Can’t Get No


By Rick Veitch (Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1059-5 (TPB)

The terrorist atrocity of September 11th, 2001 changed the world and in our own small corner, generated a number of graphic narrative responses of varying quality, not to mention deep emotional honesty. Rick Veitch’s 2006 entry Can’t Get No was as powerful and heartfelt as any, but benefited greatly from a little time and distance.

Chad Roe’s company sold the world’s most permanent and indelible marker pen, the “Eter-No-Mark”. Everyone was flying high but then the lawsuits hit all at once. A cheap, utterly irremovable felt-pen is a godsend to street-artists and the most virulent of vandalistic weapons to property owners…

As his universe collapses on him, Chad goes on a bender, picks up two hippie-artist-chicks in a bar and wakes up a human scribble-board, covered literally from head to toe in swirling, organic, totally permanent designs.

Even then he tries so very hard to bounce back. A walking abstract artwork, he is ostracized by mockery, unable to conceal his obvious “otherness”, and neither self-help philosophies, drugs, nor alcohol can make him feel normal again. Defeated, reviled and eventually crushed in spirit, he’s trapped in a downward spiral. He meets the pen-wielding girls again and finds solace and uncomplicated joy in the artist’s world of sex, booze and dope.

Lost to “normal” society, Chad goes on a road-trip with the women, but they haven’t even left the city before they’re all arrested. It is morning on September 11th and as the girls violently resist the cops an airplane flies overhead, straight towards the centre of Manhattan…

With no-one looking at him, just another part of the shocked crowd, he watches for an eternity, and then no longer anything but another stunned mortal, Chad drives away with an Arab family in their mobile home.

And thus begins a psychedelic, introspective argosy through America’s philosophy, symbolism and meta-physicality. With this one act of terrorism forever changing the nation, Chad is forced on a journey of discovery to find an America that is newborn both inside and out. His travels take him through vistas of predictable cruelty and unexpected tolerance, through places both eerily symbolic and terrifyingly plebeian, but by the end of this modern Pilgrim’s Progress, both he and the world have adapted, accommodated and accepted.

Born in 1951, Rick Veitch is a criminally undervalued creator who has lived through post-war(s) America’s many chimeric social revolutions. He has a poet’s sensibilities and a disaffected Flower-Child’s perspectives informing a powerful creative consciousness – and conscience. Can’t Get No is a landmark experiment in both form and content which deserves careful and repeated examination.

Black and white in a landscape format, and eschewing dialogue and personal monologues for ambient text (no word balloons or descriptive captions, just the words that the characters encounter such as signs, newspapers, faxes etc.) this graphic narrative – in paperback and digital editions – screams out its great differences to usual comic strip fare, but the truly magical innovation is the “text-track”, a continual fluid, peroration of poetic statements that supply an evocative counterpoint to the visual component.

Satirical, cynical, strident: Lyricism is employed for examination and introspection, in perhaps occasionally over-florid, but nonetheless moving and heartfelt free verse and epigrams don’t make this an easy read or a simple entertainment. They do make it a piece of work every serious consumer of graphic narrative should attempt.
© 2006 Rick Veitch. All Rights Reserved.

When Big Bears Invade


By Alexander Finbow & Nyco Rudolph with Ryan Ferrier (Renegade Arts Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-1-987982-549-7 (HB)

You might not know it when he/she/they put peanut butter poptarts on your vintage vinyl turntable or hide unwanted vegetables in the laptop, but kids always want to be heroes. They pick up what’s going in the world – local or global – and look for ways to fix it. Just compare the number of septuagenarians to middle schoolers who heard Greta Thunberg’s call to arms and decided now was the time to act…

There’s a wonderful tinge of all that in this hardback and digital picture book for the young and restless of all ages. Courtesy of writer/editor/publisher Alexander Finbow and illustrator Nyco Rudolph, When Big Bears Invade offers traditional rhyming couplets for humongous, cathartic painted spreads predicting what will happen when Earth finally has enough of humanity’s wasteful destructive ways and sets a legion of gigantic ursine avengers to settling scores and fixing the mess in the most effective manner possible…

Witty, pretty and deliciously satisfying, this is a full-on eco-fable for the rightly concerned of every vintage and persuasion: a perfect gift and a welcome diversion when the real world’s imminent demise drags you down…
© 2017 Alexander Finbow & Nyco Rudolph.

Kabul Disco volume 1: How I Managed Not to be Abducted in Afghanistan


By Nicolas Wild, translated by Mark Bence & Fabrice Sapolsky (Life Drawn/Humanoids Inc.)
ISBN: 978-1-59465-868-6 (TPB)

Fiction and reality frequently blur, but stories – True, mostly True, totally True or Officially Confirmed by a Government Official and therefore Utterly Fallacious – told in comics form somehow always acquire an instant edge of veracity and patina of authenticity that is hard to dispute or refute.

Kabul Disco is a superb case-in-point: an example of sophisticated yet simple Euro-cartooning designed to inform, charm and challenge in equal amounts. I’m re-recommending this remarkable testament today because once again the people who govern us – apparently anywhere on Earth that people are governed – have a complete inability to read a room, movement, public opinion or security briefing and have once more abandoned guts, principles and common sense in the name of saving money and not making a fuss.

Assorted countries over centuries have made Afghanistan their football, only to get bored and leave it to even worse thugs. Lacking any power at all to make the callous bastards in charge everywhere pay or even feel discomfort, I’m opting to try and remind anyone who will listen that always, ALWAYS, us unimportant people suffer in the end. It’s just not right…

This seductive monochrome travel memoir was the debut episode in a sequence by French writer/artist Nicholas Wild, detailing his globe-trotting quest for employment: a worthy endeavour which took the wide-eyed political innocent to Afghanistan in 2005.

There’s always a war going on somewhere. That’s just the way it is. The enemy are always monsters and Our Side – there’s no option to refuse to take sides anymore – are always justified in what they do. Heaven forfend you slip up and start thinking of rivals or adversaries or opponents or even those who disagree with you as no more than people – with or without grievances or differing opinions…

In January 2005, Wild was in Paris; gripped by ennui and lack of inspiration and only mildly galvanised by lack of money and imminent homelessness. Responding to an online ad, he applied to a Communications Agency looking for a comics artist and was astounded to find himself accepted for a short commission. The job was overseas…

‘Part One: A Winter in Kabul’ follows the culture-shocked scribbler as he arduously transitions to a country in the throes of enforced reconstruction and modernisation, joining the somewhat sketchy and rather dubious NGO Zendagui Media as they work to bring the war-torn region into the arena of modern nations. Wild’s proposed task is to help define the fancy notion of democracy for the still-largely illiterate populace through comicbook versions of Afghanistan’s new Constitution…

The artist’s early difficulties in adjusting to the primitive conditions and superb gift for wry commentary afford the reader a brilliant example of the complex made simple as Wild succinctly unpicks Afghanistan’s convoluted history through the 20th century via a cartoon political primer that brilliantly defines how the place got to be such a corrupt mess. I certainly wish I’d had more comics like this when I studied modern history…

Days pass, and Nicholas settles in, toiling against impossible deadlines, conversely feeling locked in or anxiously exposed whenever he goes exploring; always aware that in this place foreigners go missing every day…

Although the security situation remains tense, trouble seems to only strike elsewhere and eventually Nick assimilates: befriending ordinary Afghanis, shopping, visiting Shiite mosques, eating in restaurants and even sightseeing in the stunning Bamiyan Valley…

All too soon the job is done and Wild is afraid he’s going to be let go…

‘Part Two: No Spring in Kabul’ finds him on April 1st 2005, happy to be retained, albeit on a 3-month contract as a graphic designer for Zendagui’s new project. The brief is to supply materials for a US military-sponsored push to recruit native Afghanis for the new National Army. The thought of crafting military propaganda is not a comforting or comfortable one…

Spiced with further insights about his improbable and unpredictable bosses and new eating experiences, the real kicker is meeting new recruit Laurie White: a political communications expert who worked with the 2000 Bush Election Campaign…

Trips to the University of Herat and enjoyable days amidst the villagers soon cement the visitor’s sense of belonging but that all takes a hard knock as the political situation intensifies and overconfidence leads to Wild getting lost in old Kabul…

When a fresh kidnapping results in a full lockdown for Zendagui staff, Laurie teasingly reveals the true story of Bush’s “victory” in Florida, but once the panic subsides it’s back to work. Even though Al Qaeda and the Taliban are ramping up their activities, Nick is sent to the far end of the Jalalabad Road to observe the filming of a recruitment ad just as Laurie is despatched to consult on the new voting form for a nation of more than two dozen different tribes and sects who don’t speak the same language and can’t read…

And so it goes, with fond reveries and razor-sharp observations peppering Wild’s irresistible account of an ordinary job in extraordinary times and a magical place: with idiocy and contradiction relentlessly piling up but also with progress somehow being made… until it’s time to go home again…

But is it for good?

Primarily rendered in beguiling monochrome, Kabul Disco also offers a stunning, full colour ‘Bonus Section’ comprising candid personal photographs of Wild’s stay, plus extensive examples of Yassin & Kaka Raouf: the 10-volume educational comic book he illustrated to explain the new Constitution for the newly democratised country.

Captivating, warm, funny, scarily informative and unobtrusively polemical, Kabul Disco is a wittily readable, non-discriminating reverie that informs and charms with surprising effect: the perfect response to the idiocy of war and dangers of corporate imperialism as well as a sublime tribute to the potent indomitability of human nature. I can’t comprehend how a celebration of such miraculous change and progress can be lost in the space of 16 years…
© 2018, Humanoids Inc., Los Angeles (USA). All rights reserved. First published in France as Kabul Disco Tome 1: Comment je ne me suis pas fait kidnapper en Afghanistan, © 2007 La Boîte à Bulles & Nicholas Wild. All rights reserved.

Farewell, Brindavoine


By Tardi, translated by Jenna Allen (Fantagraphics)
ISBN: 978-1-68396-433-9 (Album HB)

Credited with creating a new style of expressionistic illustration dubbed “the New Realism”, Jacques Tardi is one of the greatest comics creators in the world, blessed with a singular vision and adamantine ideals. A strident anti-war activist, he apparently refused France’s greatest honour because he wanted to be completely free to say and create what he wants.

Tardi was born in the Commune of Valence, Drôme in August 1946 studying at École Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and subsequently the prestigious Parisian École Nationale Supérieure des arts Décoratifs. He launched his comics career in 1969 at the home of modern French comics Pilote, with the series we’re looking at today first seen in 1972-1973.

From illustrating stories by Jean Giraud, Serge de Beketch and Pierre Christian, he moved on to westerns, crime tales and satirical works in magazines such as Record, Libération, Charlie Mensuel and L’Écho des Savanes all whilst graduating into adapting prose novels by Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Léo Malet.

The latter’s detective Nestor Burma was the subject of all-new albums written and drawn by Tardi once the established literary canon was exhausted, leading to the creation of Polonius in Métal Hurlant (1976) and the now-legendary Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec – an epic period fantasy adventure which ran in the daily Sud-Ouest. The series numbers ten volumes thus far and inhabits the same pocket reality as the star of this tome.

The passionate creator has crafted many crushingly powerful anti-war books and stories (C’était la guerre des tranchées, Le trou d’obus, Moi René Tardi, prisonnier de guerre au Stalag IIB and other) dealing with the common soldier’s plight; written novels, created radio series, worked in movies, and co-created – with writer Jean Vautrin – Le Cri du Peuple: a quartet of albums about the Parisienne revolt of the Communards.

Far too few of this French master’s creations are available in English (barely a dozen out of more than fifty) but, thanks to NBM, iBooks and Fantagraphics, we’re catching up.

This lavish full-colour hardback (also available digitally) began life as Adieu Brindavoine, with its obscure yet complex Victoriana, shady political intrigues, dastardly plutocratic plotters and cast-iron-&-clockwork chic, leading to Tardi being proclaimed in later years the Godfather of Steampunk. His surreally-structured absurdist episodes and incidents – strung together in an almost stream-of-consciousness mode – work best on the visual perceptions with dialogue used only to ensure clarity or bemuse perception…

Following a context-supplying appreciation in Benoít Mouchart’s Preface, we begin in Neuilly-Sur-Seine in May 1914, as an aged messenger braves the cluttered and controversial home of gentleman photographer Lucien Brindavoine. Surly Basil Zarkhov has a startling – and potentially life-changing – proposition, but is gunned down by a skylight-shattering intruder before he can share it. However, thanks to his deathbed exposition, Lucien is soon heading by steamship for Istanbul, and another risky meeting…

Constantly encountering strikingly odd individuals, he is soon unwillingly partnered with effetely obnoxious intoxicated Englishman Mr. Oswald Carpleasure and hurtling across the desert towards Afghanistan in a battered motor vehicle. In their immediate future is a fantastic lost city, but the sinister gunman is in hot pursuit and wicked Olga Vogelgesang is determined to destroy them with her deadly state-of-the-military-art biplane…

After much privation and bewilderment, Lucien finally reaches the lost Iron City and is greeted by the orchestrators of many of his woes. Learning of an incredible plutocratic plot affords him little comfort, but before long the baroque devils in nominal charge fall upon each other like deranged wolves, enabling, if not compelling Brindavoine to flee in the most advanced passenger craft in the world…

Thanks to a breaking world war, he doesn’t get far…

Following the tale’s conclusion, a compelling comic epilogue from a previously unseen narrator (think Rocky Horror Show) deviously adds to the confusion by “explaining” what’s happened and Lucien’s ultimate fate before introducing a thematic follow-up.

‘Lambs to the Slaughter’ is set in November 1914 with deserters from all the armies involved holing up in a shattered church. Plagued by visions of perfect pasts and potential tomorrows, they are completely unprepared for when the mad military of today finds them…

Bizarre, visually resplendent, darkly funny, evocative and deliciously challenging, Farewell, Brindavoine is a comic tour de force on every level and a sublime example of how fashion, fantasy and futurism can work miracles when woven together by a master craftsman.
This edition of Farewell, Brindavoine © 2021 Fantagraphics Books, Inc. Adieu Brindavoine © 2011 Casterman. Translation © 2021 Jenna Allen. Preface © 2021 Benoít Mouchart. All rights reserved.

Farewell, Brindavoine is physically released on August 26th 2021 and available for pre-order. Digital editions can be purchased now.

Young Gods and Friends


By Barry Windsor Smith (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-56097-491-8 (HB)

Barry Windsor Smith is a consummate creator whose work has moved millions and a principled artist who has always been poorly served by the mainstream publishing houses. Whether with his co-creation of Sword-and-Sorcery comics via Conan the Barbarian or his later work-for-hire material for The Thing (in Marvel Fanfare #15 – and utterly hilarious), Machine Man, Iron Man, X-Men, Weapon X or his tremendously addictive original run of Archer & Armstrong for Valiant Comics with Jim Shooter, BWS’ stunning visuals always entranced but never led to anything long-lived or substantial… and always the problem seems to be the clash between business ethics and creative freedom…

In 1995 Dark Horse, an outfit specialising in licensed and creator-owned properties, offered him a carte-blanche chance to do it his way in his own tabloid-sized anthology – Barry Windsor-Smith: Storyteller. The magazine carried three features written and drawn by the artist; The Paradoxman, The Freebooters and Young Gods. Although the work was simply stunning, it soon became apparent independent publishers could be cut from the same cloth as the mainstream…

It’s not my business to comment on that: I’ve been both freelancer and publisher so I know there are at least two sides to everything (and you can share Mr. Windsor Smith’s in this stunning collection from Fantagraphics available in oversized hardback and digital editions). The series ended acrimoniously in 1997 after nine issues with all the stories unfinished. This tome collected all the published material of one strip-strand, including chapters still in progress at the time of the split, some new and reformatted material and other extras that fans and lovers of whimsical fiction would be crazy to miss, backed-up by fascinating commentary and insights from the creator himself.

But it is still incomplete and that’s a true shame…

Created as a light-hearted and wittily arch tribute to Jack Kirby’s majestic pantheon of cosmic comic deities, Young Gods and Friends nominally stars foul-mouthed earthbound goddess Adastra, just getting by in contemporary times as a pizza-delivery person in New York City. However, it all slowly and hilariously builds, spreading into a mythico-graphic Waiting for Godot tribute as we trace her past, discover warring pantheons that decided arranged weddings were better than Ragnaroks and meet those bold and heroic nuptualists who would do and have done anything to avoid the arrangement: becoming delightfully diverted down a dozen different paths as the story oh-so-slowly builds.

As I’ve mentioned, the series came to an abrupt halt with the 9th episode, but there was a tenth ready and that is shimmied in here, as well as material and fragments that would have been supplemented the first dozen instalments – including deleted scenes, outtakes and reworked snippets.

On a purely artistic level of artistic appreciation, this collection and extrapolation is a sheer delight; with superb art, splendid writing and all sorts of added extras, but the hungry story-consumer in me can’t help but yearn for what might have been and how much has been lost.

Beautiful wry, witty and completely enchanting – and tragically disappointing because of that…

Enjoy it if you can…
™ & © 2003 Barry Windsor Smith. All Rights Reserved.

The Puma Blues: The Complete Collection in One Volume


By Stephen Murphy & Michael Zulli, with Alan Moore & various (Dover Comics & Graphic Novels)
ISBN: 978-0-846-79813-4 (HB)

Introduction by Dave Sim and Afterword by Stephen R. Bissette

During the 1980s, American comics experienced an astounding proliferation of new titles and companies following the creation of the Direct Sales Market. With publishers now able to firm-sale straight to specialised, dedicated retail outlets – rather than overprint and accept returned copies from general magazine vendors – the industry was able to risk resources on less commercially-driven titles whilst authors, artists and publishers could experiment without losing their shirts.

The huge outpouring of fresh material deriving from the Direct Sales revolution resulted in a plethora of innovative titles and – naturally – a host of appalling, derivative, knocked-off, banged-out trash too. There were even some genuine landmarks and milestones…

The period was an immensely fertile time for English-language comics-creators. Comics shops – run by people in touch with their customers and who actually read and loved at least some of what they sold – sprang up everywhere and a host of new publishers began to experiment with format, genre and content, whilst eager readers celebrated the happy coincidence that everybody seemed to have a bit of extra money to play with.

Consequently, newcomers were soon aggressively competing for the attention and cash of punters who had wearied of getting their sequential art jollies from DC, Marvel, Archie and/or Harvey Comics. European, Japanese and Canadian material began creeping in, and by 1983 companies such as WaRP Graphics, Pacific, Eclipse, Capital, Now, Comico, Dark Horse, First, Renegade and others established themselves and made impressive inroads.

Most importantly, by circumventing traditional family-focussed sales points like newsstands, more mature material could be produced: not just increasingly violent or sexually explicit but also more political and intellectually challenging too. Subsequently, the “kid’s stuff” stigma afflicting comics largely dissipated and America began catching up to the rest of the world, at least partially acknowledging that comics might be a for-real art-form.

New talent, established stars and different takes on old forms all found a thriving forum and marketplace desperate for something a little different. Even tiny companies and foreign outfits had a fair shot at the big time. Lots of great material came – and, almost universally, as quickly went – without getting the attention or success they warranted. One of the most critically acclaimed and enthralling features was published by the Moses of Independent creators, Dave Sim.

Sim started self-publishing Cerebus the Aardvark in 1977 and pretty much trail-blazed the entire phenomenon for the rest of us. Passionately, stridently non-mainstream, he soldiered on in complete control of every aspect of his creation and occasionally published other titles by creators who impressed him or he liked. Eventually, however, Sim ditched a coterie of fine and uniquely different books that were nurtured by his Aardvark-Vanaheim outfit, leaving them with his ex-wife’s new company Renegade, re-concentrating all his efforts on Cerebus once more.

And then in 1985, a couple of casual acquaintances showed Sim the opening instalment of something called The Puma Blues

The full story – including how that strangely compelling, so-slowly unfolding eco-fable became a helpless hostage and collateral casualty in the one-man publishing house’s lengthy battle with an international distributor determined to dictate how creators did business – is related here in painful, sordid detail in Sim’s Introduction for this impressive archival edition – complete with his equally stunning pin-up of the series’ iconic signature invention…

This monolithic monochrome tome gathers every published issue of The Puma Blues comic (except the non-canonical Benefit Issue #21, which was rushed out in solidarity by incensed fellow creators to generate publicity, support and funds) before, after almost a quarter century, reuniting writer Stephen Murphy & Michael Zulli to finally complete their story…

That aforementioned funnybook hostage was an eerily beautiful, disturbingly pensive oddment which first debuted as a black-&-white title in June 1986 (so Happy Anniversary, folks!); marrying then-escalating ecological concerns and tropes of science fictive paranoia with torturous soul-searching and the eternal quest for place in both family and the world…

The Puma Blues is a tale more about the Why and How of things rather than the usual Who and What of plot and character, so this overview will be brief and short on detail. Trust me, you’ll be grateful for my forbearance when you read this magnum opus yourself…

Accepting the premise that all Science Fiction – whenever it’s created – is always about Right Here, Right Now, the abiding undercurrent of The Puma Blues is an inexorable slide to tragic, unfixable, unwanted change. With the planet either on fire, suddenly underwater, poisoned or choking, it never been more relevant to ponder “what happens next”?

Since the 1970s and proceeding ever more unchecked into the 21st century, nations and human society have been plagued by horrors and disasters exacerbated – if not actually caused – by a world-wide proliferation of lying, greedy, venal, demented and just plain stupid bosses and governments. You could call it retro-futurism now, but Tomorrow, at least in terms of society – as seen from the shaky perch of 1986 – was for many a foredoomed and hopeless place.

Looking at my TV screen or out of a window, I’m not sure that Murphy & Zulli weren’t fundamentally right and doubling as prophets when they set their gentle epic 14 years into the future. 2000 AD and government agent Gavia Immer (look it up, they’re being very clever) is monitoring changes to flora and fauna in the wilderness Reserve around Quabbin Reservoir, Massachusetts on behalf of the US military.

Still a beautiful, idyllic landscape dominated by ancient apex predators like mountain lions, despite perpetual acid rains, ozone layer breaches and radioactive toxins left after White Supremacists nuked the Bronx, the harsh area monitored by the solitary researcher is the site of some radical changes…

Gavia’s job is not simply clerical. His mission is to periodically test fluctuating PH levels of the lake in between the state’s continual chemical readjustments of the body of water and, whenever he discovers a mutant species – whether “animute” or “biomute” – he has to utilise state-of-the-art technology to instantaneously ship specimens to a US-Sino laboratory Reserve somewhere in China.

That hasn’t prevented the hauntingly lovely flying mantas from proliferating and dominating the skies above his head, however…

Gavia’s only contact with the rest of humanity is his TV screen. It delivers reports, interviews and pep talks from his superiors and allows him to talk to his mother: allowing the solitary agent plenty of time to brood about his father’s death and their unresolved issues.

The fanatical film-maker has been gone four years now, but Gavia is still drowning in unresolved conflicts, which is probably what prompts his mum to forward tapes of all the strange documentaries he neglected his wife and son to make…

Is Gavia imagining it or is he actually gradually divining some inner cosmic revelation from his dad’s tapes and theories? Their examination of recent historical events draws solid links between the declining state of the world and a (frankly baffling and seemingly implausible) connection to patterns of UFO sightings. Surely though, his father’s clearly growing obsession with the strange “alien” creatures popularly known as “Greys” must only have his metaphorical way of searching for incontestable Truth?

Nonetheless, they slowly begin to have a similar effect on the thinking of the equally soul-searching son…

There’s certainly plenty of room for new answers: the growing dominance of flying mantas is clearly no longer a secret – as Gavia learns to his regret – after an old soldier and radical “neo-Audubon” called Jack invades the Preserve looking for proof of the flying (former) fish. Despite himself, Gavia lets the affable old coot stay; a decision he soon has cause to regret…

As animals old and new jostle and tussle to find their niche in the new world order, Gavia sinks further into his father’s videotaped philosophies until he has his revelation and takes off into the heart of America to find out how and why things are falling apart…

Proffering an increasingly strong but never strident message of environmental duty and responsibility, The Puma Blues outlined its arguments and questions as a staggeringly beautiful and compelling mystery play which ran for 23 formal issues, a Benefit special designated “Eat or Be Eaten” and a tantalisingly half-sized #24 before the exigencies of publishing made it extinct.

Before it was squeezed out of existence the saga was collected as two trade paperbacks – Watch That Man and Sense of Doubt – but this monumental hardback tome (also and preferentially available in an eco-sustainable digital edition) belatedly completes the story before offering a passionate defence and valiant elegiac testimony in ‘Acts of Faith: a Coda’by devoted follower and occasional contributor Stephen R. Bissette: even finding room to reprint two items from the aforementioned Benefit Issue: a page from ‘Pause’ by Murphy, Zulli & Bissette, plus the eerily erotic ‘Acts of Faith’ by Alan Moore, Bissette & Zulli, exploring the mating habits of those sky-borne Birostris (look that up too, now I’m being clever…)

The long-delayed walk on the wild side concludes with the quasi-theosophical ‘Mobile’: the full contents of Puma Blues #24½ mini-comic by Murphy & Zulli.

Haunting, chilling, beguiling, intensely imposing and never more timely than now, this is a massive accomplishment and enduring triumph in comics narrative. Read it now, before we’re all too busy treading burning water…
© 2015 Stephen Murphy & Michael Zulli. Introduction by Dave Sim © 2015 to be reciprocally owned by both Stephen Murphy & Michael Zulli. Afterword © 2015 by Stephen R. Bissette. All rights reserve.

Black Panther Marvel Masterworks volume 3


By Peter B. Gillis, Don McGregorGene Colan, Denys Cowan, Tom Palmer & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-2869-8 (HB)

Lauded as the first black superhero in American comics and one of the first to carry his own series, the Black Panther’s popularity and fortunes have waxed and waned since the 1960s when he first attacked the FF (in Fantastic Four #52; cover-dated July 1966) as part of an elaborate plan to gain vengeance on the murderer of his father. Happy 55thAnniversary, guys!

T’Challa, son of T’Chaka was revealed as an African monarch whose hidden kingdom was the only source of a vibration-absorbing alien metal upon which the country’s immense wealth was founded. Those mineral riches – derived from a fallen meteor which struck the continent in primeval antiquity – had powered his country’s transformation into a technological wonderland. That tribal wealth had long been guarded by a hereditary feline-garbed champion deriving physical advantages from secret ceremonies and a mysterious heart-shaped herb that ensured the generational dominance of the nation’s warrior Panther Cult.

Peter Gillis’ Introduction ‘Travels with T’Challa’ details the long journey to publication for the original deeply-politicised anti-apartheid yarn and is followed by ‘To Follow the track of The Great Cat with renewed wonder on his Panther’s Quest (From “Panther’s Rage” to “Panther’s Prey”)’: a typically effulgent and informative Introduction from venerable author McGregor detailing his own lengthy association with “The Great Cat” and the landmark saga re-presented here…

Collected in this sterling hardback and digital collection is a much-delayed miniseries conceived and mostly crafted in 1984 but only completed and released between July to October 1988, as well as the astounding serial from fortnightly anthology Marvel Comics Presents # 13-37 running (February to December 1989).

As the 1980s closed, the Panther made a dynamic comeback after years of absence and occasional cameos, courtesy of writer Peter B. Gillis and illustrators Denys Cowan & Sam DeLarosa…

The Black Panthers rule over a fantastic African paradise which isolated itself from the rest of the world millennia ago. Blessed with unimaginable resources – both natural and not so much – Wakanda developed uninterrupted into the most technologically advanced human nation on Earth, utterly unmolested by rapacious European imperialism. That did not mean, however, geographical neighbours were allies, …

In ‘Cry, the Accursed Country!’ technologically-advanced white nationalist bastion Azania has subjugated and tormented its own black majority population for centuries whilst plotting Wakanda’s downfall. As global condemnation of the apartheid regime mounts, T’Challa learns that the Panther God has withdrawn its blessing: consecrating and empowering as a new Black Panther a priest imprisoned in Azania. When this savage avatar begins inflicting bloody retribution on the ruling class, the Azanians blame Wakanda…

Deprived of his feline blessings and herding war-hungry dissidents in his own nation, T’Challa faces a crisis of confidence – and faith – in ‘For Duty, For Honor, For Country!’ which is no help when Azania targets Wakanda with its own super-agents: The Supremacists

Soon T’Challa’s people face international condemnation and nuclear Armageddon after ‘The Moorbecx Communique!’adds layers of espionage to the escalating crisis, compelling the outcast king to risk his principles and challenge his god to regain his birthright in ‘A Cat Can Look at a King…’

Most tragically, the Panther must defeat his dark mirror image and knows that, win or lose, nothing will ever be the same again…

That notion was confirmed mere months later when new fortnightly anthology Marvel Comics Presents offered a long-clamoured-for thematic sequel to a legendary epic. Lyrical intellectual Don McGregor immortalised T’Challa in a stunning 1970s periodical run which generated the revered Panther’s Rage saga and controversial Panther vs the Klan storyline. After years away from mainstream comics, crafting groundbreaking graphic novels such as Sabre: Slow Fade of an Endangered Species and Detectives Inc. and series such as Ragamuffins and Nathaniel Dusk, he was lured back to his roots to spin a shocking tale of contemporary intolerance and the end-days of Apartheid…

He was joined by a deeply sympatico, semi-regular collaborator whose credentials in crafting human-scaled tales of adventure, horror and empathetic emotional drama were second to none. He was also one the industry’s earliest exponents of strong black characters…

Eugene Jules “Gene” Colan (September 1st 1926 – June 23rd 2011) was one of comics’ greatest talents: a quietly professional artist who valued accuracy and authenticity in his work, whether science fiction, horror, war, satirical humour or the vast number of superheroes he brought to life.

A devotee of classic adventure strips, Colan studied at the Art Students League of New York, before beginning his own career in 1944 (on Wings Comics) before military service in the Philippines. The war had just ended and Colan had time to draw for local paper The Manilla Times.

By 1946 he was a civilian again, and working under Stan Lee for Atlas on supernatural, crime and other genre stories. He illustrated the last Golden Age Captain America (Captain America’s Weird Tales #75; February 1950), an all-horror issue sans any superhero material at all. It was like a sign…

As the industry radically transformed, he began freelancing at DC/National Comics whilst remaining an Atlas mainstay. His assignments increasingly focused on new genres: War and Romance.

As Superhero stories returned, he moved exclusively to Marvel (except for a range of monochrome horror stories done for Archie Goodwin at Warren Magazines), where his dynamic realism offered a powerful alternative to the graphic stylisations of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita and Don Heck.

Colan became renowned for Daredevil (where he created blind black detective Willie Lincoln), Captain America, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Avengers, Sub-Mariner and Howard the Duck. During this period, he co-created Guardians of the Galaxy, two Captain Marvels (Mar-Vell and Carol Danvers), drew all of Tomb of Dracula – thereby introducing Blade the Vampire Slayer to the world – and was responsible for another black comic book icon (and the nation’s first African American costumed hero), The Falcon.

In the 1980s he returned to DC, working on Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and The Spectre, co-creating Night Force, Silverblade, Jemm, Son of Saturn and period private eye Nathanial Dusk before graduating into independent comics at the forefront of innovation that marked the rise of the Direct Sales Market.

His later career was blighted by health issues, but he continued drawing whenever he could, for many companies. On one of his periodic returns to Marvel he reunited with McGregor for this astounding tale: serialised in in 25 fortnightly chapters in MCP #13-37 (February to December1989).

One of the most thought-provoking mainstream comics tales ever created, Panther’s Quest added pressure to the ever-growing Anti-Apartheid movement in comics and western media, by examining not only the condition of racial inequality but also turning a damning eye on sexual oppression. Whether in his numerous solo series or as part of super-teams such as The Avengers, Fantastic Four or The Ultimates, Black Panther has always been one of Marvel’s most politically strident and socially-crusading characters.

Inked in its entirety by perfect partner Tom Palmer, it begins on a dark night as the Panther infiltrates neighbouring totalitarian South Africa where a white minority oppresses the millions of blacks who live there. T’Challa has heard ‘A Rumour of Life’ and come seeking his stepmother Ramonda. His father’s second wife had raised the bereaved boy when T’Challa’s birth mother died, but one day when he was only three, she vanished and no one would speak of her. Now, he’s invaded the most dangerous land on Earth – for his kind – in search of answers from unscrupulous information peddler Patrick Slade

‘Forgotten Corpses’ observes that clandestine meeting savagely interrupted by white paramilitaries seeking to kill them – but without alerting police or security services…

McGregor has always a fascination with the real effects and consequences of violence, and this tale contains some pretty shocking moments that will make many readers wince. Suffice it to say I’m staying vague throughout this review, but will say that vicious brute Elmer Gore graphically tortures the Panther with barbed wire in ‘Lost Blood in Copper Dust’, leading to the maimed hero staggering into the arms of ‘The Man Who Loved Sunrise’.

Narrative voice of the ordinary man Zanti Chikane is a black miner and second-class citizen crushed by his intolerable life, but he stifles his understandable caution to offer assistance to torn, bleeding T’Challa. That leads to his own brush with death as white killers employ what they consider ‘Reasonable Force’ against the suspects, before being trounced by the still-fighting cat-man…

The scene changes with ‘Naked Exposures’ as government Magistrate of Communications Anton Pretorius orders his well-pummelled, furious minions to capture invading masked terrorist Black Panther. The invader is a threat to national security but the mercenaries need no other reasons to kill the treacherous “kaffir”. Just to be sure, though, Pretorius also uses his position to send out a nationwide TV alert…

‘Battered Artifacts’ finds T’Challa tracking Slade to an impoverished township, unaware that he’s under surveillance and about to step into the other side of the deadly politics that wracked South Africa at this time. ‘Hatred under Tears’ sees the mercenaries attack, uncaring of the small children they are endangering. As the Great Cat stops to aid a tear-gassed toddler, ‘Justifiable Action’ sees him shot for his efforts and arrested in ‘Personal Risk’ before breaking free and escaping…

‘The Official Version’ gives T’Challa a lesson in realpolitik from Slade’s wife, even as the State intensifies its hunt for him, with Security Minister Doeke Riebeek officially branding the entire emergency a communist plot…

In the township ‘Voices Heard, Voices Ignored’ finds Zanti pondering the terrifying dangers to his family before returning to aid the Panther, whilst ‘A Right to Kill’ shows Riebeek beginning to suspect Pretorius’ motives. Meanwhile, the enraged township men move against a suspected traitor determined ‘Somebody’s Going to Pay’. They’re carrying petrol and tyres needed for the appalling punishment they call “necklacing”. Do not google it or buy this book if you have a weak stomach…

When the Panther acts to save a life, he is horribly burned but events escalate to total tragedy as ‘Last Night I Wept for Freedom’ shows how the boy he helped returns the favour and pays the ultimate price, despite his own superhuman efforts and the initially-reluctant intervention of a white doctor in ‘Lost Promises’

Traumatised and repentant, T’Challa returns to Slade whose ‘Dark Maneuvers’ lead them into a trap laid by Pretorius’ mercenaries in ‘So Many Nameless Enemies’. The battle is brief but provides a crucial clue in the true quest, as the trader reveals how, years ago, he learned of a black woman held in glittering bondage for decades in the home of a high-ranking government official…

‘Chances’ see Riebeek’s forces closing in as T’Challa follows his fresh clue to Johannesburg, confronting one merc in ‘The Great Cat in the City of Gold’. Now focused on Pretorius, the Panther and Zanti attempt to save his precious stealth-ship from being taken by Riebeek in ‘Losing Control’… but at a terrible cost…

After ‘Saying Goodbye’, the quest moves into its endgame as T’Challa assaults Pretorius’ luxurious citadel, circumventing deadly ‘Barriers’; crushing human and canine ‘Opponents’ (still more grimly authentic action in need of a strong stomach advisory…) to ultimately rescue Ramonda from the luxurious cell she has inhabited ever since Pretorius abducted her decades ago.

The tyrannical hypocrite’s obsessive, abusive passion for her was also his downfall: a secret capable of destroying him in a nation and government that decreed interracial mixing immoral, unnatural and illegal. Ultimately, it’s Ramonda who decrees his fate whilst enjoying a ‘Dawn Reunion’ with her long-lost child…

The edgily barbed political fantasy is augmented by a full cover gallery, pages and maps of Wakanda fromThe Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, featuring T’Challa, Central Wakanda, Klaw, Klaw’s Blaster and Kiber the Cruel. There are also text features from Marvel Age #20 and #63 covering the Gillis/Cowan revival, plus pinups from Steve Rude (Marvel Fanfare #45) and Bill Reinhold (Marvel Fanfare #41), and the cover of Panther’s Quest 2017 collection it was eventually adapted for …

An explosive rocket ride of thrills, spills, chills, delayed gratification, and potent commentary, these long-lost classics confirm the Black Panther as one of the most complex and versatile characters in comics and simply scream “Read me! Read me!” You should, and you must…
© 2021 MARVEL

The Big Guy and Rusty, the Boy Robot (2nd Edition)


By Frank Miller, Geof Darrow & various (Dark Horse/Legend)
ISBN: 978-1-61655-853-6 (HB) eISBN 978-1-63008-645-9

Above all else, robots are an artefact of personal childhood mythology: a synthesis of comics and toys and cartoons absorbed without inhibition as your brain was laying out the blueprints of the mature (don’t snicker, it’s childish) person you became. They’re always going to taste of fear and wonder and uncomplicated joy. That doesn’t mean you can’t revisit them with adult eyes and sensibilities, only that the results might be a little… off-kilter.

The Big Guy and Rusty, the Boy Robot was an occasional but intense collaboration between Legendary creators Frank Miller & Geof Darrow (Hard Boiled): a gloriously madcap, stridently ironic tribute to 1950s/1960s B-movie madness and a post-modern love letter to the magic of Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy.

The characters first popped up in Dark Horse Comics’ Legend Imprint title Mike Allred’s Madman Comics #6-7 before graduating to their own oversized 1995 miniseries, and elsewhere. Like Bosch or Brueghel, Darrow’s exuberant, meticulously extravagant manically-detailed tableaux churned with life and macabre animation whilst Miller played with revered plot tropes and movie memes and took measured swipes at contemporary American society.

It all begins with ‘Rusty Fights Alone!’ as a landmark genetics experiment in Japan opens a doorway to ancient supernal terror, releasing a demonic beast that rampages through Tokyo devouring and transforming the populace into monsters. With police and defence forces helpless, the authorities have only one hope: a plucky prototype android boy determined to do his best…

His best is nowhere near enough and with deep regret and trepidation Japan’s Prime Minister concedes to the pleas of his panicked Cabinet and accepts an offer of assistance from the Americans…

Concluding chapter ‘The Big Guy Kicks Butt!’ sees a blockbusting, armed -&-armoured mammoth mechanoid – programmed with the amiable personality of a salt-of-the-earth US GI and carrying the acme of American ordnance – deployed to save the city and the world. It’s a knock-down, drag-out no-holds barred battle that devastates everything, but ultimately true grit and American know-how win the day. In the aftermath, the battered warrior-bot is lauded by the survivors and awarded the rather annoying little robot as his eternal companion, sidekick and protégé…

Added extras include a hilarious spoof cover gallery by Darrow & colourist Dave Stewart plus an extra vignette of comics fun. ‘Terror Comes on the Fourth!!!!!!’ finds the mechanoid marvels battling a disgusting giant bug-beast menacing Moonsanto Beach with its genetic atrocities, just as vacationing patriots seek to celebrate the nation’s birthday. Not on the rowdy, righteous robots’ watch, no sirree!…

Topped off with a bevy of brillant pin-ups by Darrow & Stewart, and guest cameos from Todd McFarlane’s Spawn and Joe Quesada & Jimmy Palmiotti’s Ash, this is a bombastic, blustering action riot: a sly pastiche dipped in satire and a powerfully self-indulgent treat for unrepentant kids of all ages.
™ & © 1995, 1996, 2015 Frank Miller, Inc. and Geofrey Darrow. All rights reserved.

Skydoll: Decade


By Barbara Canepa & Alessandro Barbucci (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-78276-736-7 (HB)

Astoundingly barbed political and anti-consumerist satirical allegory Skydoll has appeared sporadically since 2000. It’s the other work of frequent collaborators Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa, whose usual offerings include family-oriented fare such as W.I.T.C.H. and Monster Allergy. Although rendered in the seductive anthropomorphic style developed for and signifying decades of wholesome Disney cartooning, it’s a subtly strident attack on corporate consumerism, media mesmerism of the masses, political expediency, religion and the power of the Catholic church. It’s all wrapped up in the raunchy, beguiling trappings of super-sexy science fiction shenanigans with artificial people so that makes it all right, right?

The majority of the of the sporadic components thus far generated were beautifully bound up in a gloriously oversized (284 x 212mm) full-colour hardback edition for the English-speaking cognoscenti in 2016, which is still readily available physically if not yet digitally…

The subversive odyssey begins with prose ‘Preface: ten years of Skydoll’: a bold declaration of intent by The Authorsbefore speeding straight into fantastic fantasy with ‘Volume 1: The Yellow City’, introducing fetching, wind-up automaton Noa who’s asking God for a little fair treatment whilst working at the insalubrious Heaven Spaceshipwash. She’s not like all the other beautiful dolls working there. Although she still needs to be wound-up every 33 hours by her owner, this alluring animatron seems to have a memory that doesn’t delete itself every couple of days. This means she keeps thinking of difficult fresh questions to ask…

Furiously shoved back to work, Noa ignores the fabulously bland and vapid blather of TV talk show monolith Frida Decibel blasting out from every home and public broadcast screen, telling the populace of Papathea how good everything is now that they only have one Popessa… in the buxom form of the divine Ludovica.

Once upon a time there were two True Vicars of God: Agape – who embodied spiritual love – and Ludovica who personified its physical expression. When Agape mysteriously vanished, her corporeal partner became sole arbiter of the galactic empire the church controls, commencing a campaign of craftily concocted public miracles to pacify an increasingly irate and disillusioned populace. It’s not really working though, and a rising tide of rebellion and resentment is just beginning to pop…

Our story really begins when two of Ludovica’s “Diplomatic Agents” stop at Heaven to get their starcraft properly shined before heading out on their top-secret mission. Old Jahu is especially keen on the diversion: everybody knows lusting after or even indulging in pleasure with a Doll doesn’t count as sin. The Popessa said so…

However, whilst lathering up the ship of some fervent fundamentalists at the head of the queue, Noa accidentally kicks off a small riot, even as, across the city, Ludovica’s latest manufactured miracle kicks into high-gear with mesmerising effect…

By the time the barrage of supernal glitz and gaudy glitter subsides, Jahu and young idealistic Roy are well on their way. They have no idea there’s a dazed and surprised stowaway aboard, with her crucial, life-sustaining key still negligently left in her back…

On the rapidly dwindling planet behind them, Ludovica fumes. Despite getting rid of her rival, the lone Popessa’s grasp of power remains uncertain. The people still hunger for absent Agape and there are rumours of rebellion. The anxious, power-mad pontiff has no idea how close to home the sedition reaches…

Aboard ship, Roy has made a startling discovery. Unable to help himself, he turns the key in the inert innocent’s back and restores temporary autonomy to a vivacious creature he can’t help but like…

Doctrinaire Jahu is less sanguine, but the mission is too important to delay. They can always dump the doll on the way home…

Noa is eternally curious, asking questions about everything. Inexplicably, she is especially moved by an illicit image of Agape the voyagers encounter in a space restaurant. It triggers strange, terrifying visions and Roy has to physically restrain Noa. What happens next is regarded by the astounded onlookers as a miracle…

The story resumes with ‘Volume 2: Aqua’ as hints start circulating about Noa’s destiny and the unseen sponsors who seem to be guiding her destiny. The Popessa’s missionary ambassadors meanwhile land on the world without males: one successfully propounding a third spiritual way…

Governed by planetary Guru Gaia, the women of Aqua are steadily gaining support across the universe, supported and funded by their range of wellness centres and luxury goods which everyone wants to try. Roy is there to build diplomatic bridges between the Popessa and the completely antithetical Aquans in the cause of peace. He has no idea Jahu’s orders are a little different. That stalwart always knew the only way to really deal with heretics…

Noa inveigles her way into the official conference: she’s hopeful these strange women will have some insight into her own rapidly-expanding consciousness. She is stunned by what they do know and their connection to missing Agape.

And as Jahu goes about his bloody work, back on Papathea, bloody revolution breaks out…

The intrigue expands in ‘Volume 3: The White City’ when Roy, Jahu and constantly-maturing Noa return as triumphant heroes. When officially interviewed by the ubiquitous Frida Decibel, the web of intrigue and damnation expands to encompass some very unexpected personalities, even as the empire stands poised on the edge of Armageddon and real miracles are observed in the most unlikely places…

A broad, vast, clever and frustrating unfinished epic, Skydoll is still unfolding at its own tantalising pace. There has however been plenty of sidebar and ancillary material released such as ‘Volume 0: Doll’s Factory’ which offers a sequence of prequel events, fleshing out the main characters.

Here a strange woman visits a factory, placing something miraculous inside a doll in the final stages of manufacture, whilst ‘Heaven’s Dolls’ rewards the reader with information on the world and empire of the Popessa, affording insights into other Dolls such as Lovely Lou, Juicy Lee, Sandy Blue and God himself – proving just why he needed killing…

There’s also a hilarious Sky Doll ‘Psycho-grapho Test’ to further reveal how life and society really work…

This immaculate confection culminates in a huge collection of ‘Homages’: a breathtaking gallery of tribute images of the synthetic star and her chums by a staggeringly talented cast of fellow artists: Claire Wendling, Karla Diaz, Benjamin, Marguerite Sauvage, Mijin Shatje, Cyrille Bertin, Tony Infante, Bengal, Claudio Acciari, Tony Sandoval, Amélie Fléchais, Giovanni Rigano, Sefora Pons, Gradimir Smudja, Aurore, Augustin Rolland, Nenent, Guezav, Pierre-Mony Chan, Lucy Mazel, Véronique Meignaud, Matteo De Longis, Xavier Collette, Anne Cresci, Lilidoll, Jérémie Almanza, Lostfish and more.

Completing and concluding the quasi-religious experience is a comprehensive feature ‘About the Authors’ and ‘Acknowledgements & Credits’.

A phenomenal and beguiling work-in-progress, Sky Doll is a superbly engaging exploration of erotica, iconology and idolatry: one no fun-loving, deep-thinking devotee of comic iconoclasm or dedicated supportive lover of mechanical self-gratification (Eeew!) should miss.
Sky Doll and all contents are © Editions Soleil/Barbucci/Canepa. This translated edition © 2016 Titan Comics.

The System


By Peter Kuper (DC-Vertigo/PM Press)
ISBN: 978-1-60486-811-1 (PMP HB) 978-1-56389-322-3 (Vertigo TPB)

Artist, storyteller and activist Peter Kuper was born in Summit, New Jersey in 1958, before the family moved to Cleveland when he was six. There the youngster met fellow comics fan Seth Tobocman and they progressed through the school system together, catching the bug for self-publishing early.

They then attended Kent State University together. On graduation in 1979, they moved to New York and – whilst both studying at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute – created groundbreaking political art/comics magazine World War 3 Illustrated.

Both separately and in conjunction, in comics, illustration and through art events, Kuper & Tobocman have championed social causes, highlighted judicial and cultural inequities and spearheaded the use of narrative art as an effective means of political activism.

Many of Kuper’s most impressive works have stemmed from his far-flung travels but at heart he is truly a son of New York, with a huge amount of his work using the city as bit player or star attraction.

In 1993, he created Eye of the BeholderThe New York Times’ first continuing strip – and adapted such modern literary classics as Franz Kafka’s Give It Up! (1995) and The Metamorphosis (2003) to strip form, whilst always creating his own canon of intriguing graphic novels and visual memoirs.

Amongst the many strings to his bow – and certainly the most high-profile – has been his brilliant stewardship of Mad Magazine’s beloved Spy Vs. Spy strip which he inherited from creator Antonio Prohias in 1997.

In 1995 he undertook a bold creative challenge for Vertigo (DC’s Mature Reader imprint) by crafting a mute yet fantastically expressive 3-part thriller and swingeing social commentary released under the Vertigo Verité imprint. The System was repackaged and released as a softcover graphic album in 1997 and evolved into a magnificent and lavish hardback edition from PM Press. It now also accessible as an eBook.

Following a moving Preface from the author describing the genesis of the project, Senior News Editor at Publisher’s Weekly, Carl Reid offers an effusive appreciation in ‘Bright Lights, Scary City’ before the truly urban drama begins…

As if relating a beguiling, interlinked portmanteau tale of many lives interweaving and intersecting – and often nastily ending – in the Big City without benefit of word-balloons, captions or sound effects was not challenge enough, Kuper pushed his own storytelling abilities to the limit by constructing his pages and panels from cut stencils, creating the narrative in a form akin to street art.

It is astoundingly immediate, evocative and effective…

A stripper is murdered by a maniac. An old, weary detective ruminates on his failures. A boy and girl from different neighbourhoods find love. A derelict and his dog eke out a precarious daily existence and a beat cop does his rounds, collecting payoffs from the crooked dealers and helpless shopkeepers he’s supposed to protect. Religious zealots harass gay men and an Asian cabbie gets grief from white fares who despise him whilst depending on his services.

The streets rattle with subway trains below and elevated trains above.

Strippers keep dying, children go missing, love keeps going and the airport brings a cruel-faced man with radioactive death in his carry-on luggage…

There are so many million stories in The City and they are all connected through the unceasing urban pulse and incessant, unending forward motion of The System

Clever, compulsive and breathtakingly engrossing, this delicious exercise in dramatic interconnectivity and carefully constructed symbolism is a brilliant example of how smart and powerful comics can be.
© 2014 Peter Kuper. All rights reserved.