even the downright shocking.

Johnny Ryan is a comedian who uses comics as his medium of expression. Whether in his Prison Pit series, or his many commissions for such varied clients as Nickelodeon, Hustler, Vice, Arthur, National Geographic Kids and elsewhere, his job and passion is to make laughter. Depending on your point of view he is either a filth-obsessed pervert smut-monger or a social iconoclast using the same tactics as Hogarth, Gillray and Cruikshank or more recently Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks or Frankie Boyle to challenge the worst aspects of our society.

Ryan’s loose cartoon drawing style is deceptively engrossing and engagingly excessive whilst his seeming pictorial Tourette’s Syndrome of strips and gags – involving such signature characters as Boobs Pooter (world’s most disgusting stand-up comedian), Loady McGee & Sinus O’Gynus, Sherlock McRape and the incredible Blecky Yuckeralla (originally seen weekly from 2003 in The Portland Mercury and Vice Magazine before switching to Ryan’s own on-line site) – will, frankly, appal and baffle many readers, but as with most questions of censorship in a Free Society, the naysayers are completely at liberty to neither buy nor read the stuff.

Ryan dubbed his stinging graphic assaults on American Culture and Political Correctness “misanthropic comics” after first coming to public attention through his occasional comicbook series Angry Youth Comix.

Originally produced as self-published minicomics from 1994-1999, the strips were brought then to the attention of Fantagraphics by Peter Bagge and the company promptly commissioned a second volume.

Now this spectacular and colossal (424 pages, 273 x 184mm) monochrome hardback tome gathers all fourteen of those staggering assaults on “taste and decency” (first issued between 2001 to 2008) in one monolithic compendium of raucous, riotous baroque hilarity…

Ryan is a cartoonist with an uncompromising vision and an insatiable desire to shock and revolt whenever he wants to. In his ongoing Prison Pit series he perpetually pushes the graphic narrative envelope and the outer limits of taste with a brutal, primitive cascade of casual violence and there’s plenty of senseless carnage and casual slaughter on show here too, but deftly woven into a never-ending barrage of grossly outrageous confrontations and a barrage of bracing, despicable filth. Or you could just see the funny side of it…

In this non-stop welter of exceedingly excessive force, vile excrescences, constant cultural clashes, scatological salvoes and sheer unadulterated graphic carnage can be seen a never-ending Darwinian struggle of witty license and disgraceful debauchery.

The only truly gratuitous thing however would be a complete listing of strips and gags contained herein, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t especially recommend ‘Loady McGee & Sinus O’Gynus in the Whorehouse of Dr. Moreau’, ‘Marshmallow & Snowflake in It’s the… Ku Klux Kuties’, ‘My Dad Went to a Concentration Camp and it Was Okay’, ‘1976’, ‘Sherlock McRape in Who Hit Nelly in the Belly With Jelly?’ or ‘Boobs Pooter’s Joke-Pocalypse’ …every one an unforgettably disgusting laugh-riot…

Also included in a special full colour section are the 28 brilliantly imaginative front & back covers as well as all the contentious and wonderful letters pages from the magazine’s run to complete your shock-jock flavoured enjoyment…

This is a brutally macabre yet beguiling, loathsomely intriguing miracle of cartoon exuberance; appalling, dismaying, cathartic and horridly, blackly humorous – always forcing the reader to think and challenge their own preconceptions.

Resplendent, triumphant juvenilia and selfish self-interest have been adroitly catapulted beyond all ethical limits into the darkest depths of absurdist comedy. This is a non-stop rollercoaster of brain-blistering profound profanity; pictorial purgatory at its most gorge-rising and compelling.

Not for kids, the faint-hearted or weak-stomached, here is extreme cartooning at its most visceral and pure. Gross, vulgar, shocking strips and panel gags about sex, defecation, bodily functions (particularly the many types of farting), feminine hygiene – and men’s lack of same – comics, toys, knob-gags and even the ultimate modern taboos of religion, politics, race and child abuse are all here and waiting to get you…

And now that we’ve placated the intellectual/moral imperative inside us all, I’ll also affirm that this titanic tome is another, all-out, over the top, indisputably hilarious hoot. Buy it and see if you’re broad-minded, fundamentally honest and purely in need of ultra-adult silliness. If you aren’t any of those things but could stand a good, hearty laugh that might also make you think, then this is also the dirty cartoon joke-book for you.
All contents © 2015 Johnny Ryan (except where it isn’t). This edition © 2015 Fantagraphics Books Inc.

Yakari and the Beavers


By Derib & Job, translated by Erica Jeffrey (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-09-0

Tales of untamed the American West have always fascinated fans in Europe, and none more so than the assorted French-speaking regions who also adore comics. Historically we Brits have also been big fans of sagebrush sagas and the plight of the “noble savage”…

In 1964, Franco-Swiss journalist André Jobin founded the children’s magazine Le Crapaud à lunettes and began writing stories for it under the pseudonym Job. In 1967 he hired fellow French-Swiss artist Claude de Ribaupierre, who had begun his career as an assistant at Studio Peyo (home of Les Schtroumpfs) where he worked on a number of Smurfs strips for venerable weekly Spirou.

As “Derib”, he co-created with Job The Adventures of the Owl Pythagore and two years later they struck pure gold with their next collaboration.

Launching in 1969, Yakari whimsically and enchantingly related the life of a young Sioux boy on the Great Plains; sometime between the introduction of horses by the Conquistadores and advent of the modern White Man. It’s a generally bucolic existence in tune with nature and free of strife, punctuated with the odd crisis generally resolved without fame or fanfare by the little lad who is smart, compassionate, brave… and can converse with all animals…

Derib, equally fluent and brilliant in both the enticing, comically dynamic “Marcinelle” cartoon style and a devastatingly compelling meta-realistic action illustration form, went on to become one of the Continent’s most prolific, celebrated and beloved creators through such groundbreaking strips as Celui-qui-est-né-deux-fois, Jo (the first comic on AIDS ever published), Pour toi, Sandra and La Grande Saga Indienne).

A large and significant proportion of his stunning works over the decades reverberate with Western themes and magnificent geographical backdrops and landscapes, and Yakari is considered by many to be the feature which catapulted him to mega-stardom.

Yakari chez les castors was the third collected European album, published in 1977 as the strip continued to grow in prominence and popularity. A year after this release the feature began running in Tintin, subsequently spawning two animated TV series (1983 and 2005), all the usual merchandising spin-offs and achieving monumental global sales of the 38 albums (in 17 languages) to date. The most recent, Yakari et la tueuse des mers was released in 2014.

In 2005 the first translated volume – Yakari and Great Eagle – was part of Cinebook’s opening salvo in converting British audiences to the joys and magic of Euro-comics and the English language assortment now numbers an even dozen, all still readily available for you and your family to enjoy.

Yakari and the Beavers begins in summer as the nomadic Sioux make camp at a confluence of rivers. The children are playing, testing their strength, speed and archery skills, but with burly Buffalo Seed winning most of the honours – and the fascinated attention of pretty Rainbow – soon physically less-developed Yakari slopes off to cavort with his faithful and forthright pony Little Thunder.

As the pair romp and swim in the river they come across a strange wooden construction ranging from bank to bank and unexpectedly arouse the ire of an excitable beaver named Thousand Mouths. He is the impatient and irascible foreman of a band of buck-toothed brethren, determined to finish the family home in record time, but his fellows are far less enthusiastic and when one – dubbed Linden Tree – spots the palomino it starts a stampede of rodents who would all rather ride horses than chew timber and move mud. While they’re all goofing around their boss is going ballistic and a wise old beaver is teaching a rapt Yakari everything he needs to know about dam-building…

After more idle days in the camp Yakari’s thoughts return to the beavers and soon he and Little Thunder are heading back to the dam. En route however they are distracted by an astonishing noise and follow it to discover extremely ambitious beaver Double-Tooth far from the river and attempting to chew down a colossal tree all alone…

The eager beaver soon confides his dreams of being a sculptor but their conversation is curtailed when a bad tempered grizzly bear wanders up and menaces little straggler Wild Rose.

With the ursine interloper clearly not amenable to reason Yakari drives the surly brute off with a rough-hewn jousting lance rapidly gnawed into shape by Double-Tooth’s flashing gnashers…

On escorting the kits back to the river Yakari is astounded to see the progress made in the wood-and-mud abode and is delighted to be asked to help. In actual fact most of the assistance comes from hard-pressed Little Thunder who reluctantly becomes the engine transporting trees and saplings from the woods to the river…

Returning late to camp Yakari is observed by Rainbow who desperately wants to know what her friend is up to. Next morning she invites herself along as they return to the Beaver Lodge and cannot understand why, in the midst of listening to the hairy toilers chattering, Yakari spurs his pony away and races away.

Mounted behind him she listens incredulously as the boy explains that little Linden Tree is missing and then makes him backtrack to the really important bit. Yakari understands and can talk to all birds and beasts…

Racing downriver the children are soon joined by Yakari’s totem animal sagacious Great Eagle who provides a telling clue to the lost beaver’s whereabouts. However after daring subterranean depths the little brave eventually finds his lost friend but is himself trapped. Happily the artistic skills of late-arriving Double-Tooth prove invaluable in devising a climbing device and soon everybody – even utterly bemused Rainbow – are all celebrating back at the Lodge.

With things back to normal the irrepressible frustrated artist corners Yakari for one last secret project and a few days later the busy beavers are all astounded to see Double-Tooth’s river-borne aesthetic magnum opus poled into the lee of the dam by the proud Yakari…

The exploits of the valiant little brave who can speak with animals and enjoys a unique place in an exotic world is a decades-long celebration of joyously gentle, moving and inexpressibly entertaining adventures honouring and eulogising an iconic culture with grace, wit, wonder and especially humour.

These gentle sagas are true landmarks of kids’ comics literature and Yakari is a series no fan of graphic entertainment should be without.
Original edition © 1977 Le Lombard/Dargaud by Derib + Job. English translation 2005 © Cinebook Ltd.

Johnny Nemo


By Brett Ewins, Peter Milligan and friends (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-78276-070-2

In the mid 1980s a creative explosion in British comics saw many groundbreaking new titles and a darkly cynical cultural flowering and renaissance in established titles. Many emergent writers and artists achieved prominence and a goodly few were promptly poached by America, forming what was called a “British Invasion”.

One team that crossed the pond in 1985 was Pete Milligan & Brett Ewins – already firm favourites with 2000AD readers – and for Eclipse Comics they created a darkly nihilistic post-punk private eye in alternative anthology Strange Days.

A year later the stylishly murderous maniac returned in Johnny Nemo Magazine for further far-future mayhem. He then dropped out of sight until Ewins co-opted the P.I.’s caseload and added some original exploits for the first year of indie British start-up Deadline Magazine – a seminal publishing landmark combining comics, pop culture, style, music and fashion he had created with fellow artist Steve Dillon.

Gloriously free of specious character development, Johnny Nemo remained who he always was: a murderous, devious, occasionally self-loathing London lad making a living from his only gifts.

He’s an over-sexed, avaricious, nosy, introverted, philosophical, existentialist thug. He’s also a problem-solver for hire and he lives in the future, which is not so different from now…

Following a fondly reminiscent ‘Introduction by Peter Milligan’ and ‘You’re Bastards. All of You. You’re All Bastards.’ – a heartfelt missive from the moody merc himself as seen in the 2002 collection Johnny Nemo: Existentialist Hitman of the Future – this sturdily resplendent hardcover compilation commences with ‘The Good, the Bad and the Nemo’ wherein the toughest ‘tec in 2991’s New London town is commissioned to investigate Father Burgess’ Orphanage.

The old institution – which once had the displeasure of young Johnny’s company after his parents’ last nervous breakdowns – is run by nuns and they’ve started exploding for no good reason. A seasoned riddle-solver, Johnny knows just who to smack around and soon discovers the incredible reason for the campaign of carnage before smoking out the habitual assassin…

Having made a lot of enemies, Nemo is always prepared for assassination attempts but nothing like the TeleInfo mind-mine which implants thousands of years of rational meanderings and philosophical cant in his usually indecision-free bonce. The measures taken to free-up his brain long enough to terminate his insidious attacker in ‘Cogito, Ergo Buggered’ are both shocking and shockingly effective…

Punishing puns and hyper-absurdism inform the strange case of ‘The White Quiffs of Dover’ after Nemo is hired to ferry a box containing the left testicle of Bing Crosby to an occultist. The potent eldritch artefact is also highly prized by a cult of albino Teddy Boys who will stop at nothing to obtain the treasured totem and unleash the uncanny crooner’s diabolical transmutative force.

However neither they nor the satanic singer pent inside the box have reckoned on Johnny’s innate ability to fight dirty…

Chronologically adrift, the 3 chapters of ‘The Orb of Harmony’ were first seen in the aforementioned Strange Days (from November 1984 to April 1985) and introduced Nemo and his robot secretary/sex-toy/therapist Kalina in a time-twisting tale which saw the enquiry agent hired by the government to recover an alien artefact before its loss sparked an interplanetary incident and intergalactic war.

It wasn’t hard to find the culprits in the jingoistically xenophobic League of Adam, but as they had already disposed of the Orb, the solution and return to status quo (involving the conquest of Earth, an invasion by Sirian slugmen and vast amounts of bloody violence) took a lot of planning and quite a bit of time…

From 1988 ‘The Immaculate Misconception’ is still a marvellously outrageous and controversial yarn as notoriously shag-happy Nemo is hired to protect the virginity of haughty alien hottie Princess Dania.

The demure deb is getting married in the morning and needs to be virgo intacta – something she is determined to avoid at all costs. Set on one last party she is nonetheless stuck with Johnny but calmly convinced that her looks and otherworldly pheromone arsenal will result in some serious, wedding-ending deflowering: if not from Nemo then one of his friends or enemies…

Of course Princess Da has neglected to mention the inescapable biological consequences of a night of illicit bliss with her…

Steve Dillon illustrated the clever case of murder-for-hire which saw media mogul Merdock Ridley contract Johnny to end his mega-rich life. Instantly suspicious, the lethally likely lad did some checking and discovered the job was a ploy on the gazillionaire’s part to cheat his trophy wife Fatima.

However since the trick involved freezing the assets along with the stiff (both to be revived at some time in the future) Nemo and ‘Lady Lucre’ put their heads – and sundry other body parts – together and came up with another option…

Whilst most of this book is in stark black-&-white, the three tales from Johnny Nemo Magazine are re-presented in strident full colour and ‘New London Pride’ (issue #3, February 1986 by Milligan, Ewins & Dillon) sees the hardboiled gumshoe troubled by uncharacteristic bad dreams. To gain a firm grip on himself he decides to go walkabout in the very dangerous gutters of miles-high New London City and vent some spleen against the vile and arrogant skinheads who infest the depths…

‘The Spice of Death’ – an all-Ewins art-fest – was a 2-part tale from Johnny Nemo Magazine #1 and 2 (September and November 1985) which detailed an old-fashioned tale of revenge as grieving Liza Creeture hired the man and his guns to find the killers of her brother.

The trail led to a bunch of rich-kids who hunted the poor for sport, desert metropolis Cairo and a gang of death-junkies who got high on extracted psychic auras of people who died in agony…

As the case proceeded and the bodies piled up, even Nemo began to smell a rat and suspect a cunning trap was in play…

Moving back into monochrome ‘The Hand of God’ then sees the independent trader blackmailed by bent coppers Flask and Stuff into taking out the returned messiah Jesus Christ, leading to the strangest confrontation in future history. However the Son of God is a wily sod and has a trick or two up his sleeve…

This turbulent, irreverent tome terminates with a stunning jam session as ‘New Tales of New London’ offers strip sessions by Rufus Dayglo, Ewins, Jock and Ashley Wood illustrating a sordid shift as Johnny – deflated by recent election results – indulges in introspection and tries out a few alternate personalities in ‘The Make Over’.

Still and all, whether a frou-frou interior designer, a sports hooligan, a laid-back loafer or a depressed down-and out, Johnny Nemo is still a man you don’t want to tick off…

Raucous, vulgar, excessively violent, politically incorrect and powerfully socially conscious, this superbly entertaining catalogue of chronal contretemps and spatial sorties is as potent and powerful as ever and today’s generation of toadies and Brit-fops should make certain they read, absorb and react accordingly…
Johnny Nemo is ™ and © 2014 Peter Milligan & Brett Ewins. All rights reserved.