Thor: Tales of Asgard


By Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, George Roussos, Don Heck, Paul Reinman, Chic Stone, Vince Colletta & Bill Everett, with Matt Milla & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-5189-0

The Mighty Thor was the comic series in which Jack Kirby’s restless fascination with all things Cosmic was honed and refined through his dazzling graphics and captivating concepts. The King’s examination of space-age mythology began in a modest little fantasy/monster title called Journey into Mystery where – in the summer of 1962 – a tried-and-true comicbook concept (feeble mortal transformed into god-like hero) was revived by the fledgling Marvel Comics to add a Superman analogue to their growing roster of costumed adventurers.

That debut tale closes out this selection of mythic masterpieces collectively culled from Journey into Mystery #83, 98-125, and Thor #126 to 145 (August 1962 to October 1967), and available to you in trade paperback and digital formats and all fully recoloured and moodily remastered by hues-master Matt Milla.

Journey into Mystery #97 (October 1963) saw the launch of a spectacular back-up series to the ever-unfolding Thor sagas. Tales of Asgard – Home of the Mighty Norse Gods gave Kirby a vehicle to indulge his fascination with legends.

Initially adapting classic fables of the Elder Eddas but eventually with all-new material particular to the Marvel pantheon, the King built his own cosmos and mythology to underpin the company’s entire continuity. This first yarn, scripted by Lee and inked by George Bell (AKA old Golden Age collaborator George Roussos), outlined the origin of the world and the creation of the trans-dimensional World Tree Yggdrasil.

The next issue proclaimed ‘Odin Battles Ymir, King of the Ice Giants!’: a short, potent fantasy romp laying more groundwork for decades of cosmic wonderment to come, inked with brittle mastery by Don Heck.

The next peek at primordial prehistory details Odin’s war with ‘Surtur the Fire Demon’ and latterly (with Paul Reinman inking) crafted an exploit of the All-Father’s so different sons in ‘The Storm Giants – a Tale of the Boyhood of Thor’. As always, Lee scripted these increasingly influential comicbook histories…

JiM #101 shows Kirby & Roussos in epic form for another exuberant tale of the boy Thor. ‘The Invasion of Asgard’ sees the valiant lad fight a heroic rearguard action whilst introducing a host of future villainous mainstays such as Rime Giants and Troll King Geirrodur.

This is followed by a macabre Reinman-inked mood piece wherein ‘Death Comes to Thor!’, with the turbulent teen facing his greatest challenge yet. Two females who would play huge roles in his life debuted in this brief 5-pager; young goddess Sif and fearsome Hela, Queen of the Dead.

Kirby & Chic Stone next revealed ‘Thor’s Mission to Mirmir!’; disclosing how the gods created mankind. That led one month later to a new Tales of Asgard strand focussing on individual Gods and Heroes. ‘Heimdall: Guardian of the Mystic Rainbow Bridge’ was first, with Heck inking a dramatic recap of the sentinel’s astounding gifts…

Having set up the scenario, ‘When Heimdall Failed!’ (Lee, Kirby & Roussos) expanded the legend before ‘Balder the Brave’ (Lee, Kirby & Vince Colletta) further fleshed out the back-story of an Asgardian pantheon deviating more and more from those classical legends kids had to plough through in schools.

Then, next issue the seductive Norn Queen debuted as a reluctant ally to evil Asgardian Loki, in a quirky reinterpretation of the classic myth ‘Balder Must Die!’ illustrated by Kirby & Colletta.

‘Trapped by the Trolls’ showed the power and promise of tales set solely on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge after Thor liberates enslaved Asgardians from subterranean bondage.

In #109 the Young Thor feature ‘Banished from Asgard’ was an uncharacteristically lacklustre effort as Odin and Thor enacted a devious plan to trap a traitor in Asgard’s ranks but the vignette hinted at much greater thrills to follow…

The sequel was crafty vignette ‘The Defeat of Odin!’ with an old and silly plot sweetened by breathtaking battle scenes, after which another short fable co-opts a Greek myth (Antaeus if you’re asking) as ‘The Secret of Sigurd’ by Lee, Kirby & Colletta …

With Colletta firmly ensconced as inker, Journey into Mystery #112 offered an eagerly anticipated origin with ‘The Coming of Loki’, retelling Marvel-style how Odin came to adopt the baby son of Laufey, the Giant King of Jotunheim. One month later the creators exposed ‘The Boyhood of Loki!’: a pensive, brooding foretaste of a villain in the making.

JiM#114 adapted another Asgardian parable – ‘The Golden Apples’ – by way of a certain European fairy tale whereas #115’s back-up mini-myth detailed ‘A Viper in our Midst!’ as young Loki clandestinely cements relations with the sinister Storm Giants – sworn enemies of the Gods….

These one-off yarns are followed by stellar novellas ‘The Challenge!’ and ‘The Sword in the Scabbard!’ in which Asgardian cabin-fever develops into an extended quest to ferret out a threat to the mystic Odinsword, the unsheathing of which could destroy the universe…

In Journey into Mystery #118 the Quest further unfolds with verity-testing talisman ‘The Crimson Hand!’ before ‘Gather, Warriors!’ heralds the arrival of a band of hand-picked Asgardian “Argonauts” enlisting aboard Thor’s flying longship in a bold but misguided attempt to forestall apparently-imminent Ragnarok…

The next instalment of the godly sky-sailors’ voyage sees them all boldly ‘Set Sail!’, only to encounter an uncanny ‘Maelstrom!’ before ‘The Grim Specter of Mutiny!’ (invoked by seditious Loki) is quashed just in time for valiant Balder to save them all from ‘The Jaws of the Dragon!’

Issue #125 was the last Journey into Mystery: the following month saw the title transformed and re-titled The Mighty Thor. The Tales of Asgard carried on regardless as fresh chapters saw the Questers homing in on the cause of all their woes.

‘Closer Comes the Swarm’ pits them against the flying trolls of Thryheim, whilst ‘The Queen Commands’ finds Loki captured until Thor answers ‘The Summons!’ and promptly returns his crew to Asgard to be shown ‘The Meaning of Ragnarok!’

In all honesty these mini-eddas were, although still magnificent in visual excitement, becoming rather rambling in plot, so a narrative reset was neither unexpected nor unwelcome…

Before the next serial started Kirby pulled out all the creative stops to depict the ‘Aftermath!’ of Ragnarok: for many fans the first indication of what was to come in the King’s landmark Fourth World tales half a decade later…

The assembled Asgardians next faced ‘The Hordes of Harokin’ as another multi-chaptered classic began, after which ‘The Fateful Change!’ reveals how the young Thunderer trades places with similarly-visaged, Genghis Khan-like Harokin…

Tales of Asgard – Home of the Mighty Norse Gods gave Kirby space to indulge his fascination with legends and love of fantasy movies by providing complete vignettes or lengthy serialised epics – in every sense of the word. Initially adapted myths, these back-up yarns grew into sagas unique to the Marvel universe wherein The King built his own cosmos and mythology, which would ultimately become a keystone of the company’s entire continuity.

Now, as a band of assembled Asgardians face Harokin’s all-conquering army, Thor is exposed even as his colossal comrade Volstagg steals the enemy’s apocalyptic wizard-weapon ‘The Warlock’s Eye!’, heralding the eerie arrival of ‘The Dark Horse of Death!’

The apocalyptic steed is looking for its next doomed rider and will not leave until it carries him on one last ride to ‘Valhalla!’

Back in Asgard and some undefinable time agone, ‘When Speaks the Dragon!’ and ‘The Fiery Breath of Fafnir!’ then pit Thor and his Warriors Three comrades Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg against a staggering reptilian monstrosity: a threat finally quashed in #136’s ‘There Shall Come a Miracle!’

By this time the Tales of Asgard feature was winding down and wrapping up, but it still offered Kirby a place to stretch his creative muscles. ‘The Tragedy of Hogun!’ grants revelations concerning the gripping and tragedy-drenched history of the dour eastern warrior in an Arabian Nights pastiche which also introduces sinister sorcerer Mogul of the Mystic Mountain.

‘The Quest for the Mystic Mountain!’ finds Hogun and his comrades edging closer to victory and vengeance, culminating in a truly stunning Kirby spectacle in Thor #139 as the wandering warriors discover ‘The Secret of the Mystic Mountain!’ and are attacked by a devastating giant Jinni

In ‘The Battle Begins!’, Hogun and company defeat the mystic monster only to encounter ‘Alibar and the Forty Demons!’ before Kirby’s seamless melange of myth and legend leap into overdrive as ‘We, Who are About to Die…!’ depicts young Thor and the Warriors Three facing all the magical menaces mastered by Mogul.

Issue #143 (inked by the magnificent Bill Everett) declared ‘To the Death!’ as comic relief Volstagg takes centre-stage to seduce Mogul’s sinister sister only to be interrupted by Mogul triggering ‘The Beginning of the End!’ before wrapping up in spectacularly cataclysmic fashion with ‘The End!’.

The feature was replaced in the next issue with short tales of The Inhumans – but that’s a subject of a separate volume…

Filling out this mythic missal is the groundbreaking debut tale from anthological Journey into Mystery #83, which saw a boldly costumed warrior jostling aside the regular fare of monsters, aliens and sinister scientists in a brash, vivid explosion of verve and vigour.

That initial exploit followed crippled American doctor Donald Blake who takes a vacation in Norway only to encounter the vanguard of an alien invasion. Fleeing, he is trapped in a cave where he finds an old, gnarled walking stick. When in his frustration he smashes the stick into a huge boulder obstructing his escape, his puny frame is transformed into the Norse God of Thunder Mighty Thor!

Plotted by Lee, scripted by his brother Larry Lieber and illustrated by Kirby and inker Joe Sinnott (at this juncture a full illustrator, Sinnott would become Kirby’s primary inker for most of his Marvel career), ‘The Stone Men of Saturn’ is pure early Marvel: bombastic, fast-paced, gloriously illogical and captivatingly action-packed. The hugely under-appreciated Art Simek was the letterer and logo designer.

It was clear that they were making it up as they went along – not in itself a bad thing – and all that infectious enthusiasm showed over the following months and years.

Also on show are a wealth of hidden gems: 50 pages of “factual” detail material including maps and historical essays about Asgard; biographies of numerous Asgardian cast-members, infographics of The Nine Worlds; a gallery of the Eternal Realm’s greatest foes, an incredible double-page pin-up of downtown Asgard plus a cover gallery by Kirby and Walter Simonson, remastered by Milla.

The bonus bonanza doesn’t end there but also offers a selection of variant covers and a breakdown of the Thor: Tales of Asgard Cover Process from Olivier Coipel’s initial pencil sketches to published art, as well as a vast character key.

These early sidebar tales of the God of Thunder show the development not only of one of Marvel’s core narrative concepts but, more importantly, the creative evolution of perhaps the greatest imagination in comics. Set your common sense on pause and simply wallow in the glorious imagery and power of these classic adventures for the true secret of what makes Marvel’s most mythic superheroes such a unique experience.
© 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 2011 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Rip M.D.


By Mitch Schauer, Mike Vosburg, Michael Lessa, & Justin Yamaguchi (Lincoln Butterfield/Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-369-9

Here’s a dark gem that sadly got missed by the greater reading public when it first came out in 2010, but as it’s the season for revenants and resurrections…

Ripley Plimt is a bright lad with a hobby. Ever since he can remember he has adored classic monster movies. He’s an absolute expert on trivia, minutiae and lore. Now he’s eleven and all grown up he’s come to one inescapable conclusion… it’s all true!

When the kind-hearted lad mends a little bat’s broken wing one night it changes his life forever. Bitten by the fixing bug (but not the bat – that would be ungracious) little Rip applies his unsuspected new skills to repairing the mouldering zombie corpse that shows up later – with the understanding and grudging approval of his parents and Uncle Will.

Soon needy werewolves, protoplasmic blobs and ghost cats are all turning up to complicate the creepy kid’s life…

The only real flies in the ointment are repulsive mortal kids Pretoria and Stanley DeMann, who used to live in Rip’s house and are prepared to go to extraordinary, murderous lengths to force the easy-going Plimpt family out…

Their millionaire dad is even worse, orchestrating a campaign of very human terror to get his way, almost driving Rip to abandon his unconventional dreams. However, the unscrupulous autocrat has some dark secrets of his own and Limbo the dead cat and a pretty little vampire girl know how best to exploit them…

Writer, artist, producer, designer and Emmy® Award-winning animator Mitch Schauer (creator of Angry Beavers and Freakazoid!, and supervising director of the Super Hero Squad Show) is a founding member of Lincoln Butterfield, an independent animation company also comprising Robert Hughes and painter Michael Lessa.

Comics veteran Mike Vosburg, who inked Schauer’s pencilled art here, has a glittering prize or two himself: as well as his funnybook career (Savage She-Hulk, G.I. Joe, Lori Lovecraft), he won his own Emmy® for directing Spawn cartoons and was chief storyboard artist for the Narnia movie franchise as well as dozens of movies and shows you’ve loved over the years.

Co-producing this snazzy graphic novel with electrically eclectic comics publisher Fantagraphics Books is LB’s first foray into print – but hopefully not their last.

With painted colour effects from Lessa & Justin Yamaguchi and including a wonderful developmental art section, this spectacular, spooktacular romp is a fabulously punchy, action-packed, wickedly funny treat for kids of all ages that will leave every reader voraciously hungry for more…
© 2010. All Rights Reserved. A joint production between Fantagraphics Books and Lincoln Butterfield.

Gillbert volume 1: The Little Merman


By Art Balthazar (Papercutz)
ISBN: 978-1-5458-0144-4 (HB)                    978-1-5458-0145-1 (PB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Captivating and Charming Cartoon Wonderment… 9/10

Art Baltazar has come long way since his self-published The Cray-Baby Adventures. Along the way he has crafted – singly or in conjunction with similarly fun-loving artisans – a veritable storm of books and comics for kids: magical and award-winning, sublimely strange, instantly engaging tomes and series such as Tiny Titans, Itty Bitty Hellboy, The DC Super Pets, Action Cat, Adventure Bug and so many more.

Throughout all the multicoloured madcappery, he has remained a dedicated and passionate advocate of children’s literacy and adhered to a set of unswerving principles: keep it fun, keep it funny and keep it accessible.

That’s certainly the case in this new venture with family publisher Papercutz. Gillbert, The Little Merman introduces a charming wide-eyed little prince about to embark on his initial learning experience…

After opening a bottle floating in the ocean, Gill finds a message from the surface world and wants to read it. None of his finny, scally, gelid or amphibian friends can help him, so he returns home to Atlanticus to consult his mum and dad, Queen Niadora and King Nauticus. They however, expect him to wait until later…

Impatient and overexcited, Gill is soon lured away by an enigmatic mermaid who says she can help. Before long Anne Phibian is escorting him to many new and thrilling places such as submerged party house Wewillrocktopolis and the Sub-Atomic Awesomator, but all the while Gill is blithely unaware that his world is increasingly imperilled by a swarm of Fiery Pyrockians: blazing meteor creatures with a grudge against his father…

Anne and her allies are on the ball though: they have unsuspected connections to the royal family and are taking steps to ensure everything will be okay, especially with Gill’s help…

Available in hardback, soft cover and digital formats, Gillbert offers a rapturous escapade of thrills and frolics to delight any imaginative reader of any vintage.

My copy even includes a tantalising free glimpse at another all-ages star with captivating cartoon pages from the upcoming Gumby: 50 Shades of Clay release. So I’ll bet yours will, too…
© 2018 Art Baltazar. All Rights Reserved. All other material © 2018 Papercutz.

Gillbert volume 1: The Little Merman will be released on October 30th 2018 and is available for pre-order now.

Lola – a Ghost Story


By J. Torres & Elbert Or (Oni Press)
ISBN: 978-1-934964-33-0 (HB)                    978-1-93266-424-9 (PB)

These days young kids are far more likely to find their formative strip narrative experiences online or between the card-covers of specially tailored graphic novels rather than the comics and periodicals of my long-dead youth.

In times past the commercial comics industry thrived by producing copious amounts of gaudy, flimsy pamphlets subdivided into a range of successfully, self-propagating, seamlessly self-perpetuating age-specific publications.

Such eye-catching items generated innumerable tales and delights intended to entertain, inform and educate such well-defined target demographics as Toddler/Kindergarten, Younger and Older Juvenile, General, Girls, Boys and even Young Teens, but today the English-speaking world can only afford to maintain a few paltry out-industry, licensed tie-ins and spin-offs for a dwindling younger readership.

Where once cheap and prolific, strip magazines in the 21st century are extremely cost-intensive and manufactured for a highly specific – and dwindling – niche market, whilst the beguiling and bombastic genres that originally fed and nurtured comics are more immediately disseminated via TV, movies and assorted interactive games media.

Happily, old-school prose publishers and the burgeoning graphic novel industry have a different business model and far more sustainable long-term goals, so magazine makers’ surrender has become their window, as solid and reassuringly sturdy Comic Books increasingly buck the pamphlet/papers trend.

Some of the old-fashioned publishers even evolved to join the revolution…

Independent comics mainstay Oni deftly made the switch to sturdy stand-alone one-offs at the end of the last century, publishing a succession of superb illustrated tales splendidly pushing the creative envelope whilst providing memorable yarns that irresistibly lure young potential fans of the form into our world…

That looks quite creepy in type-form but that’s okay – this is a beguilingly spooky story and you should be on your guard…

Aimed at readers of seven and above, Lola – a Ghost Story follows young Canadian Jesse as he returns to the rural Philippines farm where his parents grew up. It’s not his first visit, but it is the saddest. They’re going back for the funeral of his grandmother…

In the native Tagalog language Lola means “grandmother” and Jesse’s was pretty scary. She was old and ugly, had a hump on her back and – he thinks – she tried to drown him when he was a baby…

Grandma Lola also saw dead things and monsters and the future… just like Jesse does.

Despite all this he loved her very much and really doesn’t want to accept that she’s gone forever.

After hours of exhausting travel into the forbidding wild region Jesse and his folks at last arrive at the old farmhouse which has seen so much tragedy. The little visitor fulsomely greets his uncle and cousin Maritess, but won’t acknowledge her brother JonJon. That kid’s acting like a jerk as usual, and besides he’s been dead for over a year and no-one else can see him…

Soon the family are gathered together: eating, memorialising the departed and telling stories of Lola – like the time she saw the giant devil-pig and saved the entire family from financial ruin. Despite the convivial atmosphere, Jesse is still ill at ease. Even though everyone here believes his grandmother had second sight and blessed gifts, the sensibly modern boy can’t bring himself to believe the things he sees are real…

Maritess believes though, and she suspects what Jesse won’t admit even to himself…

After JonJon teases him some more and taunts him with the giant bestial, cigar-smoking Kapre lurking at the window, Jesse finally drops into an exhausted, nervous slumber.

The funeral next day is horrible. Everybody is sad, the church is filled with so many shockingly damaged spirits and Jesse is afflicted with a vision of being trapped and burning which makes him run screaming from the ceremony.

Still traumatised that evening, he finds JonJon’s old toybox on his bed and Maritess guesses what has happened.

She tells her cousin the story of the bloodsucking Manananggal which attacked Lola’s mother, causing her unborn daughter’s hump-back and magical sight. Such gifts and curses usually skip a generation and Maritess always assumed she’d be the one to get the sight, but now that it’s clear Jesse is the one to inherit the power, she’s determined to give him all the help he needs.

The box is full of JonJon’s toy cars, and after playing with them Jesse and the dead boy romp over by the farm wall – the one where nobody is allowed to go anymore…

Jesse’s uncle isn’t doing very well: all the tragedies have made him very sad and he’s drinking an awful lot.

There are other problems bothering Jesse. The entire family have stories about his grandmother and it’s clear that she was brave and determined and fought monsters all her life: is that, then, why she tried to drown him when he was a baby?

Maritess tells her Canadian cousin about the time little Lola saved her school friends from a predatory Tiyanak – a baby-shaped carnivorous monster – and he readies himself to ask her if she thinks he might be evil. Just then her father comes in very drunk and shouts at him for leaving JonJon’s cars in the garden.

They are all he has left to remember his son and the boy’s favourite one is already missing. Jesse knows which one it is… the striped one JonJon calls “Zebra” which he wouldn’t share with him last night by the wall…

Uncle Tim hates the wall. It had something to do with his son’s death and Jesse knows he’ll get into trouble if he goes over it. But Uncle is so sad. He misses his boy and really wanted to bury Zebra with JonJon, but it’s gone and the man is so drunk and angry all the time now…

Jesse’s fear that Lola saw something evil in him is assuaged by Maritess who thinks he should use his gift to help people – just like just their grandmother used to – so when JonJon appears again, Jesse climbs the hated wall and vanishes into the wild unknown beyond…

With Jesse’s first good deed successfully accomplished, JonJon can rest and Uncle Tim is at peace. The troubled psychic is even a little less disturbed by his power and his apparent destiny, but that all changes on the trip back to the airport when Jesse sees something utterly horrifying…

Evocative, compelling, gently enthralling and with a genuinely scary shock ending, this superb kid’s chiller is filled with a fascinating new bestiary of monsters and bogey-men to bedazzle Western eyes and imaginations, but mostly relies on captivating art and top-notch storytelling to draw readers in.

I loved it and so will you…
Lola is ™ & © 2009 J. Torres. All other material © 2009 Oni Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Bunny vs Monkey Book 5: Destructo and Other Ridiculous Stories


By Jaime Smart (David Fickling Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78845-055-3

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Never-Ending Mirthful Madness… 9/10

Since its premiere in 2012, The Phoenix has offered humour, adventure, quizzes, puzzles and educational material in a traditional-seeming weekly comics anthology for girls and boys. The vibrant parade of cartoon fun and fantasy has won praise from the Great and the Good, child literacy experts and the only people who really count – a dedicated and growing legion of totally engaged kids and parents who read it avidly…

The publishers would be crazy not to gather their greatest serial hits into a line of fabulously engaging album compilations, but they’re not, so they do. The latest of these is a fifth fractiously frenetic paperback bout of ongoing conflict troubling a once-chummy woodland waif and interloping, grandeur-hungry, hairy-brained simian…

Concocted with feverishly gleeful inspiration by Jamie Smart, Bunny vs. Monkey has been a Phoenix fixture from the very first issue: recounting a madcap vendetta between animal arch-enemies set amidst an idyllic arcadia which masquerades as a more-or-less mundane English Wood.

Destructo and Other Ridiculous Stories sees the war of nerves and mega-weapons intensify as the unruly assortment of odd critters littering and loitering around the bucolic paradise shift and twist into ever-more unstable factionalism. They all seem to have forgotten that the rapidly encroaching Hyoomanz are now well underway in building something called a motorway right through the sylvan glades and apparently unprotected parks…

All that tail-biting tension began when an obnoxious monkey gatecrasher popped up after a disastrous space shot went awry.

Having crash-landed in Crinkle Woods – a scant few miles from his blast-off site – lab animal Monkey believes himself the rightful owner of a strange new world, despite the continual efforts of reasonable, sensible, genteel, contemplative Bunny to dissuade him. For all his patience, propriety and good breeding, the laid-back lepine just cannot contain the incorrigible idiot ape, who is a rude, noise-loving, chaos-creating troublemaker…

All these collected volumes dispense disaster-drenched doses of daftness in six-month courses of ill-treatment and this book describes Year Three: January to June as transcribed on another vivid Contents page and commencing after a glorious poster-style spread of our bestial Dramatis Personae page…

This tranche of turbulent two-page episodes begins with tiny terror Monkey manifesting more mayhem and almost turning his own stomach inside out whilst attempting to weaponize some very nasty stuff he finds under his feet in ‘Gross!’

With snow on the ground Monkey then finds a way to spoil the Great Sled-Off in ‘Tobog-Gone!’ and latterly set back mammal-robot relations by picking on newcomer ‘Metal Steve 2!’, before a seemingly new menace manifests to worry the woodland folk in the dark guise of evil arch-villain ‘Destructo!’

When the weather clears up, Monkey’s Double-Barrelled Supercharged Snow-Cannon-Tank is suddenly deprived of ammo until the devilish pest repurposes his toy to fire chutney. Sadly, even this resultant chaos is insufficient to his comprehending ‘The Message!’

A brief and sudden return of ‘Skunky!’ only leads to disappointment, but his crazed influence remains to monsterize the ‘Pretty Flowers!’ whilst the debut of cyborg bounty hunter ‘Alan!’ (Armoured Locating Armadillo Network) threatens to destabilise the ongoing conflict until the big bully gets on the wrong side of gentle, peace-loving Pig’s ice cream…

Too much of the good life eventually slows down our friends so they convince Le Fox to help them ‘Get Fit!’ just in time for the awful ape to celebrate (or desecrate) Easter by eating all ‘The Wrong Eggs!’

The wee woodlanders then face Skunky’s robotic Vulturaptors in ‘Terror from the Skies’, but when night falls huge ‘Bobbles!’ from the sky spark fears of alien invasion…

The good guys then try to infiltrate Skunky’s new high-tech HQ ‘The Temple!’, just in time for ‘The Audition!’ to join the musky mastermind’s new gang the League of Doom.

Sadly, the only one to make the grade is meek misfit Pig in his new gruesome guise of ‘Pigulus!’

History horrifically repeats itself when another crashed space capsule ejects an even more destructive newcomer in ‘The Evil Monkey!’ Sadly, that only incites the previous incumbent to up his aggravating game…

When the genteel inhabitants of the wood start enjoying ‘Picnics!’ they have no conception that the day will end in chaos after Skunky’s escaped Grasshopalong induces the science maverick to attempt recapture with a giant Tarsier…

Sometime ally Le Fox cultivates an air of mystery, but when the League of Doom unleash a deadly custard assault his annoying old ‘Uncle Fox!’ quickly proves to be the real superspy deal after which Monkey’s latest property deal lands bunny with an obnoxious ‘Bad Neighbour!’ in the form of musician Bert Warthog. But not for long…

When Skunky unleashes his devastating, colossal De-Forester 9000, the unthinkable occurs as Bunny and Monkey declare ‘The Truce!’ that leads to the mega-machine’s demise but by the time Action Beaver becomes ‘The Messenger!’ for the skunk’s poison letters, all bets are off again and it’s every critter for himself…

More mad science sees the launch of a weather station and an unseasonal snow barrage, but Skunky’s malignant fun is ruined after Weenie Squirrel demonstrates astounding piste pizazz in ‘Ski-Daddle!’, before a lost little skunk destabilises the wicked stinker.

Thomas is unmoved by monster robots like the rampaging Octobosh and truly gets to the emotional soft side of his newfound ‘Uncle Skunky!’

Perhaps that episode is what prompts his invention of ‘The Truthometer!’, but when Skunky hears what the woodlanders actually think about him, he soon regrets ever thinking of it…

The Quantum Bibble Fobbulator also goes wrong, tearing ‘Wormholes!’ in the forest fabric, but somehow the woodland residents still make the best of the situation, whilst the skunk’s size-changing ray only makes his victims too tall to tackle in ‘The Embiggening!’

The rural riot concludes with a frankly disturbing insight into our simian star’s softer side as he administers first aid to an ailing Bunny and subsequently descends into megalomania as the truly terrifying ‘Nurse Monkey!’

To Be Continued…

The absolute acme of absurdist adventure, Bunny Vs Monkey is sheers bonkers brilliance and well past definitely on the way to becoming a British Institution of weird wit, insane invention and captivating cartooning. This is another utterly irresistible package of total delight for grown-ups of every vintage, even those who claim they only get it for their kids…
Text and illustrations © Jamie Smart 2018. All rights reserved.

Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel


By Eoin Colfer &Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano with colour by Paolo Lamanna (Puffin Books)
ISBN: 978-0-141-32296-4

In an age when the boundaries of good guys and bad guys are constantly blurred and redefined, it’s well to keep your options open. One admirable player for the other side (mostly) is the captivating Artemis Fowl II. A criminal mastermind, scion of Ireland’s greatest family of rogues and villains, he is probably the greatest intellect on the planet.

The wee lad inherited the family business when his father mysteriously vanished on a caper, a loss from which Artemis’ mother has never recovered.

This Machiavellian anti-hero is a teenager so smart that he has deduced that fairies and mystical creatures actually exist and thus spends this first book stealing their secrets to replenish the family’s depleted fortunes and fulfil his greatest heart’s desire…

His greatest ally is Butler, a manically loyal and extremely formidable hereditary retainer who is a master of physical violence…

The first of the eight novels (with four so far making the transition to sequential narrative whilst production of the Disney movie nears completion) is here adapted by the author and Andrew Donkin; illustrated in a kind of Euro-manga style that won’t suit everybody but which nevertheless perfectly captures the mood and energy of the original.

This lavish adventure is also interspersed with comprehensive and clever data-file pages (by Megan Noller Holt) to bring everybody up to full speed on this wild, wild world…

Fowl is utterly brilliant and totally ruthless. Once determining that the mythological realm of pixies, elves, ogres and the like are actually a highly advanced secret race predating humanity and now dwelling deep underground, he “obtains” and translates their Great Book and divines all their secrets of technology and magic.

Artemis has a plan for the greatest score of all time, and knows that he cannot be thwarted, but he has not reckoned on the wit, guts and determination of Holly Short, an elf who works for the Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance Force.

She is the only female LEPRecon operative allowed to work on the world’s surface and has had to prove herself every moment of every day…

Combining sinister mastery, exotic locales, daring adventure, spectacular high fantasy concepts and appallingly low puns and slapstick, this tale has translated extremely well to the comics medium (but that’s no reason not to read the books too, especially as they’re all available in paperback and digital formats), offering a clever plot and characters that are both engaging and grotesquely vulgar – and thus perfect fare for kids.

I especially admire the kleptomaniac dwarf Mulch Diggum, whose species’ biological self-defence mechanism consists of overwhelming, explosive flatulence…

Farting, fighting and fantasy are pretty much the perfect combination for kid’s fiction and boys especially will revel in the unrestrained power of the wicked lead character. This is a little gem from a fabulously imaginative creator and an unrelentingly rewarding publisher. Long may you all reign…
Text © 2007 Eoin Colfer. Illustrations © 2007 Giovanni Rigano. All rights reserved.

Pride of Baghdad


By Brian K Vaughan & Niko Henrichon (Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0314-6 (HB)                    978-1-4012-0315-3 (PB)

It would be far beyond crass to suggest that anything good at all ever came out of the monstrous debacle of the Iraq invasion, but trenchant-critique-masquerading-as-parable Pride of Baghdad at least offers a unique perspective on a small, cruel and utterly avoidable moment of that bloody mistake.

Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Runaways, Paper Girls) and Niko Henrichon (Barnum!, Fables, Sandman, Spider-Man), combining the narrative tools of Walt Disney and George Orwell, reconstruct an anthropomorphised tale of a family of lions who are unwillingly liberated from the city zoo during the taking of Baghdad, and then left to run loose in the deadly streets until their tragic end. Throughout the entire debacle the beasts are scared, hungry, under attack and convinced that everything will be great now that they are free…

This is not a spoiler. It is a warning. This is a beautiful, uncompromising, powerful, tale with characters who you will swiftly come to love. And they die because of political fecklessness, commercial venality and human frailty. The seductively magical artwork makes the inevitable tragedy a confusing and wondrous experience and Vaughan’s script could make a stone, and perhaps even a Republican, cry.

Derived from a news item which told of the lions roaming the war-torn Baghdad streets, here we are made to see the invasion in terms other than those of commercial news-gatherers and government spin-doctors, and hopefully can use those different opinions to inform our own. This is a lovely, haunting, sad book: a modern masterpiece which shows why words and pictures have such power that they can terrify bigots and tyrants of all types.

Read this book. Maybe not to your kids, or not yet, but read it.
© 2006 Brian K Vaughan & Niko Henrichon. All Rights Reserved.

The Thief of Bagdad


By Achmed Abdullah, illustrated by P. Craig Russell (Donning/Starblaze edition)
ISBN: 978-0-89865-523-0

This is a tenuous entry for a graphic novel listing, and potentially a controversial one, but other than all publishers’ motivation to turn a profit, these editions of the late 1980s had a worthy purpose and an admirable intention.

Donning’s Starblaze Editions began as a way of introducing lost classics to a new audience, by reproducing them with illustrations provided by some of the most respected names in comics. Their other selections were the silent film icon Metropolis by Thea von Harbou and illustrated by Michael Wm. Kaluta; Charles Vess’ illuminated A Midsummer Night’s Dream and most contentiously, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle with new artwork by Mike Grell replacing the author’s own groundbreaking illustrations. These are all household names but also tales that very few could admit to have ever actually read.

The Thief of Bagdad (and that’s how the West spelt it back then) began as a film by Douglas Fairbanks in 1924, with a screenplay by Elton Thomas, accompanied by a short story written by Lotta Woods. The fantastic and exotic tale of a common vagabond who wins a Princess was an eye-popping, swashbuckling blend of magic, adventure and romance which captivated the viewing public, leading to what was probably the World’s first ever novelisation of a movie.

Achmed Abdullah (1881-1945) was actually Alexander Nicholayevitch Romanoff, a prolific English author whose father was Russian Orthodox whilst his mother was a Muslim. Educated at Eton and Oxford, he joined the British Army, serving in France, India and China before becoming a jobbing writer of Crime, Adventure and Mystery tales, many apparently based on his own early life.

He was also a screen-writer, with his most well-known success being the 1935 film Lives of a Bengal Lancer (very loosely based on the novel by Francis Yeats-Brown).

As a book this is a cracking, literally spellbinding read and the illustrations are Russell at this flamboyant best. There are five vibrant full-colour plates plus an additional ten large black and white line drawings combining the artist’s clean design line with a compositional style that owes much to the works of Aubrey Beardsley.

Whilst not technically a graphic narrative, this book features all the crucial antecedents of one with the additional virtues of being a hugely entertaining concoction garnished with some of the best art ever produced by one of the industry’s greatest stylists. Believe me, you really want this book and I really want some modern publisher to revive this tome and its companions, even if only in eBook format…
© 1987 the Donning Company/Publishers. Art © 1987 P. Craig Russell. All Rights Reserved.

Krazy & Ignatz 1937-1938: “Shifting Sands Dusts its Cheeks in Powdered Beauty”


By George Herriman, edited by Bill Blackbeard & Derya Ataker (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-56097-734-6

In a field positively brimming with magnificent and eternally evergreen achievements, the cartoon strip starring Krazy Kat is arguably the pinnacle of graphic narrative innovation; a singular and hugely influential body of work which shaped the early days of the comics industry and became an undisputed treasure of world literature.

Krazy and Ignatz, as it is dubbed in these gloriously addictive commemorative tomes from Fantagraphics, is a creation which must be appreciated on its own terms. Over the decades the strip developed a unique language – at once both visual and verbal – whilst exploring the immeasurable variety of human experience, foibles and peccadilloes with unfaltering warmth and understanding and without ever offending anybody.

Sadly, however, it did go over the heads and around the hearts of far more than a few…

Krazy Kat was never a strip for dull, slow or unimaginative people who simply won’t or can’t appreciate the complex multi-layered verbal and pictorial whimsy, absurdist philosophy or seamless blending of sardonic slapstick with arcane joshing. It is still the closest thing to pure poesy that narrative art has ever produced.

Herriman was already a successful cartoonist and journalist in 1913 when a cat and mouse who had been noodling about at the edges of his outrageous domestic comedy strip The Dingbat Family/The Family Upstairs graduated to their own feature. Mildly intoxicating and gently scene-stealing, Krazy Kat subsequently debuted in William Randolph Hearst’s New York Evening Journal on Oct 28th 1913 and – largely by dint of the publishing magnate’s enrapt adoration and overpowering direct influence and interference – gradually spread throughout his vast stable of papers.

Although Hearst and a host of the period’s artistic and literary intelligentsia (notably – but not exclusively – Frank Capra, e.e. Cummings, John Alden Carpenter, Gilbert Seldes, Willem de Kooning, H.L. Mencken and latterly Jack Kerouac) all adored the strip, many local and regional editors did not; taking every potentially career-ending opportunity to drop it from the populace-beguiling comics section.

Eventually the feature found a true home and safe haven in the Arts and Drama section of Hearst’s papers. Protected there by the publisher’s doctrinaire patronage and enhanced with the cachet of fulsome colour, the Kat flourished unharmed by editorial interference or fleeting fashion, running generally unmolested until Herriman’s death in April 1944.

The saga’s basic premise is simple: Krazy is an effeminate, dreamy, sensitive and romantic feline of indeterminate gender, hopelessly in love with Ignatz Mouse; a venal everyman, rude, crude, brutal, mendacious and thoroughly scurrilous.

Ignatz is a true unreconstructed male; drinking, stealing, fighting, conniving, constantly neglecting his wife and innumerable children and always responding to Krazy’s genteel advances by clobbering the Kat with a well-aimed brick. These he obtains singly or in bulk from noted local brick-maker Kolin Kelly.

Smitten kitten Krazy always misidentifies these missiles as tokens of equally recondite affection showered upon him/her in the manner of Cupid’s fabled arrows…

The final crucial element completing an anthropomorphic eternal triangle is lawman Offissa Bull Pupp, who is completely besotted with Krazy, professionally aware of the Mouse’s true nature, yet hamstrung by his own amorous timidity and sense of honour from permanently removing his devilish rival for the foolish feline’s affections.

Krazy is, of course, blithely oblivious to the perennially “Friend-Zoned” Pupp’s dilemma…

Secondarily populating the ever-mutable stage are a stunning supporting cast of inspired bit players such as terrifying deliverer of unplanned babies Joe Stork; hobo Bum Bill Bee, unsavoury conman and trickster Don Kiyoti, social climbing busybody Pauline Parrot, self-aggrandizing Walter Cephus Austridge, inscrutable, barely intelligible Chinese mallard Mock Duck, dozy Joe Turtil and a host of other audacious animal crackers all equally capable of stealing the limelight and even supporting their own features.

The exotic, quixotic episodes occur in and around the Painted Desert environs of Coconino (patterned on the artist’s vacation retreat in Coconino County, Arizona) where surreal playfulness and the fluid ambiguity of the flora and landscape are perhaps the most important member of the cast.

The strips themselves are a masterful mélange of unique experimental art, cunningly designed, wildly expressionistic and strongly referencing Navajo art forms whilst graphically utilising sheer unbridled imagination and delightfully evocative lettering and language: alliterative, phonetically and even onomatopoeically joyous with a compelling musical force (“why dollin is you in pritzin?”, “l’il dahlink” or “I are illone”).

Yet for all that, the adventures are poetic, satirical, timely, timeless, bittersweet, self-referential, fourth-wall bending, eerily idiosyncratic, astonishingly hilarious escapades encompassing every aspect of humour from painfully punning shaggy dog stories to riotous, violent slapstick.

Sometimes Herriman even eschewed his mystical mumblings and arcane argots for the simply sublime grace of a supremely entertaining silent gag in the manner of his beloved Keystone Cops

There’s been a wealth of Krazy Kat collections since the late 1970s when the strip was first rediscovered by a better-educated, open-minded and far more accepting generation. This delirious tome covers all the strips from 1937-1938 in a comfortably hefty (231 x 15 x 305 mm) softcover edition – and is also available as a madly mystical digital edition.

Preceded by candid photos, examples of contemporary merchandise, memorabilia and some of Herriman’s personalised gifts and commissions featuring the cast and settings, the splendid madness resumes with January 3rd 1937 – with the hues provided by professional separators rather than Herriman – we can now set off on another odyssey into the heartlands of imagination.

Within this compelling compendium of incessant passions thwarted, the torrid triangular drama plays out as winningly as ever, with even more new faces popping up to contribute to the insular insanity and well-cloaked social satire.

Newcomers include a family of kangaroos who provide a unique form of locomotion for the traditional cops and boppers chases, a pale equatorial bear of mixed origins (Mama from the south Pole and Papa from the North), a tightrope walker of surly demeanour and unlikely antecedents, a gang of morally ambiguous pelicans and the much-travelled odd cove calling himself D.B. Platypus…

Of especial note can be observed a marked increase in the (temporary) triumphs of Offissa Pupp who now regularly locks up the brick-bunging little brigand. Oddly, that in turn leads to a spike in jail breaks…

As well as frequent incarceration, Ignatz endures numerous forms of exile and social confinement, but with Krazy aiding and abetting, these sanctions seldom result in a reduction of cerebral contusions… a minor plague of travelling conjurors and unemployed magician also make life hard for the hard-pressed constabulary…

Never long daunted, Bull Pupp indulges in a raft of home-away-from home improvements, including a formidable moat around the county jail as well as art installations and an early example of conjugal visitations

As always, the mouse’s continual search for his ammunition of choice leads to many brick-based gags and his occasional fleecing by Coconino’s (occasionally “Kokonino”) copious coterie of confidence tricksters – a scurrilous sub-population which seems to grow by the week. Of course, the mouse is a man who enjoys revenge served hot, cold or late…

Amongst the notable innovations this time is an increase in road traffic as America’s love affair with the internal combustion engine takes hold of the cast (after a bevy of wandering car salesmen arrive in town). Alternatively the entire cast spend a lot of time in one spot stargazing and attempting various form of flight – usually before coming back to earth with a bump.

Topics of civic conversation and favoured pastimes include a serious lack of good gossip, the proposed smashing of the atom by audacious “sign tisks”, insomnia, radio talk shows and movie-making, a seasonal but wholly unexpected cold snap, astronomy and misunderstood planetary phenomena, fishing and water sports and the parlous and participatory state of the burgeoning local theatre scene…

One tireless constant is the growing instability and trustworthiness of supreme comedy maguffin Joe Stork, whose increasingly hooch-affected delivery of (generally unwanted) babies still brings dread responsibility and smug schadenfreude in equal amounts to denizens of the county.

And, welcomingly as ever, there is still a solid dependence on the strange landscapes and eccentric flora for humorous inspiration and all manner of weather and terrain play a large part in inducing anxiety, bewilderment and hilarity.

Following another personalised birthday card, the cartoon gold is topped off by another erudite and instructional ‘Ignatz Mouse Debaffler Page’, providing pertinent facts, snippets of contextual history and necessary notes for the young and potentially perplexed.

Herriman’s epochal classic is a stupendous and gleeful monument to whimsy: in all the arenas of Art and Literature there has never been anything like these comic strips which have shaped our industry and creators, inspired auteurs in fields as disparate as prose fiction, film, dance, animation and music, and engendered delight and delectation in generations of wonder-starved fans.

If, however, you are one of Them and not Us, or if you actually haven’t experienced the gleeful graphic assault on the sensorium, mental equilibrium and emotional lexicon carefully thrown together by George Herriman from the dawn of the 20th century until the dog days of World War II, this astounding compendium is a most accessible way to do so.
© 2006, 2015 Fantagraphics Books. All rights reserved.

Corpse Talk: Queens & Kings and Other Royal Rotters


By Adam & Lisa Murphy (David Fickling Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78845-032-4

The educational power of comic strips has been long understood and acknowledged: if you can make the material memorably enjoyable, there is nothing that can’t be better taught with pictures. The obverse is also true: comics can make any topic or subject come alive… or at least – as here – outrageously, informatively undead…

The fabulous and effective conceit in Corpse Talk is that your scribbling, cartooning host Adam Murphy (ably abetted off-camera by Lisa Murphy) tracks down (or rather digs up) famous personages from the past: all serially exhumed for a chatty, cheeky This Was Your Life talk-show interview that – in Reithian terms – simultaneously “elucidates, educates and entertains”. It also often grosses one out, which is no bad thing for either a kids’ comic or a learning experience…

Another splendid album release culled from the annals of The Phoenix (courtesy of those fine saviours of weekly comics at David Fickling Books), this regally-themed recollection is dedicated to not-so-private audiences with a succession of famous, infamous and utterly unforgettable royal rogues and rapscallions in what would almost certainly not be their own words…

Catching up in order of date of demise, our fact-loving host begins these candid cartoon conferences by digging the dirt with ‘Ramesses II: Pharaoh of Egypt 1303 BCE – 1213 BCE’, who preferred to be called ‘Ramesses the Great’. Our intrepid interviewer incisively traces the “accomplishments” and gift for self-promotion of the dusty legend.

As always, each balmy biography is accompanied by a side feature examining a key aspect of their lives such as here with ‘How to Make a Mummy’ scrupulously and systematically revealing the secrets of interring the definitely departed, after which we refocus on the ancient orient to quiz ‘Qin Shi Huang Di: Chinese Emperor 259 BCE 210 BCE’ on his reign and once more sifts truth from centuries of post-mortem PR briefings.

Backing up the inquiry ‘The Emperor’s Tomb’ details the layout of the vast City of Death Qin was buried in, as well as the Palace of Shadows and its terracotta army and the treasures it guarded…

‘Cleopatra: Pharaoh of Egypt 69 BCE – 30 BCE’ then outlines her incredible life, whilst ‘Barging In’ examines her astounding gold sea-craft and how it brought her to the attention of back-up lover/sponsor Mark Anthony.

A thankfully thoroughly sanitised account of the sordid exploits of ‘Nero: Roman Emperor 37-68’ is backed up by an exploration of one of his feasts in ‘Café Nero’, after which ‘Justinian II: Byzantine Emperor 669-711’ explains how his guile and determination enabled him to rule, lose, recapture and retake control of the mighty late Roman Empire. The impenetrable defences of 8th century Constantinople are then dissected in ‘The Walled City’

As well as a bit about burned cakes, ‘Alfred the Great: King of Wessex 849-6899’ reveals the remarkable military and civilising feats of the learning-obsessed ruler and expands the knowledge base by defining the fractured kingdoms of ‘The Dark Island’ of Britain at the time.

The Norman conquest is unpicked from the (one-eyed) view of the losing contender in ‘Harold Godwinson: English King 1022-1066’ accompanied by an extended look at the historical source document in Born on the Bayeaux’ whilst the first English civil war is remembered by formable Angevin matriarch ‘Empress Matilda: English Queen 1102-1167’. This is followed by a detailed deconstruction of the sturdy castle defensive system in The Old Bailey’.

The Crusades are represented rival legends made real. First up is the admirable and noble ‘Saladin: Sultan of Egypt and Syria 1137-1193’, who is bolstered by a catalogue of Moslem contributions to global civilisation in Gifts of Genius’, after which the unhappy truth about ‘Richard the Lionheart: English King 1157-1199’ is laid bare. After debunking centuries of self-aggrandising myths The Siege of Acre’ then traces one of the crusaders’ few actual heroic exploits…

‘Moctezuma II: Aztec Emperor 1456-1520’ relates how his timidity and sense of self-preservation contributed to the destruction of his dominions at the hands of the conquistadores before ‘Temple of Doom’ takes us into the deepest inner workings of the bloodstained ziggurats dedicated to human sacrifice on an industrial scale…

The most complex and contentious period in British history is taken apart by the royals at the heart of it all when ‘Henry VIII: English King 1491-1547’ tries to give us his spin on events leading to the reformation and – following Full Tilt – a History of Jousting’‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ – consecutively Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536), Anne Boleyn (1507-1536), Jane Seymour (1508-1537), Anne of Cleves (1525-1557), Catherine Howard (1523-1542) and Catherine Parr (1512-1548) – offer their side of the arguments and events.

Their revelations are augmented by a breakdown of the duties of a Queen’s faithful attendants in The Waiting Game’.

‘Charles II: English King 1630-1685’ relates how he came to power following the Second Civil War and backs up the personal reveries with A Memoir on Monarchy’ running down the changing role of rulers, before we cross the channel to hear how it all went wrong for France’s final female autocrat in ‘Marie Antoinette: French Queen 1755-1793’. Her fall from grace is abutted by a chilling lesson on the guillotine in Decapitation Stations’.

Contemporary cousin ‘Catherine the Great: Russian Empress 1729-1796’ managed to run things largely her own way, but as back-up Tsars in their Eyes’ shows, was plagued by a constant stream of pretenders, all claiming to be true, proper, better qualified and, yes, male contenders for her throne.

South African rebel and strategic genius ‘Shaka Zulu: Zulu King 1787-1828’, recounts how he literally created a mighty nation from nothing whilst The Battle of Isandlwana’ covers how his innovations were used to humiliate the overwhelmingly powerful British Army before the procession of pomp and circumstance closes with ‘Queen Victoria: English Queen 1819-1901’, accompanied by a phenomenally absorbing family tree, branching out and into every royal bloodline in Europe: a true Game of Thrones’

Clever, cheeky, outrageously funny and formidably factual throughout, Corpse Talk unyieldingly tackles history’s more tendentious moments whilst personalising the great, the grim and the good for coming generations.

It is also a fabulously fun read no parent or kid could possibly resist. Don’t take my word for it though, just ask any reader, royal-watcher or republican in waiting…
Text and illustrations © Adam & Lisa Murphy 2018. All rights reserved.

Corpse Talk: Queens & Kings will be released on 6th September 2018 and is available for pre-order now. Time to start thinking of Christmas Presents yet…?