Avengers Epic Collection volume 9 1976-1977: The Final Threat


By Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, Jim Shooter, Jim Starlin, Scott Edelman, Bill Mantlo, Stan Lee, George Pérez, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, John Byrne, Herb Trimpe, Sal Trapani, Don Heck, George Tuska, Jack Kirby & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-8790-5 (TPB)

The Avengers have always proved that putting all one’s star eggs in a single basket pays off big-time: even when all Marvel’s classic all-stars such as Thor, Captain America and Iron Man are absent, it merely allows the team’s lesser lights to shine more brightly.

Of course, all the founding stars were regularly featured due to the rotating, open door policy, which means that every issue includes somebody’s fave-rave – and the boldly grand-scale impressive stories and artwork are no hindrance either. With the team now global icons, let’s look again at the stories which form the foundation of that pre-eminence.

Re-presenting Avengers #150-166, Avengers Annual #6 & 7, and Super-Villain Team-Up #9 (cumulatively spanning August 1976 to November 1977), these stories again see the team in transition. That was a much a result of creative upheaval as narrative exigency. Times were changing for the company which would soon become a plaything of relentless corporate forces…

In the simple world of goodies and baddies, however, #150 saw an official changing of the guard in ‘Avengers Assemble’ by Steve Englehart, George Pérez, John Tartaglione & Duffy Vohland. The anniversary epic was supplemented part-way through by half of ‘The Old Order Changeth!’ (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers and reprinted from Avengers #16) as it settled the membership drive question begun way back in #137. The tale made way for new scripter Conway in #151 whose ‘At Last: The Decision’ (with additional scripting by Jim Shooter & Englehart as well as art from Pérez & Tartaglione) set the group off on streamlined, less cosmic adventures.

No sooner had the long-delayed announcement been made to the panting public, though, than a mysterious crate disgorges the long-dead body of Wonder Man… who shockingly shambles to his feet and accuses the stunned android Vision of stealing his mind…

Long ago, Simon Williams had been turned into a human powerhouse by arch-villain Baron Zemo and used as a Trojan horse to infiltrate the team. He eventually turned on his vile creator, sacrificing his life to redeem and atone for his deeds. After he was buried, Williams’ brain patterns were used to provide an operating system for The Vision, inadvertently creating a unique human personality for the cold thing of plastic, wires and metal…

In #152, ‘Nightmare in New Orleans!’ kicks the simmering suspenseful saga into high gear as the team start hunting for Wonder Man’s grave robber/re-animator. The trail – as crafted by Conway, John Buscema & Joe Sinnott – soon leads the team to New Orleans and into a face-off with voodoo lord Black Talon

‘Home is the Hero!’ reintroduces 1940 Marvel sensation Bob Frank (AKA former Invader The Whizzer). In a tragic tale of desperation, the aged speedster seeks the heroes’ help but is cut short when he is seemingly possessed and attacks the team…

Avengers Annual #6 (illustrated by Pérez, Mike Esposito, Tartaglione & Vohland) reveals why and answers all the meandering mysteries, wrapping up the storyline with ‘No Final Victory’ as a conspiracy involving the serpent-helmed Living Laser, Whizzer’s government-abducted mutant son Nuklo and rogue US Army General Pollock almost succeeds in conquering California, if not America – at least until the resurgent Avengers lay down the law…

Also included in the annual – and here – is Scott Edelman & Herb Trimpe’s ‘Night Vision’: a brief but stirring solo story of the Android Avenger battling super swift psychopath Whirlwind.

In Avengers #154, Conway, Pérez & Pablo Marcos begin a blockbuster battle bonanza which was in part a crossover with Super-Villain Team-Up. That series followed the uneasy coalition of Dr. Doom and Namor the Sub-Mariner, and this initial chapter ‘When Strikes Attuma?’ finds the Vision captured by subsea barbarian Attuma even as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are ambushed and defeated by the warlord’s augmented Atlantean thrall Tyrak the Treacherous. The scheme is simple enough: use the enslaved surface champions as cannon fodder in an assault against Namor…

At this time, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had signed a non-aggression pact with the Dictator of Latveria, which resulted in Doom subsequently blackmailing the Sub-Mariner into serving as his unwilling ally. However, one American vigilante observed no such legal or diplomatic niceties…

The Shroud believed he had freed the Atlantean from his vow by assassinating Doom, but the villain had survived the assault: rescued and secretly imprisoned by Sub-Mariner’s cousin Namorita and his alien girlfriend Tamara under the misguided apprehension that they could force the Metal-shod Monarch into helping Atlantis and their lost Prince.

Simple, no?

Here, SVT-U #9 expands on the epic encounter with the heroes now ‘Pawns of Attuma’ (scripted by Bill Mantlo, with art by Jim Shooter & Sal Trapani). As the Avengers are unleashed upon the Atlanteans, they discover Doom is now in charge and easily able to thwart their half-hearted assault. In Avengers #155 (Conway, Pérez & Marcos), the beaten heroes are abjectly enslaved, leaving only confused, despondent and battle-crazed Namor ‘To Stand Alone!’ Before long, though, he is joined by lone stragglers the Beast, Whizzer and Wonder Man to hunt down the triumphant barbarian sea lord.

The epic conclusion comes in ‘The Private War of Doctor Doom!’ (Avengers #156, by Shooter, illustrated by Sal Buscema & Marcos) wherein the liberated and furious heroes join forces to crush Attuma whilst simultaneously preventing Doom from turning the situation to his own world-conquering advantage…

A change of pace begins in #157 as ‘A Ghost of Stone!’ (Conway, Don Heck & Marcos) addresses a long-unresolved mystery. As seen in the Avengers/Defenders War, the Black Knight’s body had been petrified whilst his soul was trapped in the 12th century, but now a strange force reanimates the statue and sets it upon the weary heroes…

Shooter, Sal Buscema & Marcos then contrive ‘When Avengers Clash!!’ as the revived, restored, compos mentis and now fully-recovered Wonder Man ferociously duels with an impossibly jealous Vision over the Scarlet Witch.

That Wanda loves the android Avenger is seemingly forgotten as his “borrowed” brain patterns fixate on the logical assumption that eventually his flesh-and-blood wife will gravitate to a “normal” man with his own personality rather than stay married to a mere mobile mechanism…

Domestic tantrums are quickly laid aside when the entire team – plus late arrivals Black Panther and Thor – battle research scientist Frank Hall following a lab-accident which grants him complete control over the forces of gravity…

Apparently unstoppable, Graviton almost destroys New York City in #159 as the ‘Siege by Stealth and Storm!’ (Shooter, Sal B & Marcos) results in savage combat and the unbeatable villain ultimately defeating himself…

Avengers #160 spotlights Eric Williams, the deranged Grim Reaper. With portentous hints of a hidden backer and his dead brother seemingly returned, he conducts ‘…The Trial!’ (Shooter, Pérez & Marcos) to see whether Wonder Man or the Vision is the “true” Simon Williams. He doesn’t like the answer he gets…

The next issue extends the mystery backer sub-plot as ‘Beware the Ant-Man’ finds the team attacked by a frenzied Henry Pym, whose mind has somehow regressed to mere days after the Avengers first formed. The unbalanced, hyper-aggressive hero has allied with the homicidal robot he no longer remembers creating and is unwittingly helping it build ‘The Bride of Ultron!’ (#162): pitifully oblivious that for the almost completed Jocasta to “live” his own wife Janet must die…

At the close, the Avengers believe they have finally destroyed the murderous mechanoid, but yet again they are wrong…

Shooter, George Tuska & Marcos’ stand-alone tale ‘The Demi-God Must Die!’, reveals how mythological maniac Typhonreturns to capture the team. Despite forcing Iron Man to attack Hercules to save his imperilled Avenging comrades – and even after lots of spectacular smashing – the scheme naturally fails and the World’s Mightiest are triumphant again…

John Byrne & Pablo Marcos then joined Shooter to spectacularly reinvent one of the team’s oldest adversaries, in a 3-part classic beginning in #164 wherein, after months of speculation and experimentation, the Wonder Man was finally diagnosed as having evolved into a creature of pure ionic energy. Meanwhile elsewhere, aging Maggia Don Count Nefariarecruits Whirlwind, Power Man (the original mercenary who had undergone the same transformative experiment as Wonder Man) and Living Laser to apparently amass plunder for him, but the tactic was mere subterfuge.

After the thieves trash a squad of Avengers, Nefaria uses his flunkies’ bodies as template and power source to turn himself into a literal Superman and attack the already battered heroes in ‘To Fall by Treachery!’

The tension builds in #165 as ‘Hammer of Vengeance’ sees the lethally out-powered team fall, only to be saved by elderly speedster The Whizzer who points out that, for all his incredible might, Nefaria is an old man with death inevitably dogging his heels.

Panicked and galvanised, the Overman goes berserk, carving a swathe of destruction through Manhattan whilst seeking a confrontation with Thunder God Thor and the secret of his immortality.

Before too long he had reason to regret his demands…

The surprise arrival of the Storm Lord in ‘Day of the Godslayer!’ ends the madman’s dreams but also highlights growing tensions within the victorious team…

This superb thriller is followed by a annual extravaganza (two, in fact) that became a certified classic. Devised by Jim Starlin (with the inking assistance of Joe Rubinstein) ‘The Final Threat’, from Avengers Annual #7, sees Kree warrior Captain Marvel and psionic adept Moondragon revisit Earth due to vague anticipations of an impending cosmic catastrophe.

Their premonitions are confirmed when galactic wanderer Adam Warlock arrives with news that death-obsessed Thanos had amassed an alien armada and built a weapon powered by soul-gems to snuff out the stars like candles…

Broaching interstellar space to stop the scheme, the united heroes forestall the stellar invasion and prevent the Dark Titan from destroying the Sun – but only at the cost of Warlock’s life…

This classic collection of costumed clashes closes with ‘Death Watch!’ (from Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2) which finds Peter Parker plagued by prophetic nightmares, disclosing how Thanos snatched victory from defeat and now holds the Avengers captive whilst he again prepares to extinguish Sol.

With nowhere else to turn, anguished, disbelieving Spider-Man heads for the Baxter Building, hoping to borrow a spacecraft, unaware that The Thing also has history with the terrifying Titan.

Although utterly overwhelmed and outclassed, the mismatched champions of Life subsequently upset Thanos’ plans enough so that the Avengers and the Universe’s true agent of retribution are able to end the Titan’s threat forever… or at least until next time…

Supplementing the cosmic action, this collection also offers contemporary house ads, and original art samples from Pérez and John Buscema, making this archival tome a prime example of the truly epic yarns prevalent at this period which set the tone for fantastic Fights ‘n’ Tights dramas for decades to come and influenced the movie franchise we all know and love today.

Most importantly though, these are superb comics to boggle the mind and take the breath away, even here in the quietly isolated and far more unpredictable dangerous 21st century…
© 2019 MARVEL.

What We Don’t Talk About


By Charlot Kristensen (Avery Hill)
ISBN: 978-1-91039-555-4 (PB)

There plenty wrong with the world, but most of it could probably be sorted if people got together and discussed things rationally and honestly. Some individuals, however, don’t want to change positions or even agree there’s a problem at all. This book isn’t for them, and we’ll have to find more drastic ways to deal with their nonsense…

Dublin-based artist Charlot Kristensen graduated from Middlesex University in 2015 with a degree in Illustration and has since pursued a career in the arts. Her visual and narrative gifts are superbly highlighted in this vibrant examination of an interracial relationship in crisis. Kristensen is of Afro-Danish descent and clearly knows what she’s talking about and how best to depict it…

Painted in lavish and mood-setting colours, What We Don’t Talk About focuses on an idyllic modern romance as artist Farai accompanies her white boyfriend Adam to Lake Windemere to finally meet his parents. They’ve been lovers for two years now, ever since University, but her beautiful gentle musician is uncharacteristically nervous – even short-tempered – as the journey begins. Farai almost regrets the trip, even though she’s been pushing for it from the start…

Her nerves and his tension dissipate on the trip up, but are immediately revived when she meets Charles and Martha. The look on their faces and the tone of the greeting tell Farai an old story…

In frosty diffidence, the social amenities are followed but it’s not just a barely suppressed attitude of polite condescension Farai experiences. Martha’s blunt opinions extend to all aspects of her son’s life. Although she clearly opposes Adam’s choice of career, after meeting the girlfriend, Mother now has a new problem to gnaw at…

As the weekend progresses, Martha’s sneering, passive aggressive comments go from dismissive to openly hostile: mocking Farai’s clothes and denigrating the achievements of her Zimbabwean parents (a doctor and engineer). It soon transpires that it’s not just her who’s a problem: people with funny names or difficult accents and all Muslims also fail Martha’s tests of decency and acceptable standards. The matriarch also thinks the world should be grateful for British colonialism…

And Adam? He’s loving and conciliatory but ultimately weak and avoiding the issue. He knows what his mum says is objectionable, offensive and just plain wrong, but can’t bring himself to say anything or rebuke his parents. He tries to divert conversations rather than defend Farai, even employing the “just a joke defence” at a most distressing family dinner…

He doesn’t seem to believe their attitude is unacceptable or that it even matters. Farai’s seen it all before. This is a love story that cannot possibly end well…

Like a modern-day Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, this powerful graphic drama forensically picks open the sores underlying much of modern society’s attempts to integrate and assimilate long-entrenched attitudes: revealing not just how far we’ve all come, but how far we still have to go.

Comics have always had an admirable record in addressing issues of bigotry and racial injustice, and this tale takes that to the next level with wonderful empathy and through the eyes of someone who’s sadly “been there, done that” all too often…

That the ignorance and intolerance still daily endured by so many today is perpetually ignored, diminished and dismissed by those in charge has never been more effectively shown as in this unforgettable vignette. Luxuriant colours and a welcoming cartoon style act to subversively and devastatingly prove that prejudice doesn’t lurk in dark corners any more but instead proudly rears its head everywhere it can. But that just means we can – and should – slap it down more forcefully and decisively.
© 2020 Charlot Kristensen

What We Don’t Talk About is scheduled for release on September 10th 2020 and is 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.

Golden Age Flash Archives volume 1


By Gardner F. Fox, Harry Lampert, E.E. Hibbard, Hal Sharp & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0784-7 (HB)

The innovative fledgling company that became DC published the first ever comic book super-speedster and over the decades has constantly added more to its pantheon of stars. Devised, created and written by Gardner Fox and initially visually realised by Harry Lampert, Jay Garrick debuted as the very first Monarch of Motion in Flash Comics #1. He quickly – of course – became a veritable sensation.

“The Fastest Man Alive” wowed readers of anthologies like Flash Comics, All Star Comics, Comics Cavalcade and other titles – as well as solo vehicle All-Flash Quarterly – for just over a decade before changing tastes benched him and most other first-generation costumed crimebusters in the early1950s.

His invention as a strictly single-power superhero created a new trend in the burgeoning action-adventure Funnybook marketplace, and his particular riff was specifically replicated many times at various companies where myriad Fast Furies sprang up such as Johnny Quick , Hurricane, Silver Streak, the Whizzer, Quicksilver and Snurtle McTurtlethe Terrific Whatzit amongst so many others…

After half a decade of mostly interchangeable cops, cowboys and cosmic invaders, the concept of human speedsters and the superhero genre in general was spectacularly revived by Julie Schwartz in 1956. Showcase #4 revealed how police scientist Barry Allen became the second hero to run with the concept. We’ve not looked back since – and if we did it would all be a great big blur…

This charmingly beguiling deluxe Archive (sadly not available in not-quite-faster-than-light digital) edition collects the first year and a half – spanning January 1940 to May 1941 – of the irrepressible Garrick’s whimsically eccentric exploits in 17 (regrettably untitled) adventures from the anthology Flash Comics, revealing an appealing rawness, light-hearted whimsy and scads of narrative experimentation in tales of a brilliant nerd and (ostensibly) physical sad-sack who became a social reformer and justice-dispensing human meteor.

Following a fulsome Foreword from sometime Flash scribe Mark Waid, the fast fictions commence with the debut of ‘The Fastest Man Alive’ speedily delivering in 15 pages an origin and returning cast, and staging a classic confrontation with a sinister cabal of gangsters.

It all started years previously when student Garrick passed out in the lab at Midwestern University, only to awaken hyper-charged and the fastest creature on Earth thanks to the “hard water fumes” he had inhaled whilst unconscious. After weeks recovering in hospital, the formerly-frail chemist realised the exposure had given him super-speed and endurance. He promptly sought to impress his sort-of girlfriend Joan Williams by becoming an unstoppable football player…

Time passed, the kids graduated and Garrick moved to New York where, appalled by rampant crime, he decided to do something about it. The Flash operates mostly in secret until one day, whilst idly playing tennis with himself, Jay meets Joan again, just as mobsters try to kill her in a drive-by shooting.

Catching the storm of bullets, Jay gets reacquainted with his former paramour and discovers she is a target of criminal combine the Faultless Four: master criminals set on obtaining her father’s invention the Atomic Bombarder. In the blink of an eye Flash smashes the sinister schemes of the gang and diabolical leader Sieur Satan, saving Joan’s life whilst revelling in the sheer liberating fun and freedom of being gloriously unstoppable…

In his second appearance The Flash stumbles upon a showgirl’s murder and discovers that Yankee mobster Boss Goll and British aristocrat Lord Donelin plan to take over the entire entertainment industry with ruthless strong-arm tactics. The speedster is as much hindered as helped by wilful, “headstrong” Joan who begins her own lifetime obsession of pesky do-gooding here…

Everett E. Hibbard began a decade-long association with Flash in #3, when Major Williams’ Atomic Bombarder is targeted by foreign spies. The elderly boffin framed for treason prompts Garrick to come to his future father-in-law’s aid, before Jay and Joan smash an off-shore gambling ring graduating to kidnapping and blackmail in #4.

During these early adventures, Flash seldom donned his red, blue and yellow outfit; usually operating invisibly or undercover to play super-speed pranks with merciless, puckish glee. That started changing in #5, when the speedster saves an elderly artist from hit-men to foil mad collector Vandal who uses murder to increase the market value of his purchases.

Flash Comics #6 found Jay and Joan at old Alma Mater Midwestern, foiling a scheme to dope athletes trying to qualify for the Olympics, before #7 saw a stopover in Duluth lead to the foiling of gambler Black Mike who was industriously fixing motorcar races with a metal melting ray. For #8, the Vizier of Velocity tracks down seemingly corrupt contractors building shoddy, dangerous buildings only to find the graft and skulduggery go much further up the financial and civic food chain…

In issue #9, gangsters get hold of a scientist’s invention and the Flash finds himself battling a brigade of giant Gila Monsters, after which #10 depicts the downfall of a political cabal in the pocket of gangster Killer Kelly and stealing from the schools they administered. For #11, Garrick meets his first serious opponent in kidnap racketeer The Chief, whose sinister brilliance enables him to devise stroboscopic glasses to track and target the invisibly fast crime-crusher…

With the threat of involvement in the “European War” a constant subject of American headlines, Flash Comics #12 (December 1940) had the heroic human hurricane intervene to save tiny Ruritanian nation Kurtavia from ruthless invasion. His spectacular lightning war sees Garrick sinking submarines, repelling land armies and crushing airborne blitzkriegs for a fairy tale happy ending here, but within a year the process would become a patriotic morale booster repeated ad infinitum in every American comic book as the real world brutally intruded on the industry and nation…

Back in the USA for #13, Garrick assists old friend Jim Carter in cowboy country where the young inheritor of a silver mine is gunned down by murdering owlhoots. Jay then heads back east to crush a criminal combine sabotaging city subway construction in #14 and saves a circus from robbery, sabotage and poor attendances in #15.

Throughout all these yarns Jay paid scant attention to preserving any kind of secret identity – a fact that would soon change – but as Hal Sharp took over illustrating with #16 (Hibbard presumably devoting his energies to the contents of the forthcoming 64-page All-Flash Quarterly #1 – to be seen in a succeeding Archive collection), Joan is kidnapped by Mexican mobsters aware of her connection to The Flash. Rushing to her rescue, Garrick battles a small army, not only saving his girlfriend but even reforming bandit chief José Salvez.

This initial high-energy compilation ends with another light-hearted sporting escapade as the speedster intervenes in a gambling plot, saving a moribund baseball team from sabotage even as Jay Garrick – officially “almost as fast as the Flash” – becomes the Redskins’ (a nickname now thankfully consigned to history’s dustbin of insensitivity) star player to save them from lousy performances…

With covers by Sheldon Moldoff, Dennis Neville, George Storm, Jon L. Blummer, Hibbard and Sharp, this book is a sheer delight for lovers of the early Fights ‘n’ Tights genre: exuberant, exciting and funny, although certainly not to every modern fan’s taste. Of course, with such straightforward thrills on show any reader with an open mind could find his opinion changed in a flash.
© 1940, 1941, 1999 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Leonardo da Vinci: The Renaissance of the World


By Marwan Kahil & Ariel Vittori, translated by Montana Kane (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-259-5 (HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-260-1

Some people are simply so famous that everybody thinks they already know all about them. That’s what makes biographies like this one such a tricky proposition. As always, talent will tell and the narrative gifts of writer Marwan Kahil and illustrator Ariel Vittori are more than sufficient to breathe fresh life into a much-told tale of one of the most accomplished men in world history…

Kahil (A. Einstein – the Poetry of Real) studied at the École Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris and Simon Boudvin’s prestigious Graphic Art Workshops before deciding to split his time and efforts between comics and film and theatre. Rome-based Ariel Vittori (Quelques pincées de désir) is an artist and designer who numbers Disney, Campari and Monadori amongst her satisfied clients, although her true calling is narrative illustration. She is co-founder and President of Attacapanni Press: an independent publisher matching rising stars with seasoned comics veterans…

Available in English in both sturdy hardback and assorted digital formats, Leonardo da Vinci: The Renaissance of the World opens with a querulous preface from Kahil before the Maestro’s eventful life begins to unfold in glorious colour as the elder reminisces in Rome 1515 anno domini…

It begins with ‘Chapter 1: A Young Man Unlike Any Other’ in April 1452 at the hamlet of Anchiano (near Vinci) with the welcoming of a very observant baby to loving extended family. Time passes and a doting grandfather passes, leaving the special child apprenticed to a painter in Florence…

The present interrupts as the elderly Leonardo falls foul of the Roman clergy and is forced to flee to France…

‘Chapter 2: The Most Handsome Man in Florence’ then follows the seemingly blessed teenager as he excels and overtakes his mentor Andrea del Verrocchio, roistering his way through Florence and making many friends and far more enemies as he courts rich, powerful and essentially dangerous patrons. Throughout it all he is driven by his unconventional romantic drive and fanatical compulsion to see more and understand everything…

In ‘Chapter 3: The Sforza’s Man’ the itinerant ideas man reaches Milan and works for the powerful duke, even as his older self in 1515 must deal with the so-different responses of his two apprentices Salaì and Francesco to their impending arrest and excommunication…

The sage concludes as the great man finally achieves a measure of peace and security under the patronage of lifelong admirer Francis I, allowing Leonardo to end his days in ‘Chapter 4: In the Service of the King of France’

Although many scenes and snippets are taken from non-chronological key moments, the overall effect reveals a life both frustrating and often dangerous, but lived very much on the scholar’s own terms and with few regrets. The tale is also liberally dosed with revelatory secrets on the creation of the Masters greatest artworks and scientific discoveries, adding a degree of enthralling vitality to proceedings.

This beguiling dramatized biography is splendidly augmented by educational extras, such as with ‘Leonardo da Vinci – Works’: a commentary on many of his creations, supplemented by a crucial illustrated menu of ‘Principal Players’, a fulsome list of further reading in ‘More on Leonardo’ and a copious illustrated collection of ‘Quotes of Leonardo da Vinci’.

Seen here is a visual delight celebrating a unique mind and personality, and one you should reacquaint yourself with as soon as you can.

© 2017 Blue Lotus Prod. © 2019 NBM for the English translation.

For more information and other great reads go to NBMpub.com

Goodbye God? – An Illustrated Examination of Science Vs Religion


By Sean Michael Wilson & Hunt Emerson (New Internationalist)
ISBN: 978-1-78026-226-0 (TPB)

I don’t mind if you like Love Island. Why do you care that I don’t?

Faith is the ability to accept as true (believe in) things you can’t prove.

Belief is a choice to have faith (implicit trust) in certain things. Many people choose to believe evolution doesn’t exist, but that won’t protect them from a new strain of virus, rats that have developed immunity to Warfarin or even a Strep bug which has bred beyond the capabilities of contemporary antibiotics to kill it.

I choose to trust – call it “believe” if you want – in physically measurable, quantifiable, repeatable phenomena which work irrespective of what I want or how much I beg them to change.

I want to believe that I’m in no way socially, developmentally, biologically or genetically connected to racists, homophobes, abusers or idiots but – just like I wish I had superpowers – praying will not make it true.

You can choose to think of evolution as something that’s open to debate and refuse to believe you’re descended from an unending chain of constantly changing and developing animals, but that only makes you more a horse’s arse than a monkey’s uncle.

The comforting notion that any book, belief system or unverifiable opinion is infallible and that you are of more significance to the universe than a bee, a rock or a bad odour is equally wrong – and completely pointless too. However, if a sense of superiority helps you sleep at night, fine. Just stop killing bees, crushing rocks and making a nasty smell for the rest of us, whether it be Christians painting over erotic murals at Herculaneum and Pompeii or fanatical Islamic splinter groups pillaging and destroying temples in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq…

And don’t even get me started on the kinds of monsters and morons who think their faiths afford them the right to inflict institutionalised cruelty upon animals or their own children, or justifies desecrating art and destroying artefacts of history…

I believe/know that the above statement was a rant – but a heartfelt and honest one.

I choose to rant and shout and shoot off my mouth because I’m not smart, patient or reasonable, unlike author Sean Michael Wilson and master cartoonist Hunt Emerson who diligently gathered data, arguments, opinions and those pesky imps we call “facts” into a superbly even-handed and open-minded graphic narrative discourse.

Taking up the most commonly employed arguments of Big Religion, Wilson & Emerson carefully arranged and scrupulously countered them, resulting in a plausibly inviting examination of issues dividing Faiths (all of them, not any one faction which might prefer to profit by thinking of themselves as persecuted intellectual “martyrs”) from the world as it appears to the rest of us and shining a warm yet uncompromising light of rationality upon them.

It makes for gripping and genuinely revelatory reading.

All religious organisation and faith workers – from the Catholic Church to TV ghost hunters to that shoddy charlatan medium/spiritualist conning your aunty out of her pension – derive approval, power and money from their highly organised activities, but whereas we officially godless may sell a book or two and cop an appearance fee from the occasional chat show, Humanists (people who don’t believe in God and generally can’t even agree with each other) gain nothing from pointing out that – based on the evidence – we are on our own in the world and bear sole responsibility for taking care of the place and all its inhabitants and fittings.

That’s something to sincerely meditate on…

Following an Introduction by Professor Lawrence M. Krauss (Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University), the dissection of Big Questions and how people choose to react to them opens with Part 1: Evolution and Creationism wherein ground rules of serious discussion are laid down before ‘Creationism v Evolution’ systematically lists and methodically shoots down the major claims used to “disprove” and cast doubt on the nature of reality beginning, of course, with a clear, concise definition of the terms of reference of each side…

A quick précis of the development of Darwin’s discoveries and principles is compared with Christian Creationism’s contention that the world is significantly less than 10,000 years old. Outrageous things many Americans believe are counterbalanced by helpful facts from Richy Thompson of the British Humanist Association, before a number of Creationist claims (such as Earth’s declining magnetic field, slowing rotation and that all humanity and planetary life stem from a survivors of a global flood 4,000 years ago) are dealt with…

A hilarious aside explaining just why such fallacious arguments are harmful leads into a skilful dissection of “Intelligent Design” with helpful interjections and clarifications from Philosophy Lecturer Stephen Law (with other cognitive heavyweights such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Noam Chomsky piling in to explain why such notions are so harmful to children).

Following a lecture on the damage the proliferation of such propaganda has had on American education and government policy, Richy Thompson pops back to expose the situation in British schools before going on to deliver his own description of the difference between Belief and Fact. The section then ends with a description of the gloriously wry scientific response to Creationism that is Project Steve

This is followed by a review of the wider universe (as we understand it at this moment, and Creationists never will) and concludes with a detailed examination of Law’s Eight Mechanisms, by which all religions – and a goodly proportion of New Age Tomfoolery – introduce, promote and promulgate their particular brand of Revelation and Salvation.

Part 2: Science and Religion then expands the discussion into a broader examination of the debate, pictured as the sporting contest ‘Science v Religion’ and running down the inherent fallacies manipulated by theistic proponents.

Historical examples and contemporary scenes are followed by definitions of Humanism from the likes of Albert Einstein, Albert Schweitzer, Isaac Asimov, Gloria Steinem and Kurt Vonnegut, as well as AC Grayling, Hitchens and the wonderful Dawkins – who offers his own joyous antidote to slavish acceptance of other peoples’ unproven opinions as well as few much-needed debunkings of such religious Whited Sepulchres as the obnoxious contention that people cannot be moral or “good” without God (seen in ‘Darwin = Fascism’).

There’s mention of the Catholic Church’s connections to many tyrants and arguments pointing religion’s role in the rise of Hitler, Stalin and too many others…

Incorporating a gallery of prominent Humanists from John Stuart Mill to Katherine Hepburn and a delicious selection of pertinent and elucidating jokes from Hitchens, this section concludes with lawyer and Democrat politician Sean Faircloth’s ‘10 Practical Points for a Secular America’

This appetisingly sensible treatise also includes essays on both The American Humanist Association (“Good Without a God”) and The British Humanist Association (“For the one life we have”) offering general glimmerings of good tidings for common sense as well as Bios and contact details of the creators.

Any “fact” that comes with a price ticket and pledge of allegiance isn’t worth knowing, and sometimes it’s hard to see any space for compromise in this argument, but Goodbye God? is not bloodymindedness in action or the theological equivalent of bear-baiting.

The purpose of this book and the only thing most Humanists want is simple. We’re not telling anyone what to believe or how to act: all we want is to teach nothing but science and scientific principles in science classes.

It would be nice if political and social decisions affecting all humanity were made solely on the basis of rational exploration and logical conclusion, but we’ll settle for giving descendant generations all the intellectual tools needed to deal with the increasingly unforgiving and extremely inhospitable planet we’re leaving them, rather than blinkering them and having everybody wait for a miracle… which will not be forthcoming.

By all means keep your Intelligent Design or Creation Myths if you need them so badly, but present them in Religious and Social Studies classes where they belong and where, quite frankly, they can be examined and debated on their own merits and contrasted with other equally baseless suppositions, rather than unquestioningly delivered to developing minds with the same unshakable conviction and intensity which correctly states “fire hot” and “stuff falls downwards when let go of”. You could even hopefully add “some people and animals only want sex within their own gender” and “climate change is real and is going to kill us all”…

If only the rationalists weren’t so patently “preaching to the converted” too…

But don’t you dare take my word for it: examine the book for yourselves and draw your own conclusions…
© Sean Michael Wilson. All rights reserved.

Mongrel


By Sayra Begum (Knockabout)
ISBN: 978-0-86166-269-2 (PB)

Comics offer an immediate and potent method of communication that is both universally accessible and subtly intimate. You want countless characters and exotic locales? Just draw them. Need to navigate the most torturous tracks of the psyche and expose the most taciturn soul? Just fill captions and balloons with the words and tone that cut to the heart of the matter…

Somebody who got that from get-go was Sayra Begum, who first presented her life story in pictorial form in 2017. Happily, she shared it with the perceptive folks at Knockabout Comics who recognised a great work when they saw it…

In her own incisive words and deft pencil work, Begum – identifying here as “Shuna” – shares what growing up meant for the child of a strict, devout and loving Bangladeshi Muslim mum only living in England until the family has enough money to retire to a mansion in her beloved homeland. It’s not an easy existence since her dad is a white man (a convert to Islam) who still remembers the freedoms of his old life. Moreover, the community treats them with polite disregard…

As seen in ‘Meet the Mongrel’, ‘Memories of Waterland’, and ‘The Forgotten Self’, Shuna and her siblings are pulled in many directions growing up. She wants to be an artist, but her Amma is more concerned that she be ‘A Good Muslim’, believing that ‘Life is a Test’ and her old ways such as ‘An Arranged Marriage’ are the only proper life to live…

For her parents England ends at the front door and the household is pure Bangla within the walls. The lure of the outer world has already proved too much for one brother as seen in ‘My Poor Family’, ‘Suffocated’ and ‘The Disownment’ and soon Shuna too is living a secret life with an English lover mother could never approve of…

Contrasts with her perfect cousin in Bangladesh constantly wrack her conscience but Shuna has long capitulated to the wiles of Shaitan in her head. Life has a trick of upsetting all plans and exposing secrets and ‘Our Parallel Family’, ‘The Meeting’, ‘Judgement Day’ and ‘The Mongrel Children’ reveal how even the harshest opinions can shift leading to a truly romantic happy ending in ‘Goodbye Anger’ and the ruminatory ‘Epilogue’

Begum weds brisk, informative line drawing with traditional patterns of Islamic art and the excesses of surrealism to weave a compelling and visually enticing tale of real people coping with ancient intolerances and rapidly evolving family stresses in a fluid, multicultural society. It’s all the more affecting to realise she’s bravely sharing the minutiae and intimacies of her own life to highlight a situation as old as humanity itself.

A magical story and a stunning debut, Mongrel is book you must read and share.
Mongrel © by 2020 Sayra Begum All rights reserved.

All Star Comics: Only Legends Live Forever


By Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz, Ric Estrada, Wally Wood, Keith Giffen, Joe Staton & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-7795-0071-7 (HB)

In the torrid and turbulent 1970s many of the comics industry’s oldest publishing ideas were finally laid to rest. The belief that characters could be “over-exposed” was one of the most pernicious and long-lasting (although it never hurt Superman, Batman or the original Captain Marvel), garnered from years of experience in an industry which lived or died on that fractional portion of pennies derived each month from the pocket-money and allowances of children which wasn’t spent on candy, toys or movies.

By the end of the 1960s, comic book costs and retail prices were inexorably rising and a proportion of titles – especially the newly revived horror stories – were consciously being produced for older readerships. Nearly a decade of organised fan publications and letter writing crusades had finally convinced publishing bean-counters what editors already knew: grown-ups avidly read comics too. Moreover, they would happily spend more than kids and, most importantly, wanted more, more, more of what they particularly loved.

Explicitly: If one appearance per month was popular, extras, specials and second series would be more so. By the time Marvel Wunderkind Gerry Conway was preparing to leave The House of Ideas, DC was willing and ready to expand its variegated line-up with some oft-requested fan-favourite characters…

Paramount among these was the Justice Society of America, the first comic book super-team and a perennial gem whose annual guest-appearances in the Justice League of America had become an inescapable and beloved summer tradition.

Thus in 1976 Writer/Editor Conway marked his second DC tenure (he had first broken in to the game writing horror shorts for Joe Orlando) by reviving All Star Comics with number #58. In 1951, as the first Heroic Age ended, the original title had transformed overnight into All Star Western with that numbering running for a further decade as the home of such cowboy crusaders as Strong Bow, Trigger Twins, Johnny Thunder and Super-Chief.

If you’re interested, among the other revivals/introductions in “Conway’s Corner” were Plastic Man, Blackhawk, Secret Society of Super-Villains, Freedom Fighters, Kobra, Blitzkrieg – and many others…

Set on the parallel world of Earth-2, and in keeping with the editorial sense of ensuring that the series be relevant to young readers too, Conway reintroduced the veteran team, leavened with a smattering of teen heroes, combined into a contentious, generation-gap fuelled “Super Squad”.

These youngsters included Robin (already a JSA-er since the mid-1960s and Justice League of America #55), Sylvester Pemberton, AKA The Star-Spangled Kid (in actuality a boy-hero from the 1940s lost in time for decades) and a busty young thing who quickly became the feisty favourite of a generation of growing boys: Kara Zor-L; soon to become infamous as the “take-charge” dynamo Power Girl.

This titanic hardback and digital collection volume gathers the 4-year run of the JSA from the late 1970s into a sublime showcase of so-different, ever-changing times via All-Star Comics #58-74, plus the series’ continuation and conclusion from epic anthology title Adventure Comics #461-466, and includes seminal DC Special #29 which, after almost four decades, finally provided the team with an origin…

Without preamble, the action begins with ‘Prologue’ – a 3-page introduction, recap and summation of the Society’s history and the celestial mechanics of Alternate Earths, by Paul Levitz, Joe Staton & Bob Layton (first seen in Adventure #461, January/February 1979). This outlines the history and mechanics of DC’s parallel continuities, after which the first half of the 2-part debut tale from All-Star Comics #58 (January/February 1976 by Conway, Ric Estrada and Wally Wood) finds newly-inducted Pemberton chafing at his time-lost plight and revelling in his new powers after being given a cosmic-power device by retired veteran Starman. When a crisis propels him and elder heroes Flash, Dr. Mid-Nite, Wildcat, Green Lantern, Hawkman and Dr. Fate into a three-pronged calamity devastating Seattle, Cape Town and Peking (which you youngsters now known as Beijing) with man-made natural disasters, the elder statesmen split up but are overwhelmed, giving the new kids a chance to shine in ‘All Star Super-Squad’.

With the abrasive, impatient Power Girl in the vanguard the entire team is soon on the trail of old foe Degaton and his mind-bending ally in the concluding #59’s ‘Brainwave Blows Up!’

Keith Giffen replaced Estrada in #60 for the introduction of a psychotic super-arsonist who attacks the squad just as the age-divide starts to grate and Power Girl begins to tick off (or “re-educate”) the stuffy, paternalistic JSA-ers in ‘Vulcan: Son of Fire!’.

Closing instalment ‘Hellfire and Holocaust’ sees the flaming fury mortally wound Fate before his own defeat, just as a new mystic menace is stirring…

Conway’s last issue as scripter was #62. ‘When Fall the Mighty’ has antediluvian sorcerer Zanadu attack, whilst the criminal Injustice Gang opens their latest vengeful assault using mind-control to turn friend against friend…

The cast expands with the return of Hourman and Power Girl’s Kryptonian mentor, but even they prove insufficient to prevent ‘The Death of Doctor Fate’ (written by Paul Levitz) and, attacked on all sides, the team splinters. Wildcat, Hawkman and the Kryptonian Cousins tackle the assembled super-villains as Flash and Green Lantern search Egypt for a cure to Fate’s condition, and Hourman, Mid-Nite and Star-Spangled Kid desperately attempt to keep their fallen comrade alive.

They fail and Zanadu renews his assault, almost adding the moribund Fate’s death-watch defenders to his tally until the archaic alien’s very presence calls Kent Nelson back from beyond the grave…

With that crisis averted, Superman makes ready to leave but is embroiled in a last-minute, manic time-travel assassination plot (Levitz script, and fully illustrated by the inimitable Wally Wood) which drags the team and guest-star Shining Knight from an embattled Camelot in ‘Yesterday Begins Today!’ to the far-flung future and ‘The Master Plan of Vandal Savage’: a breathtaking spectacle of drama and excitement that signalled Woody’s departure from the series.

Joe Staton & Bob Layton took the unenviable task of filling his artistic shoes, beginning with #66 as ‘Injustice Strikes Twice!’ as the reunited team – sans Superman – fall prey to an ambush from their arch-enemies, whilst emotion-warping Psycho-Pirate starts to twist Green Lantern into an out-of-control menace determined to crush Corporate America beneath his emerald heel. This subsequently leads to the return of Earth-2’s Bruce Wayne, who had retired his masked persona to become Gotham’s Police Commissioner.

In ‘Attack of the Underlord!’ (All-Star Comics #67, July/August 1977), the Injustice Society’s monstrous allies are revealed as a subterranean race of conquerors who nearly end the team forever. Meanwhile, Wayne’s plans near fruition. He wants to shut down the JSA before their increasingly destructive exploits demolish his beloved city…

The contemporary adventures pause here as the aforementioned case from DC Special #29 (September 1977) discloses ‘The Untold Origin of the Justice Society’

In an extra-length epic set in 1940, Levitz, Staton & Layton, reveal previously “classified” events which saw Adolf Hitleracquire the mystical Spear of Destiny and immediately summon mythical Teutonic Valkyries to aid in the invasion of Britain.

Alerted to the threat, American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, hampered by his country’s neutrality, asks a select band of masked mystery-men to lend their aid as non-political, private citizens. In a cataclysmic escalation, the struggle ranges from the heart of Europe throughout the British Isles and even to the Oval office of the White House before ten bold costumed heroes finally – if only temporarily – stymy the Nazis’ plans…

Back in All Star #68 (October 1977) the curvy Kryptonian was clearly becoming the star of the show. ‘Divided We Stand!’ (Levitz, Staton & Layton) concludes the Psycho-Pirate’s scheme to discredit and destroy the JSA, and sets the scene for her first solo outing in Showcase #97-99 (not included here).

Meanwhile GL resumes his maniacal rampage through Gotham and Police Commissioner Bruce Wayne takes extreme measures to bring the seemingly out-of-control JSA to book.

In #69’s ‘United We Fall!’, he brings in his own team of retired JSA stars to arrest the “rogue” squad, resulting in a classic fanboy dream duel as Dr. Fate, Wildcat, Hawkman, Flash, GL and Star Spangled Kid battled the original Batman, Robin, Hourman, Starman, Dr. Mid-Nite and Wonder Woman. It’s a colourful catastrophe in waiting until PG and Superman intervene to reveal the true cause of all the unleashed madness…

…And in the background, a new character was about to make a landmark debut…

With order (temporarily) restored ‘A Parting of the Ways!’ spotlights Wildcat and Star-Spangled Kid as the off-duty heroes stumble upon high-tech super-thieves Strike Force. The robbers initially prove too much for the pair – and even new star The Huntress – but with a pair of startling revelations in ‘The Deadliest Game in Town!’ the trio finally triumph.

In the aftermath, the Kid resigns and the daughter of Batman and Catwoman replace him.

All-Star Comics #72 reintroduces a brace of classic Golden Age villainesses in ‘A Thorn by Any Other Name’ – wherein the psychopathic floral fury returns to poison Wildcat, leaving Helena Wayne to battle the original 1950’s Huntress for an antidote and the rights to the name…

Concluding chapter ‘Be it Ever So Deadly’ (with Joe Giella taking over the inker’s role) sees the entire team in action as Huntress battled Huntress whilst Thorn and The Sportsmaster do their deadly best to destroy the heroes and their loved ones. Simultaneously in Egypt, Hawkman and Dr. Fate stumble upon a deadly ancient menace to all of reality…

The late 1970s was a perilous period for comics, with exponentially rising costs inevitably resulting in drastically dwindling sales. Many titles were abruptly cancelled in a “DC Implosion” and All-Star Comics was one of the casualties. Issue #74 was the last, pitting the reunited team against a mystic Armageddon perpetrated by nigh-omnipotent Master Summoner who orchestrates a ‘World on the Edge of Ending’ before the Justice Society triumphantly drag victory from the jaws of defeat…

Although the book was gone, the series continued in the massive 68-page anthology title Adventure Comics, beginning in #461 (January/February 1979) with the first half of a blockbuster tale originally intended for the anniversary 75th issue. Drawn and inked by Staton, ‘Only Legends Live Forever’ details the last case of the Batman as the Dark Knight comes out of retirement to battle a seeming nonentity who has mysteriously acquired god-like power.

Adventure #462 delivered the shocking, heartbreaking conclusion in ‘The Legend Lives Again!’ whilst #462’s ‘The Night of the Soul Thief!’ sees Huntress, Robin and the assembled JSA deliver righteous justice to the mysterious mastermind who actually orchestrated the death of the World’s Greatest Detective….

In #464, an intriguing insight into aging warrior Wildcat reveals ‘To Everything There is a Season…’ as he embraces his own mortality and begins a new career as a teacher of heroes, whilst ‘Countdown to Disaster!’ (inked by Dave Hunt) finds Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Power Girl, Huntress and Dr. Fate hunting a doomsday device lost in the teeming masses of Gotham. It would be the last modern outing of the team for years…

But not the last in this volume: that honour falls to another Levitz & Staton landmark: a little history lesson wherein they expose the reason why the team vanished at the beginning of the 1950s.

From Adventure #466, ‘The Defeat of the Justice Society!’ shows how the American Government had cravenly betrayed their greatest champions during the McCarthy witch-hunts: provoking the mystery-men into voluntarily withdrawing from public, heroic life for over a decade – that is until the costumed stalwarts of Earth-1 started the whole Fights ‘n’ Tights scene all over again…

Upping the gaudy glory quotient, a team pin-up by Staton & Dick Giordano and two earlier collection covers from Brian Bolland cap off the costumed dramas. Although perhaps a tad dated now, these exuberant, rapid-paced and imaginative yarns perfectly blend the naive charm of Golden Age derring-do with cynically hopeful modern sensibilities. Here you will be reassured that no matter what, in the end our heroes will always find a way to save the day.

These classic tales from simpler times are a glorious example of traditional superhero storytelling at its finest: fun, furious and ferociously engaging, exciting written and beguilingly illustrated. No Fights ‘n’ Tights fan should miss these marvellous sagas.
© 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 2019 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Red Mother with Child (Louvre Collection)


By Christian Lax translated by Montana Kane (NBM/Musée du Louvre Éditions)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-257-1(HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-258-8

In 2005 one of the greatest museums in the world began an intriguing ongoing project with the upstart art form of comics; inviting some of the world’s most accomplished masters of graphic narrative to create new works in response to the centuries of acquired treasures residing within the grand repository of arts, history and culture.

The tales are produced in close collaboration with the forward-looking authorities of the Louvre, dedicated to pushing the envelope of what can be accomplished by master craftsman inspired by their creative antecedents and forebears. These are no thinly-concealed catalogues of exhibition contents gift-wrapped in cartoon terms to gull potential visitors off their couches and into a stuffy edifice of public culture, but vibrant and challenging comics events calculated to make you think again about what creativity and history mean…

Since then, many of our medium’s greatest exponents have crafted 11 astounding and compelling graphic novels and the twelfth may well be the most potent and rewarding thus far.

Courtesy of those fine folks at NBM, that latest beguiling bande dessinée is now available in English, highlighting Christian Lax’s inestimable artistic gifts and his dedication to and fascination with contemporary crises. Red Mother With Child shockingly combines reportage with drama and suspense with art appreciation to look beyond simplistic media hot button reports and governmental sideshow talking points to truly focus on one of the world’s most tragic human crises via the lens of immortal transcendent art and history…

Originally released in 2019 as Une Maternité rouge, this is a timely and powerful commentary on the value of art as well as a telling riposte to modern society’s callous ineptitude to the ongoing crisis of enforced global displacement. A beautifully robust oversized (234 x 305 mm) hardback graphic narrative – also available in digital formats – the tome follows the journey of one dedicated migrant as he strives to save a work of art from fanatics determined to destroy it in the name of misguided religion…

Multi award-winning author/artist Christian Lacroix AKA Christian Lax (Hector le castor, La marquise des Lumières, Azrayen) was born in Lyon on January 2nd 1949 and, after graduating from the École des beau-arts de Saint Étienne in 1975, began working in advertising whilst breaking into comics such as Metal Hurlant. After collaborating on a number of relatively straightforward adventure strips, in 1993 he began to carefully mine modern events for material, beginning with Romania-set political thriller La fille aux ibis. Since then has sought in all his works (which range from thrillers and historical journalism to sports strips such as Tour de France strip L’Aigle sans orteils) to show how social history impresses and shapes each generation…

Here, in muted lyrical hues, the tale begins in the Federation of Mali. It’s 1960 and the French are leaving the country days before it gains independence. With them they are taking every piece of native art and trinket of note…

One young boy determines that they won’t have everything and steals one statue: a small red figurine of a mother holding a baby…

In Spring 2015, officials and technicians of the Louvre discuss their jobs and the ethical ramifications of curating/safeguarding the cultural treasures of many lands and civilisations, even as, a scant distance away, a small band of refugees huddles under a café by the Seine. They all have stories of horrific past hardships and struggles to reach France and now endure daily kindness from some and cruel abuse from others. However, for one, his ultimate goal and mission is to breach the walls of the Louvre, itself…

Alou was a young honey hunter, at home with his simple world until he encountered Islamists throwing their weight around. After destroying the impious, heretical carving on Alou’s walking stick, the invaders blew up the ancient Baobab tree he was climbing. Secure in their power, the militants drove away unaware that their prank had unearthed a red figurine lost since Mali’s colonial days: a piece of art that grips the boy in a protective frenzy and makes him determined to save it from destruction at the hands of the anti-art fundamentalists…

With the aid of an old teacher/shaman with a secret interest, Alou sets out to place the Red Mother beyond their reach in the fabled Louvre. The boy must join the thousands abandoning their lives and homes and head for the relative paradise of Europe…

Lax has a unique talent for bringing history to vibrant life and a sublime ability to build rounded characters in a minimum of time and space. Packed with powerful detail, Alou’s journey throws a harsh spotlight on the plight of migrants and the causes of mass population displacement, but the artist narrator never loses sight of the fact that this is a tale of people. His contemporary epic shines with small acts of empathy and wickedness from a host of authentic characters peppering the voyage, turning a simple hero’s quest into a mighty pictorial paean to human endurance and testament to the force art exerts upon the soul.

Supplementing the narrative is a photo-packed essay detailing the history of the 14th century statue that inspired this tale and The Pavillon des Sessions’ that houses it.

This is another astounding and ferociously strident comics experience no art lover or devotee of the visual narrative medium can afford to miss…
© Futuropolis – Musée du Louvre Éditions 2019. © NBM 2020 for the English translation.
Most NBM books are also available in digital formats. For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/

The Emotional Load and Other Invisible Stuff


By Emma, translated by Una Dimitrijevic (Seven Stories Press)
ISBN: 978-1-60980-956-0 (TPB) eISBN: 978-160980-957-7

It’s never been a fair world, although that’s a concept we all apparently aspire to create. In recent years, many people have sought to address imbalances between the roles and burdens of men and women in a civil cohesive society, but the first problem they all hit was simply how to state the problems in terms all sides could understand. We have a lot more names and concepts to utilise now in discourse, but the difficulties don’t seem to have diminished…

In 2018, software engineer, cartoonist and columnist Emma crafted a book of strips reflecting upon social issues affecting women: dissecting The Mental Load – all the unacknowledged, unpaid invisible crap that makes up and comes with most modern relationships and revealing how almost all of that overwhelming, burdensome life-tonnage inescapably settled on one side of the bed in most households…

The book – and the strips as seen in The Guardian – caused something of a commotion and as much trollish kickback as you’d expect from all the wrong places, so she’s back with further explanations and revelations in brilliant follow-up The Emotional Load and Other Invisible Stuff.

Because a large proportion of humans who won the genital lottery don’t really give a damn about other people’s woes – especially if the food keeps coming and the appropriate drawers magically refill with clean clothes and groceries – I fear there’s a segment of truly needy folk who won’t benefit from this selection of treatises, anecdotes, statistics and life-changing stories, but since many guys are genuinely clueless and baffled but willing to adapt, maybe enough of us will give change and thought a chance.

Best of all, most women reading this will realise that it’s not just them feeling the way they do and may even risk starting a conversation with their significant others, or at the very least, start talking to other women and organising together…

Working in the manner of the very best observational stand-up comedy, Emma forensically identifies an issue and dissects it, whilst offering advice, suggestions and a humorous perspective. Here that’s subdivided into a series of comical chapters beginning with the autobiographical ‘It’s Not Right, But…’

This explores the concept of consent for women and reveals how, at age 8, she first learned that it was regarded as perfectly normal for men to bother girls…

The debate over sexual independence and autonomy in established relationships is then expanded in ‘A Role to Play’

Seemingly diverging off topic (but don’t be fooled) ‘The Story of a Guardian of the Peace’ then traces the life of honest cop Eric and how he fared over years trying to treat suspects and villains as fellow human beings in a system expressly created to suppress all forms of dissent and disagreement, after which the oppressive demarcation of family duties and necessary efforts are dissected into Productive and Reproductive Labor roles via the salutary example of Wife and Mother ‘Michelle’

‘The Power of Love’ explores how women are expected to police the emotional wellbeing of all those around them and the crushing affect it has on mental wellbeing before the irrelevant “not all men” defence shabbily resurfaces – and is powerfully sent packing – in ‘Consequences’, with a frankly chilling reckoning of the so-different mental preparations needed for men and women to go about their daily, ordinary lives…

As stated above The Mental Load caused a few ructions when it first gained mass popular attention. ‘It’s All in Your Head’ deftly summarises the reactions, repercussions, defanging, belittlement, dismissal and ultimate sidelining of those revelations – particularly in relation to sexual choice and autonomy – with a barrage of damning quotes from France’s political, industrial elites, after which ‘Sunday Evenings’ traces the history of work by oppressed underclasses – like women – and the gaslighting headgames employed to keep all toilers off-balance, miserable and guilt-crushed…

The hopefully life-altering cartoon lectures conclude with an expose of the most insidious form of social oppression as ‘Just Being Nice’ outlines the tactics and effects of sneakily debilitating Benevolent Sexism (and yes, old gits from my generation thought it was okay to do it if we called it “chivalry” or “gallantry”)…

Backed up by a copious ‘Bibliography’ for further research (and probably fuelling some carping niggles from unrepentant buttheads) and packed with telling examples from sociological and anthropological studies as well as buckets of irrefutable statistics, this is a smart, subversively clever look at the roles women have been grudgingly awarded or allowed by a still largely male-centric society, but amidst the many moments that will have any decent human weeping in empathy or raging in impotent fury, there are decisive points where a little knowledge and a smattering of honest willingness to listen and change could work bloody miracles…

Buy this book, learn some stuff. Be better, and please accept my earnest apologies on behalf of myself and my entire gender.
© 2018, 2020 by Emma. English translation © 2020 by Una Dimitrijevic. All rights reserved.