Cheap Jack City

Lots of graphic novels that first come out in hardback eventually reappear in an inexpensive paperback/mass-market edition. When a softie comes in that we’ve already reviewed, I’ll just let you know there’s a cheaper version available. And remember, sometimes my only quibble is format and price.

Charley’s War: Book III (17 October 1916 – 21 February 1917)

Charley’s War: Book III

By Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun

Titan Books ISBN: 1-84576-270-3
                    ISBN-13: 9781845762704

After much too long a wait the third volume collecting the greatest war comic strip of all time is finally out. Charley’s War, originally published in the weekly comic “Battle” (beginning in issue #200 – 6 January 1979 and running until October of 1986), tells the story of underage East-Ender Charley Bourne, who lies about his age to enlist in the British Army setting out to fight the Hun in 1916.

By the beginning of this volume he has already survived the hellish conditions of trench warfare, endured the cruelty and stupidity of his own leaders and lost most of his friends. The introduction of Tanks has brought a furious response from the Germans, many of whom consider the innovation to be an atrocity weapon. In retaliation, they unleash a savage attack using “Judgement Troopers” whose “total war tactics” overwhelm the British Lines.

Book III opens with the brutal battle for the British positions in full swing, with neither side gaining any real advantage, and ends for Charley when he is wounded sufficiently to be sent home to England (called “getting a Blighty”). Naturally, things are never that simple and the callous indifference of the doctors behind the lines means that any soldier still able to pull a trigger is sent back into battle. Once more facing the Judgement Troops, Charley and his mates are forced to experience fresh horrors before the bloody battle peters out indecisively. Charley is again wounded, losing his identification in the process and returned eventually to England as a shell-shocked amnesiac.

Mills and Colquhoun now begin a masterful sequence that breaks all the rules of war comic fiction, by switching the emphasis to the home-front where Charley’s family are mourning his apparent death and working in the war industries, just as the German Zeppelin raids on British cities are beginning. The writer’s acerbic social criticism makes powerful use of history as the recovering hero experiences the trials of submarine warfare, bombing raids and the callous exploitation of British munitions magnates who care more for profit than the safety of their workers or even the victory of their homeland. The book ends as Charley attempts to rescue his mother from a bomb factory as Zeppelins drop lethal payloads all around them…

Included in this volume are a rare interview with artist Joe Colquhoun, a feature on the history of Zeppelin warfare and writer Pat Mills’ wonderfully informative chapter notes and commentary. Not just a great war comic, Charley’s War is a highpoint in the narrative examination of the Great War through any artistic medium.

© 2006 Egmont Magazines Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The Art of Superman Returns

The Art of Superman Returns

By Daniel Wallace
Titan Books ISBN 1-84576-308-4

This impressive coffee-table art-book, released to cash-in on the long-awaited movie features an eye-popping mix of sketches, stills, pre-production designs and paintings gleaned from the various art departments all necessary to produce a major motion picture nowadays.

Tricky shape for your bookshelf though.

© 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

The Case of Madeleine Smith

Madeleine Smith 

By Rick Geary

NBM/Comics Lit ISBN 1-561636-467-0

This eighth volume in master cartoonist Geary’s Treasury of Victorian Murder series focuses on the true and scandalous secret affair between Emile L’Anglier, a low-born French clerk and Madeleine Smith, daughter of a wealthy Scottish merchant. The slow poisoning of one of these mismatched lovers led to a notorious trial in the 19th century and the eventual verdict shocked everyone and satisfied nobody.

Geary’s captivating storytelling and audacious drawing give this tale a compelling dash and verve that makes for an unforgettable read.

Find out more about this series HERE

© 2006 Rick Geary. All Rights Reserved

James Bond 007: Trouble Spot

By Jim Lawrence & Yaroslav Horak

Titan Books ISBN: 1-84576-269-X
                      ISBN-13: 9781845762698

Jim Lawrence strengthens his position as the premier Bond scripter with these tales from 1971-1973. “Trouble Spot” is a traditional tale of espionage as 007 replaces a lost agent in an effort to recover a mysterious box and prevent its falling into the wrong hands of the gloriously baroque Baron Sharck. His heroic efforts are abetted and hindered by the beautiful if morally ambiguous Olga and the blind wife of the agent he’s impersonating.

“Isle of Condors” features a rare (it is 1972, remember) black lead heroine and a kidnapping leading Bond to a plot to turn nubile young beauties into programmed assassins.

The contemporary fascination with the occult becomes grist for the creators’ mill in “The League of Vampires”, when Bond investigates a fashionable cult that is the mask for a plot to destabilise the British computer defence industry.

The volume closes with the racy “Die With My Boots On”, as 007 yet again tangles with the American underworld in search of the secret of a new designer drug that no-one can afford to ignore or possess. As usual there are thrills and glamour in abundance in plot that still form the basis for all those modern summer blockbuster movies. Sexy women, evil men and organisations, relentless action and hairsbreadth escapes make these timeless thrillers an absolute necessity for any fan of the medium.

© 1971, 1972, 1973 Glidrose Productions Ltd/ Express Newspapers Ltd. All Rights Reserved

Star Trek: The Next Generation — Maelstrom

Star Trek: The Next Generation — Maelstrom 

By Michael Jan Friedman & Pablo Marcos

Titan Books ISBN 1-94576- 318-1

Titan’s reprinting (issues #13-18 of the DC series from the 1990s) of the venerable TV phenomenon continues with Michael Jan Friedman scripting capable if uninspiring comics tales illustrated by veteran Pablo Marcos, and guest artists and writers Dave Stern, Mike O’Brien, Ken Penders, Mike Manley and Robert Campanella also contributing to the licensed fun.

Friedman’s adventures involve an elaborate plot by telepaths to use the crew to assassinate delegates at a peace conference, a plot by the Ferengi to illegally strip-mine a resort world, starring Riker and LaForge, and a stellar phenomenon that draws the Enterprise into a confrontation with the Romulans just as a plague of madness grips the crew. The fill-in is another “time-traveller back to fix the continuum” tale as Wesley Crusher’s attempts to improve the Transporter system go awry. Although not the best work these creators have produced, the stories are honest entertainment that should be a welcome treat for fans and are easily accessible to anyone who has seen the TV show.

tm & © 2006 CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Lenore: Wedgies

Lenore: Wedgies
Lenore: Wedgies

 By Roman Dirge

Titan Books ISBN 1-84576-167-7

Lenore is a sweet little girl who has cute, if somewhat surreal, little adventures. She is also dead and has been for quite some time. This second collection (issues #5-8 of her own comic) features more bleak, eccentric, and darkly comic strips, stuffed with her strange coterie of acquaintances plus some new – if perhaps not so fresh – friends.

Impossible to fairly describe but so absolutely necessary to read – I personally recommend that “5 Reasons Not to Blow on your Kitty’s Tummy” be adopted as the eleventh Commandment – and fiercely steeped in the traditions of Charles Addams, this book should appeal to the same skewed and twisted audiences that follow “Squee!” and “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac”, “Gloom Cookie”, or even Giffen and Roman’s “i Luv Halloween”, not to mention the films of Tim Burton. This is an unwholesome treat for kids of all ages with a taste for the darker flavours of life. Ever so much better for you than giving poisoned candy to kids who bang on your door.

TM & © 2006 Roman Dirge. All Rights Reserved.

Batman & the Monster Men

Batman & the Monster Men
Batman & the Monster Men

By Matt Wagner

DC Comics ISBN 1-84576-346-7

Grendel and Mage creator Wagner returns to the Dark Knight to update one of the earliest adventures (from Batman #1 no less) as evil genius Hugo Strange uses the hyper-thyroidal failures of his genetic experimentation as a means of procuring funds for further research. Since he’s evil that means lots of robbery, mayhem and half-eaten citizenry and mobsters. Set during the early days of Batman’s career, we’re also introduced to his first long-time romantic interest, millionaire’s daughter Julie Madison, who will also feature strongly in Wagner’s proposed sequel, The Mad Monk.

Solid, stylish story-telling make this a real treat for old-timers and new fans alike, and the clean, captivating art and colour is irresistible.

© 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.