The Light and Darkness War


By Tom Veitch & Cam Kennedy (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-78276-180-8 (HB)

During the 1980s, the American comics scene enjoyed an astounding proliferation of new titles and companies in the wake of the creation of the Direct Sales Market. With publishers able to firm-sale straight to retail outlets rather than overprint and accept returned copies from non-specialised vendors, the industry was able to support less generic titles and creators could experiment without losing their shirts.

In response, Marvel Comics developed a line of creator-owned properties at the height of the subsequent publishing explosion, launching a number of idiosyncratic, impressive series in a variety of formats under the watchful, canny eye of Editor Archie Goodwin. The delightfully disparate line was dubbed Epic Comics and the results reshaped the industry.

These days, that font of independence and creativity is threatened by the major publishers’ timidity in the face of COVID19 and just the general costs of doing business. The medium you love is under threat again. If you can support your local comic shop – even through online sales – please do so. If that’s too late, then just buy more stuff in digital form. At least then smaller publishers can keep going and we won’t lose comics as a form altogether…

Now, back to your irregularly scheduled reading recommendation…

One of the most evocative Epic releases was a darkly compelling war/fantasy/science fiction serial with a beautifully simple core concept: Valhalla is real and forever…

Conceived and created by author, poet and comics scribe Tom Veitch (Legion of Charlies, Antlers in the Treetops, Animal Man, Star Wars: Dark Empire) and Scottish national treasure Cam Kennedy (Fighting Mann, Judge Dredd, Batman, Star Wars: Dark Empire), The Light and Darkness War originally ran from October 1988 to September 1989, just as that period of exuberant creative freedom was giving way to a marketplace dominated by reductive exploitation led by speculators.

Because of that downturn, this fantastic saga of martial pride and redemption through valiant service in the Great Beyond never really got the popular acclaim it deserved, hopefully something this glorious hardback or eBook retrospective compilation from Titan Comics can belatedly address…

Following heartfelt reminiscences and an appreciation in the ‘Foreword by Commander Mike Beidler, USN Retired’, the astounding fable introduces paraplegic Vietnam war veteran Lazarus Jones, a broken, troubled warrior for whom the fighting never ended.

Home when he should have died with his inseparable friends, plagued with red-hot memories of beloved comrades lost when their Huey went down, by 1978 the wheelchair-bound wreck of a man is in a most parlous state.

Shattered by what will one day be designated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Laz cannot help making life hell for his devoted wife Chris. His miserable existence takes an even darker turn when Jones begins seeing visions of long-gone Huff, Slaw and Engle, all calling him to join them.

A little later when Chris’ car crashes, Laz is severely hurt and left in a coma he might never awake from…

Elsewhere on the other side of Eternity, a shadowy shape speaks to Lazarus offering a choice: he can go back or he can join his long-departed brothers …

Thus begins a fantastic adventure as the half-man is restored to perfect health and reunited with those who know him best. The catch is that this afterlife is like nothing any holy book ever promised. It’s a vast cosmos of painful, unrelenting physicality where strange alien species commingle and Earth’s dead continue much as they had before.

Pilots steer gunships – albeit flying ones made of stone and levitated by little blue aliens called “menteps” – Leonardo da Vinci carries on inventing weapons for powerful lords, and soldiers from every era have one more chance to serve and die…

Miraculously and joyously restored, Laz eagerly rejoins Engle, Slaw and Huff in the only thing he was ever good at. Manning a flying boat armed with light-powered weapons he becomes part of a vast force perpetually defying an unimaginable wave of invading evil from the Outer Darkness.

It’s a war with no overall plan or envisaged endgame, just eternal conflict, but recently a dark lord named Na has risen to the foremost rank of the “Deadsiders” and the legions of night seem to be gaining an advantage in the never-ending conflict fought on a million planets and a billion fronts…

For five hundred years however, the genius da Vinci has created weapons that have checked the rapid advance and held the invaders to a tenuous stalemate, but Deadsiders are tirelessly patient and resort to inexorably taking worlds one at a time.

But now a novel event has taken place. Although Lazarus has happily enlisted in the army of Light comprised of those who died in battle on Earth, on the other side of the sky his body is still alive…

Stationed on besieged world Black Gate, Laz and the “Light Gang” are unable to prevent libidinous Lord Na from infiltrating and overcoming the planetary defences, but at least they save Governor Nethon’s daughter Lasha from becoming the conqueror’s latest power-supplying plaything.

Although gradually winning the war for the dark, Na is impatient for a faster outcome. To achieve that end he has his necromancers rediscover an ancient, long-forgotten way to contact the Earth realm and dupes millionaire arms-dealer and devout Satanist Niles Odom into creating a device to physically bridge the dimensions.

Na’s wishes are simple; he wants earthly particle weapons, rail guns, atom bombs…

The unwitting dupe building Odom’s bridge is Nicky Tesla, a brilliant physicist whose intellect rivals that of his dead uncle Nikola, the wizard of electricity who once astounded the world.

With his clairvoyant girlfriend Delpha, little Nicky has used uncle’s old researches to complete an inter-realm gate for crazy-rich Odom, but when an army of zombies come through it and abduct him and Delpha nobody is prepared for what follows.

As the scientists are dragged across into an impossible world where Uncle Nikola is alive again, Laz and the Light Gang – following in Na’s wake – explosively head the other way…

They soon find themselves trapped on their birth-world, just as whole and hale as the day they died… and where Jones still languishes somewhere in a hospital bed.

With all the Afterworlds at stake, they have no choice but to fight their way back to the War again…

Also embellishing this gloriously fulsome chronicle is a sketch-&-developmental art ‘Background Briefing’ by Veitch & Kennedy, discussing the Underground Comic origins and antecedents of the story as well as the history, physics and metaphysics of The Light and Darkness War plus a potent overview and personal recollection from Stephen R. Bissette, ‘Endless War: The Life, Loss and Afterlife of Lazarus Jones’.

Fast paced, suspenseful, astonishingly imaginative and utterly beautiful to behold, the complex tale of Laz’s team and their struggle, how two generations of Tesla reshape a war that has been waged forever, and how in the end only love and devotion can battle overwhelming evil is a masterpiece of graphic endeavour and one no lover of fantasy fiction should miss.
The Light and Darkness War is ™ and © 2015 Tom Veitch & Cam Kennedy. All rights reserved.

Yoko Tsuno volume 8 the Devil’s Organ


By Roger Leloup (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-84918-1 (PB Album)

The edgy yet uncannily accessible European exploits of Japanese scientific adventurer Yoko Tsuno began gracing the pages of Le Journal de Spirou in September 1970 and are still going strong, with latest album Anges et faucons released last year.

The engaging, eye-popping, expansively globe-girdling multi award-winning series was created by Belgian Roger Leloup, a man of many talents born in 1933. He toiled as one of Herge’s meticulous researchers and background assistants on the Adventures of Tintin strip before striking out on his own.

Compellingly told, superbly imaginative but always solidly placed in hyper-realistic settings sporting utterly authentic and unshakably believable technology, these illustrated epics were at the forefront of a wave of strips featuring competent, brave and immensely successful female protagonists which revolutionised European comics from the 1970s onwards and are as potently empowering now as they ever were. I just wish they were more popular in English (that’s my job I suppose) and that publisher Cinebook would release few more than the dozen or so currently available. It would also be nice if such a forward-looking feature was available in digital editions…

The first Spirou stories ‘Hold-up en hi-fi’, ‘La belle et la bête’ and ‘Cap 351’ were all short introductory vignettes before the formidable Miss Tsuno and her ever-awestruck and overwhelmed male comrades truly hit their stride with premier extended saga Le trio de l’étrange, which began serialisation with the May 13th 1971 issue.

That epic of extraterrestrial intrigue was the first of 29 European albums, promptly followed here with a more down-to-earth but equally breathtaking contemporary thriller set in the heart of Germany against a merely mortal menace who was every inch her match…

Serialised in 1972 as L’orgue du diable in Spirou #1767-1793, the suspenseful thriller first reached us as 8th translated chronicle The Devil’s Organ and begins when young TV mogul Vic Van Steen and frivolous cameraman pal Pol Paristake their new chum – sleekly capable freelance Japanese electrical engineer Yoko Tsuno – with them up the so-scenic Rhine to shoot a travel documentary.

What the working tourists don’t realise is that the epic views and beautiful castles were recently the scene of a bizarre duel which left one man dead whilst his improbably garbed, demonic murderer escaped without anyone knowing a crime had been committed…

Now a week later, Pol is not so subtly ogling (and filming) a comely fräulein on the top deck of the stately, palatial riverboat when the subject of his attentions falls into the chilly waters.

Yoko is only seconds behind him as the cameraman hits the water trying to save the girl. When they are all hauled back aboard, the Japanese adventurer discovers the nearly drowned victim has been drugged…

Ingrid Hallberg is one of Germany’s most promising young classical organists and she has made the trip to the idyllic, fairy tale region to see where her father took his own life a week previously. However, when Pol’s voyeuristic photos are developed, they reveal a strange man injecting her with something before pushing her into the river and Yoko begins to suspect that the senior Hallberg’s death might not be all it appears either. Adding to the mystery is a strange tape he sent Ingrid which she was intending to play once she arrived at his now deserted home in Sankt Goar

As always, the most potent asset of these edgy dramas is the astonishingly authentic and hyper-realistic settings, which benefit from Leloup’s diligent research and meticulous attention to detail. Tourists could use these pages as an A-Z and never get lost, except in rapturous wonder…

As they accompany the damp damsel Yoko discovers the girl has been electronically bugged and urges all haste, with the party arriving just as a masked man flees the house with the tape. Giving chase, Yoko finds herself facing no ordinary foe and despite all her martial arts skills is near death by the time her friends catch up. The mystery man gets away but not with all of the tape…

The fragment that remains lead the baffled, battered heroes to buried copper artefacts which were part of an incredible restoration project. Werner Hallberg, being an expert in church music and instruments, was apparently contracted to restore a 16th century contraption for an anonymous millionaire. The colossal ancient device was known as The Devil’s Organ and, from what the modern tech team can discern, it was actually a sonic weapon of devastating power…

Tracking down the original location of the device at the world-famous Katz fortress, the self-appointed detectives settle on its current occupier Otto Meyer as the likely wealthy patron who hired Werner. Determined to get to the bottom of the criminal conundrum, they barge in on him, only to be attacked by his misanthropic and overprotective nephew Karl. Over the young man’s strenuous objections, the elder Meyer surprisingly invites the wary intruders to stay and look around all they want.

Cautiously accepting, they continue their enquiries in plain sight but are all too soon the latest targets in the mysterious murderer’s sights…

It takes all Yoko’s considerable ingenuity and boldness to stay one step ahead of the hidden killer, but when she finally unmasks the villain and learns his sordid reasons for the deaths it is almost too late: the Organ from Hell is ready to sound and nothing can prevent it from unleashing a horrific wave of destruction.

…But that doesn’t stop Yoko Tsuno from giving it one final mighty try…

Absorbing, compelling and blending tense suspense with blistering adventure, this is another superbly rationalist mystery and fantastic exploit of the most unsung of all female action heroes: one you’ve waited far too long to meet…
Original edition © Dupuis, 1973 by Roger Leloup. All rights reserved. English translation 2013 © Cinebook Ltd.

Vowels


By Skye Ogden (Gestalt Publishing)
ISBN: 978-0-9775628-1-7 (PB)

I’ve long admitted my love for comics in black & white and frequently expressed my admiration for creators who can tell a tale in utter silence, without benefit of text, and this lavish and splendid digest sized (212 x 144mm) paperback is one of my favourite examples of the form.

Created by Australian cartoonist, designer and illustrator Skye Ogden, Vowels is a phenomenally engaging sequence of five linked fables which mesmerically examine aspects of the human condition, all played out in an oddly welcoming, if harsh, desert landscape that houses hulking cavemen and their suitably formidable women, adorable lizards, wide eyed aliens and, latterly, extremely unpleasant invading soldiery…

This is one of those books you’ll thank me for staying non-specific about, so I’ll only go so far as to say that ‘a’ is a broadly comedic chase vignette starring those aforementioned dawn people and the unlucky reptile, whilst ‘e’ introduces a diminutive alien wanderer to the happy, hirsute couple before following the unhappy voyager into a most peculiar afterlife and rebirth…

In ‘i’ the little guy’s distant relatives take the stage in a bustling marketplace for a dose of Romeo and Juliet frustration and tragedy before overwhelming, abiding loss is expressively characterised in ‘o’, after which the fascinating, universally accessible discussion on the nature of existence concludes with the brutal horrors of war, occupation and vengeance…

Depicted in a beguiling, timelessly engaging cartoon style, deliciously reminiscent of the legendary Vaughn Bode and employing all the devastatingly expressive, pantomimic artifices of Charlie Chaplin, Vowels is a masterpiece of the cartoonist’s craft where life, death, love, hate, jealousy, obsession, protectiveness, greed, raw naked aggression and cruelty are pared down to the bone and graphically, forensically explored in a manner which only makes us hungry for more.

Deeply enticing, appealingly slick and intoxicatingly addictive, Vowels is an irresistible torrent of purely visual drama and which will delight all aficionados of the medium who value comics for their own sake, and don’t need a route map or score card to enjoy themselves. And it’s long overdue to be revived and rediscovered. In my alphabet, that rates a great big oooooo….
© 2007 Skye Ogden. All rights reserved.

Flash Gordon on the Planet Mongo: volume 1 Sundays 1934-1937 (The Complete Flash Gordon Library)


By Alex Raymond & Don Moore with restorations by Peter Maresca (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-0-85768-154-6 (HB)

By most lights, Flash Gordon is the most influential comic strip in the world. When the hero debuted on Sunday January 7th 1934 (with the superb but rather dated Jungle Jim running as a supplementary “topper” strip) as response to revolutionary, inspirational, but clunky Buck Rogers (by Philip Nolan & Dick Calkins and which had also began on January 7th but in 1929), a new element was added to the realm of fantasy wonderment: Classical Lyricism.

Where Rogers had traditional adventures and high science concepts, this new feature reinterpreted Fairy Tales, Heroic Epics and Mythology. It did so by spectacularly draping them in the trappings of the contemporary future, with varying ‘Rays’, ‘Engines’ and ‘Motors’ substituting for trusty swords and lances – although there were also plenty of those – and exotic flying craft and contraptions standing in for Galleons, Chariots and Magic Carpets.

Most important of all, the sheer artistic talent of Raymond, his compositional skills, fine line-work, eye for concise, elegant detail and just plain genius for drawing beautiful people and things, swiftly made this the strip all young artists swiped from.

When all-original comic books began a few years later, literally dozens of talented kids used the clean lined Romanticism of Gordon as their model and ticket to future success in the field of adventure strips. Most of the others went with Milton Caniff’s expressionistic masterpiece Terry and the Pirates (which also began in 1934 – and he’ll get his go another day).

Thankfully, there are a few collections knocking about, but I’m plumping here for 2012’s hardcover archive from British publisher and keeper of old traditions Titan Books, who boldly began a Complete Library of the stellar crusader’s exploits that year…

Augmenting the epic entertainment are a brace of photo and illustration-packed introductory essays, beginning with uber-artist and fan Alex Ross’ exploration of ‘The Flash Gordon Legacy’ and continuing with ‘Birth of a Legend’ by comics writer and historical publisher Doug Murray, detailing the world and fantasy milieu into which the dauntless hero was born…

The very first tale begins with a rogue planet about to smash into the Earth. As panic grips the planet, polo player Flash and fellow airline passenger Dale Arden narrowly escape disaster when a meteor fragment downs the plane they’re traveling on. They parachute out and land on the estate of tormented genius Dr. Hans Zarkov, who imprisons them on the rocket-ship he has built. His plan? To fly the ship directly at the astral invader and deflect it from Earth by crashing into it!

And that’s just in the first, 13-panel episode. ‘On the Planet Mongo’ ran every Sunday until April 15th 1934, when, according to this wonderful full-colour book, second adventure ‘Monsters of Mongo’ (22nd April – 18th November 1934) began, to be promptly followed by ‘Tournaments of Mongo’ (25th November 1934 to 24th February 1935).

To the readers back then, of course, there were no such artificial divisions. There was just one continuous, unmissable Sunday appointment with sheer wonderment. The machinations of the utterly evil but magnetic Ming, emperor of the fantastic wandering planet; Flash’s battles and alliances with all the myriad exotic races subject to the Emperor’s will and the gradual victory over oppression captivated America, and the World, in tales that seemed a direct contrast to the increasingly darker reality in the days before World War II.

In short order the Earthlings become firm friends – and in the case of Flash and Dale, much more – as they encounter battle and frequently ally with beautiful, cruel Princess Aura, the Red Monkey Men, Lion Men, Shark Men, Dwarf Men, King Vultan and the winged Hawkmen.

The epic rebellion against seemingly unbeatable Ming opened with the awesome ‘Tournaments…’: a sequence wherein Raymond seemed to simply explode with confidence.

It was here that the true magic blossomed, with every episode more spectacular than the last. Without breaking step, Raymond moved on to next saga, as our hero entered ‘The Caverns of Mongo’ (March 3rd – 14th April 1935).

Veteran editor Don Moore was only 30 when he was convinced to “assist” Raymond with the writing, starting soon after the strip first gained popularity. Moore remained until 1953, long after Raymond departed. The artist joined the Marines in February 1944, and the last page he worked on was published on April 30th of that year. On his demobilisation, Raymond moved to fresh strip fields with Rip Kirby. Mercifully, that still leaves a decade’s worth of spectacular, majestic adventure for us to enjoy…

Without pausing for breath, the collaborators rapidly introduced a host of new races and places for their perfect hero to win over in the war against Ming’s timeless evil. On increasingly epic Sunday comics pages Flash and his entourage confronted the ‘Witch Queen of Mongo’ (April 21st – 13th October 1935), found themselves ‘At War with Ming’ (20thOctober 1935 – April 5th 1936) and discovered ‘The Undersea Kingdom of Mongo’ (12th April – October 11th 1936). The sheer beauty and drama of the globally syndicated serial captivated readers all over the world, resulting in not only some of the medium’s most glorious comic art, but also novels, three movie serials, a radio and later TV show, a monochrome daily strip (by Raymond’s former assistant Austin Briggs), comic books, merchandise and so much more.

The Ruritanian flavour of the series was enhanced continuously, as Raymond’s slick, sleek futurism endlessly accessed and refined the picture-perfect Romanticism of idyllic Kingdoms, populated by idealised heroes, stylised villains and women of staggering beauty.

In these episodes Azura, Witch Queen of Mongo wages a brutal and bloody war with Flash and his friends for control of the underworld, which eventually leads to all-out conflict with Ming the Merciless – a sequence of such memorable power that artists and movie-men would be swiping from it for decades to come. When the war ends our heroes are forced to flee, only to become refugees and captives of the seductive Queen Undina in her undersea Coral City…

The never-ending parade of hairsbreadth escapes, fights and/or chases continues as Flash, Dale and Zarkov crash into the huge jungle of Mongo. As this initial tome ends, the refugees enter ‘The Forest Kingdom of Mongo’ (October 18th 1936 to 31st January 1937), barely surviving its wild creatures before weathering the horrific tunnels of ‘The Tusk-Men of Mongo’ (February 7th to June 5th 1938). Here, struggling through desperate hardship and overcoming both monsters and the esoteric semi-humans they finally reach Arboria, the Tree kingdom of Prince Barin, Ming’s son-in-law. He is not what he seems…

And so the book ends, but not the adventure. Even stripped down to the bare plot-facts, the drama is captivating. Once you factor in the by-play, the jealousies and intrigues, all rendered with spectacular and lush visualisation by the master of classical realism, you can begin to grasp why this strip captured the world’s imagination and holds it still. To garnish all this enchantment, there’s even ‘The Alex Raymond Flash Gordon Checklist’ and biographies of both creators and this astounding tome’s key contributors

Along with Hal Foster (Prince Valiant) and Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon), Raymond’s work on Flash Gordon is considered pivotal to the development of American – if not world – comic art. These works overwhelmingly influenced everybody who followed until the emergence of manga and the advancement of computer technology. If you’ve only heard how good this strip is, you owe it to yourself to experience the magic up close and personal.

I never fail to be impressed by the quality of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon. Yes, the plots are formulaic but what commercial narrative medium is free of that? What is never dull or repetitive is the sheer artistry and bravura staging of the tales. Every episode is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen, but the next episode still tops it. You are a fool to yourself if you don’t try this wonderful strip out, and all the more so in such inexpensive yet lavish volumes. It’s not too soon to start dropping hints for Christmas, you know…
Flash Gordon © 2012 King Features Syndicate Inc., & ™ Hearst Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Flood That Did Come


By Patrick Wray (Avery Hill Publishing)
ISBN: 978-1-910395-53-0 (PB)

We have a proud tradition in this country of using fiction and fantasy – especially those presented in the aspects of kids’ books – to hold up a light to political and social dystopias. It works for Gulliver’s Travels and Animal Farm and dozens of comics and graphic novels. This is one more and it’s supremely, chillingly good at what it does…

Patrick Wray is an artist, writer and musician who studied at the Dartington College of Art and took a long time living before crafting this telling and subtle exploration of property laws and the role of the people in how they’re governed…

Mimicking the narrative tone of children’s reading primers (and many kids’ comics) The Flood That Did Come is set in the hilltop village of Pennyworth in the year 2036. It’s all the home little Jenny and her brother Tom know, but they’re happy innocent days end when it starts to rain heavily… and never stops. Soon, all of Kingsby County and the entire country are under water, with only a few high-lying hamlets remaining above water.

The kids and their friends make the best of the new normal and enjoy the changes to the wildlife around them, leaving the adults to worry about the details such as being resupplied by airdrops…

One day, however, the holiday ends when a sailing boat arrives from nearby industrialised town Brooks Falls. The children aboard have come to warn the Pennyworth residents that the adults of their drowned conurbation are coming, armed with the latest technologies and the law. It transpires that long ago back in 1851, Pennyworth was merely an outlying district of the metropolis and still remains part of the greater whole. Now that it’s the only part above water, the Mayor and council of Brook Falls intend to move their operation here and carry on their business as usual…

Sadly, as always when politicians and big business want something, the rights and feelings of ordinary people don’t count for much…

Simple, breezy and chilling to the core, this tale of resistance and capitulation is made all the more effective by Wray’s cunning choice of art style and faux children’s book feel. The result is reminiscent of school workshops and protest marches supplied with stencil screens; of street-rebel print slogans and tagging-inspired found imagery. The industrial-flavoured visuals magnificently disguise the potency of the political allegory and make this a tale no tuned-in, socially aware grown up will want to miss.
© 2020 Patrick Wray. All rights reserved.

The Flood That Did Come is scheduled for release on September 10th 2020 and available for pre-order now.

The Michael Moorcock Library: Elric volume 1 – Elric of Melniboné


Adapted by Roy Thomas, Michael T. Gilbert, P. Craig Russell & Tom Orzechowski (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978 -1-78276-288-1 (HB)

Some stories just never grow stale or feel out-of-step. Here a particular favourite both in prose and comics form that you can find and adore in both physical and digital formats at last.

As the first volume in a proposed Michael Moorcock Library of comics adaptations, this is, according to internal narrative chronology, the first tale of the doomed king, despite being one of the last adventures penned by Moorcock in the initial cycle of stories (he returned to the character years later, as all great authors do to all great characters).

As a sequential narrative, the soaring saga was originally released in 1983-1984 from Pacific Comics before being collected into a graphic novel by First Comics. It was then given an archival polish and is re-presented here in a superb hardcover tome complete with Introduction from Mr. Moorcock, plus a full cover gallery and additional art.

Adaptors Roy Thomas & P. Craig Russell had previously worked on other tales of the last Emperor of Melniboné: specifically debut tale The Dreaming City (taken from the first novella as published in 1961) which began life as a Marvel Graphic Novel in 1982 and was supplemented by 1984’s ‘While the Gods Laugh’, which featured in Marvel’s fantasy anthology magazine Epic Illustrated #14. Here they are joined by fellow enthusiast and esteemed arch-stylist Michael T. Gilbert to complete a masterpiece of decadently baroque, sinisterly effete yarnspinning based in large part on the dark visions of Aubrey Beardsley and Arthur Rackham.

Elric is an absolute icon of the Sword & Sorcery genre: ruler of the pre-human civilisation of the Melnibonéans, a race of cruel, arrogant and congenitally sadistic sorcerers: dissolute creatures in a slow, decadent decline after millennia of dominance over the Earth.

Born an albino, he is physically weak and of a brooding, philosophical temperament. He cares for nothing save his beautiful cousin Cymoril, even though her brother Prince Yyrkoon openly lusts for his throne. As seen in opening chapter ‘Out of the Dreaming City’, he doesn’t even really want to rule, but it is his duty, and he is the only one of his kind to see the newly evolved race of Man as a threat to the Empire.

When intruders from the Young Kingdoms are captured within the island’s maze defences, they are interrogated in ‘Welcome to the Domain of Dr. Jest’ and inevitably reveal an imminent attack on the Dreaming City of Imrryr, capital of Empire for ten thousand years.

Provoked by Yyrkoon, physically frail Elric personally leads the response, and the Fleet, bolstered by dragons and magic, easily dispatches the upstart humans. In the midst of the melee, the wily pretender seizes his chance and throws the enfeebled Emperor overboard to drown at the moment of victory.

The deeply conflicted hero believes himself happy to die, yet some part of his mind calls to the sea-elementals and their mighty king Straasha – bonded allies and ancient friends of the Empire – to save him. When he returns to confront the usurper, Yrrkoon unleashes a demonic doomsday weapon and flees with Cymoril as his hostage.

Hidden at the ends of the Earth using the demonic ‘Mirror of Memory’ to conceal himself from all searches, the usurper plans a counterattack and all Elric’s magic cannot find him. In obsessive desperation the pale Emperor swallows his pride and suspicion, pledging allegiance to Arioch, a Lord of Chaos in eternal opposition to the supernal Lords of Order.

The eternal see-saw war of these puissant forces is the fundamental principle of this universe and the overarching Multiverse. For providing the etiolated Elric with the means to find and defeat his cousin, Arioch will demand his devil’s due, but the Albino does not care…

Other allies such as Straasha are more forthcoming and less duplicitous: providing Elric with ‘The Ship Which Sails over Land and Sea’ and enabling the frantic pursuer to voyage to a ferocious, doom-drenched confrontation with his conniving cousin.

The journey is fast but perilous but the final clash is further delayed as Elric finds Cymoril ensorcelled to eternal sleep and Yyrkoon gone to another realm in quest of ultimate power…

Once again calling upon Arioch’s mercurial favours, Elric follows ‘Through the Shade Gate’ to a dreary, dying otherwhere and meets affable exile Rackhir the Red Archer who joins him in the final stages of his pursuit, resulting in a terrifying duel with Yyrkoon who now holds the mighty Mournblade whilst Elric is compelled to accept his dark and foredoomed future by taking up the black blade he was born to carry in ‘At Last… Stormbringer’.

Every task undergone, every trial undertaken and all torments endured, have been cruelly orchestrated to get Elric to bring the Rune-sword, the malevolent Stealer of Souls, back to Earth and so very soon, he does… but not in the manner double-dealing Arioch intended…

The novel is an iconic and groundbreaking landmark of fantasy fiction and a must-read-item for any fan. This spectacular, resplendently flamboyant adaptation is a deliciously elegant, savagely beautiful masterpiece of the genre effortlessly blending blistering action and gleaming adventure with the deep, darkly melancholic tone of the cynical, nihilistic, Cold-War mentality and era that spawned the original stories.

You must read the book and you should own this graphic novel …and all the successive tomes to come…

Adapted from the works of Michael Moorcock related to the character of Elric of Melniboné © 2014, Michael & Linda Moorcock. All characters, the distinctive likenesses thereof, and all related indicia are ™ & © Michael Moorcock and Multiverse Inc.

It Came!


By Dan Boultwood, Esq. (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-78276-005-4 (HB)

Once upon a time “retro” only meant rockets, with all those thrilling chilling connotations of clunky spaceships, cardboard robots and men in Baco-foil suits shambling about and terrifying avid children who had stayed up late to watch B-movie sci-fi yarns on black-&-white TV sets.

Jeepers, I miss those days, and so, apparently, does multi-talented, forward-thinking nostalgeologist Dan Boultwood.

In 2013, his 4-issue miniseries offered a tantalising tribute to the fantastic fantasy movies which fuelled the imaginations of British Baby-Boomers: simultaneously recapturing the wide-eyed wonder of the period whilst adding layers of archly post-modern humour to the mix…

This stirring monochrome graphic-novelisation of a faux-classic effort from the rightly almost-forgotten Pinetree Studios outfit allows modern film fans to experience (or revisit) the quirky delights which wowed their grandparents – and all from the comfort of their own safely locked-down homes – or even whilst out riding (masked and gloved) in a open-topped omnibus…

Packed to bursting with and supplemented by oodles of outrageous, hilarious, mood-setting ads for everything from Smoke & Choke’um Cigarettes to Johnny Foreigner Engine Oil, the story is a loving but irreverent paean of praise not only to those inspirational filmic marvels but also to the small repertory of actors and producers who made the late 1950s and early 1960s such a cornucopia of movie madness.

Like all such matinee marvels, the main feature here is preceded by a short trailer (for The Lost Valley of the Lost) which serves to introduce our cast, specifically He-Man Lead Dick Claymore as the sexist, pipe-chewing, tweed draped boffin Dr. Boy Brett and strident starlet Fanny Flaunders as his long-suffering, infinitely patient, glamorous-whilst-screaming assistant/secretary Doris Night.

The vintage supporting cast includes Bertrum Cumberbund, Spencer Lacey and Joan Fetlock, stalwart Pinetree thespians all…

It’s 1958 and in a beautiful bit of rural, ill-educated, unwoke England a colossal robot rampages…

Two days later Dr. Brett from Space University is treating working class ingénue Doris to a ride in his Morris Minor. He decides they should stop for a fortifying Ploughman’s Lunch in a strangely quiet and quaint village, blithely unaware that the reason it’s so still is because the aforementioned alien automaton has depopulated the shire…

Its subsequent surprise attempt to trap the tourists founders only when it stumbles into a cloying web of obfuscating, celebratory bunting…

After their spectacular close call the harried humans reach the next village over, but despite the boffin’s Old Boy Network connections, it’s the Devil’s own job to get the Ministry to mobilise the Military.

Nevertheless, Boy persists and soon a squad of veterans arrive to take control of the situation (a superb pastiche of the venerable icons of the “Carry-On” film franchise), only to vanish as the rapacious robot strikes again…

Undaunted, Boy drags Doris into more trouble and soon they find themselves aboard a vast Flying Saucer, uncovering the nature of the invaders’ appalling assault. The creepy, apparently unstoppable horrors are imprisoning salt-of-the-earth British citizens and somehow extracting their Stiff Upper Lips…

Following a necessary Intermission – for the purchase and consumption of gin and fags – the cartoon/celluloid calamity continues as our hero and the girl escape and head for London to warn the authorities, but not before accidentally dropping a handy but unlucky army division on exercises right in the UFO’s marauding sights.

Dr. Brett arrives barely ahead of the indestructible, unbeatable Saucer and, as the World’s Smoggiest Capital burns and founders, he is compelled to stop running and turn his mighty, college-honed intellect to the task of destroying the threat to civilisation…

This collection is also augmented by the original full-colour covers, hysterical background “information pages” on and intimate photos of stars Claymore and Flaunders, blueprints and design sketches for the alien Grurk and Flying Saucer, a selection from the infamous It Came! Cigarette Cards and colour posters for other Pinetree Studio releases such as ‘My Reptilian Bride!’, ‘Rocket Into Space!’, ‘The Lost Valley of the Lost’ and ‘Myopic Moon Men from the Moon’

More revelations are forthcoming in the ‘Metropolitan Police Incident Report on Mr. Claymore’s “eccentric” Drinking Habits’, and Director Boultwood’s photo-feature exposing his Special Effects magic in animating the Saucer for celluloid.

It Came! is a brilliant and sublime masterpiece of loving parody, perfectly executed and astoundingly effective. It is also the funniest – both visually and verbally – book I’ve read in years, blending slapstick with satire, outrageous ideas with infamous characterisations, and spit-taking puns, single entendres and innuendoes that would do Sid James, Charles Hawtrey or Kenneth Williams proud.

Miss it at your peril, Chaps (and Ladies too…).
It Came! ™ and © 2014 Dan Boultwood.

You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation!: More Comics by Fletcher Hanks


By Fletcher Hanks, edited by Paul Karasik (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-606699-160-2 (TPB)

Although he was a pioneering auteur and prolific creator, the work of troubled artisan Fletcher Hanks (December 1st 1889 – January 22nd 1976) was all-but lost to posterity for decades following the Darwinian dawn of the American comic book. Happily, he was rediscovered relatively recently by comics’ intelligentsia in such magazines as Raw!

Hank’s unique visual style and frankly histrionic manner of storytelling resulted in only 51 complete stories created over less than three years (1939-1941) – but those were during the make-or-break, crucially formative times that would shape the industry for decades to come.

Like so many of his contemporaries, Hanks was an artist plagued by a dependence on alcohol and a tendency to violence. Surviving on odd jobs and as a mural painter, he abandoned his wife and four children in 1930 and disappeared until the incredible commercial drive to fill comic book pages saw him resurface in 1939 as part of the Jerry Iger/Will Eisner production “Shop”. Here he generated whole stories (script, art, lettering and probably even colour-guides) for some of the most successful publishers of the Golden Age. All were fast-paced, action-packed, relentless blood-&-thunder thrillers, underpinned by what might well be hallucinogenic delirium…

Hanks is now globally prominent in art circles and regarded as a key Outsider Artist – defined by critic Roger Cardinal as an English-language equivalent to the French movement Art Brut or Raw/Rough Art: works created outside the boundaries of official culture. Jean Dubuffet connected the phenomenon especially and specifically to the paintings and drawings of insane asylum inmates but Cardinal extended the definition to include Naïve art, some Primitivism and sustained bodies of work by creators working at all fringes of the mainstream.

In his woefully short career, the impact of those 51 stories were further reduced since he only worked in a few returning characters. This book follows on from and concludes the complete works compilation begun in editor Karasik’s I Shall Destroy all the Civilized Planets! (which I simply must track down and review too).

Presented in chronological order, this book contains seven Space Smith adventures – ‘Captured by Skomah!’ (Fantastic#1, December 1939), ‘The Martian Ogres!’ (Fantastic #2, January 1940), ‘The Leopard Women of Venus’ (#3, February), ‘The Thinker’ (#4, March), ‘The Hoppers’ (#5, April), ‘The Vacuumites’ (#6, May) and ‘Planet Bloodu’ (#8, July): a single tale of Tabu, Wizard of the Jungle from Jungle Comics #1 (‘The Slave Raiders’, January 1940) plus a batch of red-blooded lumberjack yarns starring Big Red McLane: ‘King of the North Woods’, ‘The Timber Thieves’, ‘The Lumber Hijackers’, ‘The Sinister Stranger’, ‘The Paper Racketeers’, ‘Sledge Sloan Gang’, ‘The Monk’s War Rockets’ and ‘Searching for Sally Breen’ from the monthly Fight  Comics (#1, January 1940, and #3 through 9).

The incomparable Stardust the Super-Wizard (whose slick, sleek costume surely influenced Britain’s Mick Anglo when he redesigned Captain Marvel into All-English Marvel Man in 1954!) is stirringly represented by ‘Rip the Blood’(Fantastic #2 January 1940), ‘The Mad Giant’ (#4), ‘The Emerald Men of Asperus’ (#8) ‘The Super Fiend’ (#10), ‘Kaos and the Vultures’ (#12), ‘The Sixth Columnists’ (#14) and ‘The World Invaders’ (Fantastic #15, February 1941).

No violent genre was beyond Hanks and prototype sword-wielding barbarian hero Tiger Hart rousingly romped through the jungles of Saturn in ‘The Dashing, Slashing Adventure of the Great Solinoor Diamond’ in Planet Comics #2 (February 1940).

From early 1940, Daring Mystery #4 and #5 supply ‘Mars Attacks’ and ‘Planet of Black-Light’, two exploits of brawny, clean-limbed Whirlwind Carter of the Interplanetary Secret Service, whilst Yank Wilson, Super Spy Q-4 performed much the same role for the contemporary USA in ‘The Saboteurs’ from Fantastic #6 (May 1940).

For me the biggest, most enjoyable revelation is the captivating batch of uncanny tales featuring the frankly indescribable Fantomah. The “Mystery Woman of the Jungle” – a blend of witch, goddess and reanimated corpse – used startling magic to monitor and defend the green places of the world against all manner of threats from poachers to mad scientists and aliens.

Her beguiling feats open with ‘The Elephants Graveyard’ (Jungle Comics #2, February 1940) and just get wilder and wilder, continuing with ‘The Super-Gorillas’ (#4), ‘Mundoor and the Giant Reptiles’ (#5), ‘Phantom of the Tree-Tops’(#6), ‘The Temple in the Mud Pit’ (#8), ‘The Scarlet Shadow’ (#11), ‘The New Blitzers’ (#12) and ‘The Tiger-Women of Wildmoon Mountain’ before ominously concluding with ‘The Revenge of Zomax’ from February 1941’s Jungle #14.

These stunningly surreal and forceful stories created under the pseudonyms Barclay Flagg, Hank Christy, Henry and Chris Fletcher, Charles Netcher, C.C. Starr and Carlson Merrick are a window into a different, bolder, proudly unconventional era and the troubled mind of a true creative force. Seen in conjunction with Karasik’s insightful introduction and the many early sketches and illustrations from before that too-brief foray into comics, these pages present an intimate glimpse of a fascinating man at a crossroads he was clearly able to shape but never grasp.

This is a magical book for both fans of classical comics and the cutting edge of modern art: and just in case you were wondering, the stories are weird but read wonderfully.

It Must Be Yours!!!

All stories are public domain but the specific restored images and design are © 2009 Fantagraphics Books.

Velveteen & Mandala


By Jiro Matsumoto (Vertical)
ISBN: 978-1-935654-30-8 (Tankōbon PB)

Things have been a bit too much sweetness and light around here lately. Here’s a change of pace and taste then then needs a bit of an advisory warning. This book revels in gratuitous violence, barely-closeted misogyny and sexualised imagery. So why, then, is it so very good?

Civilisation has radically changed. What we knew is no longer right or true, but disturbing remnants remain to baffle and terrify, as High School girl Velveteen and her decidedly off-key classmate and companion/enemy Mandala eke out an extreme existence on the banks of a river in post-Zombie-Apocalypse Tokyo.

Here (with straight-faced nods to Tank Girl), using an abandoned battle-wagon as their crash-pad, the girls while away the days and nights casually slaughtering roaming hordes of zombies – at least whenever they can stop squabbling with each other…

From the very outset of this grim, sexy, gratuitous splatter-punk horror-show there is something decidedly “off” going on: a gory mystery beyond the usual “how did the world end this time?”

On the surface, Velveteen & Mandala (Becchin To Mandara in its original 14-chapter run between 2007-2009 in the periodical Manga Erotics F) is a monster-killing yarn which owes plenty to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but there’s more than meets the eye or ballistic charge happening here.

We begin at ‘The Riverside’ with the pair awaking from dreams to realise and remember the hell they now inhabit. Cunning catch-up concluded, ‘Smoke on the Riverside’ then reveals a few of the nastier ground-rules of their current lifestyle, and especially Velveteen’s propensity for arson and appetite for destruction…

‘Sukiyaki’ finds the girls on edge as food becomes an issue, whilst the introduction of ‘The Super’ who monitors their rate of zombie dispatch leads to more information (but not necessarily any answers) in this enigmatic world, after which ‘The Cellar’ amps up the uncertainty as Velveteen steals into her new boss’s ghastly man-cave inner sanctum…

In a medium where extreme violence is commonplace, Matsumoto increasingly uses unglamourised nudity and brusque vulgarity to unsettle and shock the reader, but the flashback events of … ‘School Arcade, Underground Shelter’ – if true and not delusion – indicate that a society this debased might not be worth saving from the undead…

In ‘Omen’ and ‘Good Omen (Whisper)’ the obfuscating mysteries begins to clear as B52 bombers dumps thousands more corpses by the Riverside, adding to the “to do” roster of walking dead the girls must deal with once darkness falls…

Throughout the story Matsumoto liberally injects cool artefacts of fashion, genre and pop-culture seemingly at random, but as the oppressive horrors get ever closer to ending our heroines in ‘Genocide’ and ‘Deep in the Dark’, a certain sense can be imagined, so that once the Super is removed and Velveteen promoted to his position in ‘Parting’, the drama spirals into a hallucinogenic – possibly untrustworthy – climax for ‘Mandala’s Big Farewell Party’ and ‘Nirvana’ before the further revelations of ‘Flight’

Deliberately misleading and untrustworthy – and strictly aimed at over-18s – this dark, nasty, scatologically excessive tale graphically celebrates the differences between grotesque, flesh-eating dead-things and the constantly biologically mis-functioning Still-Living (although the zombie “Deadizens” are still capable of cognition, speech and rape…); all wrapped up in the culturally acceptable and traditional manner of one blowing the stuffings out of the other…

Confirmed confrontationalist Jiro Matsumoto (Uncivilized Planet, Avant-Pop Mars, A Revolutionist in the Afternoon, Tropical Citron) is probably best known for dystopian speculative sci-fi revenge thriller Freesia, but here his controversial yet sublime narrative gifts are turned to a much more psychologically complex – almost meta-fictional – layering of meaning upon revelation upon contention, indicating that if you have a strong enough stomach the very best is still to come…

First seen in English as a monochrome paperback in 2011, this stand-alone saga will be available in digital formats later this year.
© 2009 Jiro Matsumoto. All right reserved. Translation © 2011 Vertical, Inc.

The Silent Invasion: Abductions


By Michael Cherkas & Larry Hancock, with Paul McCusker (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-255-7 (TPB)

During the vast expansion of opportunity and outpouring of innovation that graced comics during the 1980s, much of the “brain-rotting trash” or “silly kid’s stuff” stigma which had plagued the medium was finally dispelled. America started catching up to the rest of the world; acknowledging sequential narrative as an actual Capital “A” Art Form, and their doors opened wide open for foreigners to make a few waves too…

One of the most critically acclaimed and indescribably intoxicating features of the period came from semi-Canadian outfit Renegade Press which set up shop in the USA and began publishing at the very start of the black & white comics bubble in 1984. They quickly established a reputation for excellence, with a strong line of creator-based properties and some genuinely remarkable series such as Ms. Tree, Journey: The Adventures of Wolverine MacAlistaire, Flaming Carrot,Normalman, and the compulsively backwards-looking Cold War/UFO/paranoia-driven delight seen here: The Silent Invasion.

That last was a stunningly stylish conspiracy saga, bolting 1950s domestic terrors (invasion by Reds; invasion by aliens; invasion by new ideas…) onto Film Noir chic and employing 20-20 hindsight to produce a phenomenally fresh and enticing delight for the strangely similar Reagan era. From here and now, it’s never seemed more distressingly likely that politics, if not all history, is cursed to repeat certain cycles and strategies…

The series was eventually collected as four superbly oversized monochrome tomes (a whopping 298 x 2058 mm), re-presenting the lead story from the first dozen issues of The Silent Invasion wherein inspired co-creators Michael Cherkas & Larry Hancock concocted a delightful confection combining all the coolest genre elements of classic cult sci-fi, horror, spy, conspiracy theory, crime, romance and even comedy yarns…

Now, after far too long a wait – and with America once again enduring internecine struggle amongst the citizenry, corruption (but no collusion!!), cover-ups at every level of government and the press under attack from the people and traditions it seeks to inform and safeguard – the series has been remastered, marginally revised and re-released in a more manageable paperback size (or fully adjustable eBook format) with the express intention of catching up and finally completing the tensely compelling epic.

Third outing Abductions! gathers the moodily monochrome Sixties-set follow-up first seen in a manner both Byzantine and fitting. In May 1998, Indy heavyweight Caliber began The Silent Invasion: Abductions but the miniseries folded after one issue, only to be picked up by NBM in 2001 and successfully released as 5-issue sequence Secret Messagescourtesy of Cherkas, Hancock and auxiliary artist Paul McCusker. It ran from May 2001 to May 2002, presumably despite the best efforts of Greys, Lizards or Deep Government interventions…

The truth out here continues after an informative and coolly appraising Introduction ‘Here We Go Again’, from novelist Robert J. Sawyer (FlashForward, The Oppenheimer Alternative). However, before all that…

The 1950s in American were a hugely iconic and paradoxical time. Incomparable scientific and cultural advancements, great wealth and desperate, intoxicating optimism inexplicably arose amidst an atmosphere of immense social, cultural, racial, sexual and political repression with an increasingly paranoid populace seeing conspiracy and subversive attacks in every shadow and corner of the rest of the world.

Such an insular melting pot couldn’t help but be fertile soil for imaginative outsiders to craft truly incisive and evocative tales dripping with convoluted mystery and taut tension, especially when wedded to the nation’s fantastic – and then-ongoing – obsessions with rogue science, flying saucers, gangsterism and espionage…

They were also obsessed with hot babes and bust sizes, but more of that elsewhere…

What Has Gone Before: In April 1952, notorious Union City private eye Dick Mallet saw a strange light in the night sky. Next morning the cops found his empty, crashed automobile. A month later reporter Matt Sinkage was still getting grief from Frank Costello, Editor of the Union City Sentinel. Matt was frantic to expose “The Truth behind Flying Saucers” but quickly became an ostracised laughing stock, especially since he also suspected his foreign-sounding neighbour Ivan Kalashnikov was a Russian spy….

Sinkage alienated his family and drove his fiancée Peggy Black to distraction. All he could think about was a night six months previously in Albany when he witnessed a UFO and impetuously chased after it: a crazy night everyone remembers… except him.

When Matt broke into Ivan’s apartment, he saw the foreigner and others in front of a huge, weird machine. It confirmed his suspicions that they were Atomic spies. Days later, Matt collided with Mr K’s pretty friend Gloria Amber and cunningly asked her out to lunch. Things developed and Gloria begged him to save her from what she claimed were Red agents even though the thugs subsequently claimed to be Federal agents…

Hiding out at his brother Walter’s place, Matt was still seeing flying saucers everywhere and couldn’t understand why everybody else thought they were just jets. In Union City, Frank was pressured by brutish FBI Agent Phil Housley: an old acquaintance who regularly forced him to suppress unwelcome or troubling news items…

This time he wanted Sinkage. What no newsman knew was that Housley was also working for a shadowy agency calling itself The Council. What Housley didn’t know was that he was only a pawn…

Back in suburbia, Walter’s wife Katie – convinced Matt and his new floozy Gloria were up to no good – reached out to the FBI. The fugitives were heading out in Walter’s car when Peggy showed up. She couldn’t understand why her man was with a flashy trollop, and wouldn’t accept that Matt only wanted the lowdown on the Reds and access to Kalashnikov’s memoirs and files. Matt knew Gloria was playing a double game, but agreed to go with to a remote town where a “contact” could protect them both…

Mr K called in his own heavies to hunt them, all factions equally unaware that the FBI had visited Katie and a net was closing around Sinkage and his mystery woman…

When the Council learn Sinkage was involved in the “Albany event”, near-panic ensued. Matt eventually succumbed to suspicion. Gloria kept vanishing and refused to acknowledge it. and Kalashnikov’s hoods Zanini and Koldst abduct her and rough up Matt.

Events spiralled and came to a head in sleepy Stubbinsville. Housley and the FBI tracked the runaways and met up with the Reds and what might well have been aliens in the isolated region. The net closed around them as a fantastic and terrifying light-show ignited the dark skies. By the time the G-Men reached them, Gloria had vanished and Sinkage was in a coma. Days later, Matt was freed and all charges dropped. He was strangely content. Despite another blatant cover-up and no clue as to whom all the various parties hounding them really were, Sinkage knew what he had seen when Gloria vanished. Now he could only wait for her inevitable return…

Three years later, in September 1955, Sinkage was still waiting. He had spent much of that time in an asylum. On release, he moved to bucolic Rockhaven and resumed his old trade as a journalist. The uncaring outsider had tentatively established himself in the small town, but his job at The Ranger paid a pittance and offered no satisfaction. Sinkage earns extra cash writing fake news for spurious tabloid The Tattler.

His life spirals again after a proposed piece on cattle mutilations leads to a quasi-religious space cult in his own backyard. At first journalistic sight, the Sirian Utopia Foundation is a long con gulling wealthy widow Gladys Tanner. She devoutly believes the world is heading for imminent Armageddon and that her new gurus are in contact with a benign cosmic council promising enlightenment and global paradise …and they can also reunite her with her departed husband…

Her followers include many prominent Washington politicians and Sinkage’s research connects them to a bunch of missing scientists. That’s when Housley turns up, acting all buddy-buddy. Matt lapses into his old suspicions and starts snooping, “discovering” – after many tribulations and threats – that an extremely unconvincing fake flying saucer in the Tanner barn is a prop disguising the real thing…

The Council’s top thug Brennan resurfaces, spouting drivel about a commie conspiracy at the Tanner farm. Sinkage even thinks long-gone Kalashnikov has returned, but once again, drastic action by the Feds seemingly ends the investigation. Sinkage is now convinced of what’s really going on: America and the world are in the midst of a sly alien conquest and only he can expose it.

His first move is to join his recently at-liberty nemesis in Housely Investigations back in Union City, even though it means moving back in with Walter and his despicable sister-in-law Katie. By May 1958, Sinkage has become a phantom celebrity, a flying saucer freak and UFOlogist regularly cited by the media, but seldom seen. He warns of invasion and stalks political rising star and Presidential hopeful Senator Harrison T. Callahan – a candidate he believes to be mind-controlled by the invaders.

By 1959, Sinkage is an anonymous star on television, stridently declaring how aliens seize minds and program brains. His campaign against Callahan continues unabated. When the Senator decides to end to harassment, The Council re-enter the life of long-sidelined Phil Housley, proclaiming the alien issue is a Soviet plot to destabilise the USA. Over Walter’s most strenuous objections Katie manoeuvres to get Sinkage back into the asylum and he disappears from their lives…

In August, Callahan officially announces his candidacy and Sinkage makes a last desperate move, determined to preserve humanity at all costs…

In volume three (available in monochrome trade paperback and digital formats), the spotlight settles on Housley as ‘A Good Lawyer is Hard to Find’ sees the grizzled world-weary Private Eye basking in old glory in September 1965.

Nobody really cares anymore how he saved the life of America’s next president in August 1959, or that he had to kill a crazy reporter to do it. Now Housley’s life is all about making ends meet, accommodating his estranged wife Vivian while still seeing his kids, and keeping secretary/girlfriend Meredith Baxter from shouting at him. Union City, meanwhile, is reeling from a string of bizarre serial killings…

With life constantly kicking him hard, Phil finds an unexpected upside when glamourous new client Sarah Finster hires him to find her missing husband. She’s something of a maneater, exceedingly generous and will do literally anything to locate her innocuous spouse Howard

The missing man is an attorney at prestigious Phelps, Finster and Phelan: Simultaneously simple and uncomplicated, his only character quirk is that he suffers blackouts: disappearing for days at a time and reappearing with no knowledge of where he’s been or that any time has passed. That’s when Housley really starts paying attention. After all, he’s been experiencing exactly the same problems lately…

Finster had been seeing a shrink about the problem, a doctor named Jeffrey Plunck, but before tracking him down Phil interviews the employers and learns more than he bargained for. They reveal that not only had Howard been disappearing and experiencing memory problems for more than a year, he also claimed to have been abducted by aliens…

The mystery deepens in ‘Ghosts are Hard to Bury’ as Housley contacts creepily officious Dr. Plunck and is stonewalled in a manner he thought only Feds could pull off. Heading home to Meredith, he falls asleep in front of new TV sensation Canadian Football and has a chilling dream about Matt Sinkage, the madman he killed to save current US President Callahan…

When an envelope arrives, containing a note to meet and a recent photo of a number of people including Plunck and the impossibly still-alive Sinkage, Phil dashes off to a seedy club and meets Nora Marsh: Howard’s probable girl on the side and another regular alien abductee.

He has no idea he’s being shadowed until he’s ambushed. When he regains consciousness, Nora is gone but she’s left a list of names which lead to the missing Howard. Bringing the bemused and bewildered lawyer home, Phil is suddenly blasted by blazing light and awakens having lost more time… and memories…

‘Canadian, Eh’ opens with dazed and confused Phil revisiting all he knows about Sinkage and confronting the reporter’s former boss Frank Costello. He learns the paper Nora gave him lists people who have recently died or been murdered in uncanny circumstances. Walter Sinkage then adds fuel to the insane alien nonsense by expounding a raft of crazy suppositions about Canada’s Flying Saucer programme – and their football exploits – leaving Housley more baffled than ever and blithely unaware of how many different people have him under observation.

And that’s when the bodies start piling up and circumstantially pointing to Phil, his increasingly troubled homelife and those oh-so-convenient memory black-outs…

As witnesses and potential allies vanish or die, and with a procedural net he’s very used to holding now closing around him, Phil goes into overdrive in ‘The Lost and the Found’. On the run but uncharacteristically determined to find answers, Housley raids Dr. Plunck’s office, stumbling upon an incredible secret (more than one, in fact), provoking a massive and deadly response from his hidden foes, and precipitating a savage and chaotic clash with the resurgent forces of The Council and the irresistible powers behind them in chilling conclusion ‘Falling into the Light’

To Be Concluded…

Gripping and utterly addictive, The Silent Invasion is a uniquely beguiling confection rendered in a compelling, spectacularly expressionistic style: an epic that perpetually twists and turns, leaving readers dazed, dazzled and always hungry for more. Tragically, its warped Machiavellian shenanigans have never been more relevant than now and lead me to conclude that the infiltration is complete and that weird inexplicable non-humans already stalk all earthly corridors of power…

Abductions! offers an unforgettable gateway to an eerily familiar yet comfortably exotic era of innocent joy and a million “top secrets” which no fan of fantastic thriller fiction should ignore and the best is still to come…
© 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2012 and 2020 Michael Cherkas & Larry Hancock. All rights reserved.

Most NBM books are also available in digital formats. For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/