Apparently Morrison has said he’ll be a lot more prominent again in book three.
Great review, Dave.
Jimmy’s Bastards: Volume Two
This was actually a decent read, cue Junior-style shrieks of ‘what did you say?’ Well, true, I wasn’t that impressed with the first volume. Ennis and Braun can’t really do a bad comic, but it was way below their besht. (Connery-style English for ‘best’ - who also gets both barrels here). On the other hand, these two on fumes are still very good and there’s very sharp lines like when a couple of the bastards discuss the likely effect of using the gender fluid on the current occupant of the Oval Office.
And then there are some genius art jokes like showing what happens when you slap a pair of breasts on an old, fat guy that had a pair of big moobs - it ain’t pretty.
It’s nowhere near their besht, but it is pretty fun.
Konungar: War of Crowns
Sylvain Runberg has become one of my top Euro-comics writers, so I tend to seek his work out. Despite Titan being a bunch of cheap bastards by issuing this as a standard size paperback - when but a few years back they were doing excellent OHCs for their Euro-line - the story is damn good, with excellent art. It is a bit compressed on the smaller paper and suffers a little due to that, but the imagery remains superb.
If you can get it for around £10-11 you’ll get your money’s worth as Runberg has a 2000 AD-style of really using the space to the max.
Glad you enjoyed Jimmy’s Bastards, Ben, it did make me giggle.
One I forgot:
M.A.C.H. One: Volume 1: The John Probe Mission Files
So, it’s a British superheroes then? Well, kind of except there’s no uniform and, somehow, every one of these stories ends the same way - all the bad guys are killed! Probe racks up quite the body count over the stories collected here.
It’d be fair to say that the tales are quite repetitive, but in their defence they were written as one-off, weekly stories with no consideration whatsoever that they would be presented in collected form for a much older audience.
So, give it a go - you get a lot of material for your cash and each tale tends to be an excellently compact six pager.
Yeah, it’s good, if a wee bit racist at times.
Yep, there are certain moments that do show up its origins as being older material.
Batman: White Knight
Holy shit, was this a great Batman book. It’s left me more convinced than ever that Sean Murphy is one of the great comics artists of the current era; and not only that, but that he’s a great writer too.
With a fantastic high-concept - the Joker goes sane and becomes Gotham’s saviour, pushing out an increasingly erratic and unstable Batman - the book immediately has a great hook. Seriously, I challenge anyone to read the opening few pages (in which a reformed Joker, now known as Jack Napier, visits Arkham to talk to an imprisoned Batman) and not need to read the rest of the book immediately.
But it’s the way that Murphy develops the story from that initial premise that really makes it work, and allows it to support a full eight issues without feeling like it’s stretching its premise too thin. That’s because he introduces all sorts of interesting subplots and additional angles on the story that give it a lot more depth than just another Batman-Joker face-off (although it really cuts to the heart of their relationship too).
The way that Harley Quinn is used makes for a fascinating examination of her unhealthy relationship with Joker, from two very different perspectives; Napier’s political ambitions carry uncomfortable Trumpian, populist overtones (if nothing else, this era of politics has provided lots of great fodder for writers); the GCPD’s tolerance of Batman is fully explored and tested to the limit, with an interesting explanation of how much Batman’s antics cost Gotham and how it’s all paid for; and the Bat-family dynamic is delved into, particularly Bruce’s relationships with Dick, Barbara and Alfred (and even Jason, although his section of the story is left somewhat unresolved by the end, perhaps to be explored in a sequel).
And the art! Murphy is always great, but this is a particularly spectacular looking book. His Batman is brutal and hulking in a way that suits the story perfectly, and his Joker and Napier pull off that trick of making the two characters feel genuinely different while still believably sharing the same physical form, a trick I haven’t seen pulled off so well since Quitely’s All-Star Superman.
And Matt Hollingsworth’s colours complement the book perfectly, adding vivid splashes of colour where necessary but also showing a lot of restraint so as to fit in with Murphy’s dark, inky pages.
Some of the most atmospheric stuff in the book is during the early stages, where we see Joker transitioning into Napier.
However, the most stunning pages come later in the book - because as any fan of Murphy knows, he’s great at drawing cars and car chases; and like any Batman fan worth their salt, he’s clearly a huge fan of the Batmobile.
His redesign of the Batmobile is brilliant, and incorporates lots of elements of other versions from the movies and comics, synthesising them into something new which still manages to feel classic.
But (and here’s where things get slightly spoilery, so don’t read on if you want to remain completely unspoiled) later scenes go even further and showcase a host of different Batmobiles of the past, many of which are used for specific in-story reasons - starting with this:
If I wasn’t already won over enough by the appearance of the 1989 Batmobile (still the best ever, no arguments please) then later scenes go even further:
Seeing Murphy draw so many classic Batmobiles is an absolute joy. But the book is far more than just fan-pleasing moments like these (there are a fair few other nods to other Batman comics, movies, TV shows and games too) - it’s a fantastic story in its own right, and one that I found so compelling that I’ve found myself constantly snatching moments over the weekend to read it, as I couldn’t wait to see how it all played out.
Between this, My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies and Wonder Woman Earth One v.2, it’s been a fantastic week for trades - the kind of week that reminds you why you love comics. Whatever I read next has a hell of a lot to live up to.
If I hadn’t already nabbed a copy, from SpeedyHen for under £12, via that 8% off, last Friday, which is in the post - I would certainly be going to do so now. Great review.
I hope you enjoy it. I’m sure you will! It and Damned are a great debut for the ‘Black Label’ line. (I know that this was only retroactively branded as such, but it fits the intent of the imprint perfectly.)
I’m intrigued to see what will be different in the ‘uncensored’ version of this book - bar a couple of brief nude scenes involving Harley (one of which includes a tactfully-placed speech bubble) - there isn’t really anything else that feels like an obvious alteration.
Either way, I’m hoping for a Deluxe (or better yet, an Absolute) at some point.
So you liked it Dave ?
I may have had a couple of cups of coffee before writing that.
The nudity is all that I’ve heard got censored.
Can’t wait to read this.
I thought The first issue was fantastic and I decided there and then to wait on the trade because I knew I’d want this for the shelf.
Have you read punk rock jesus?
There’s a few fans of it on here and I can’t remember if you are one of them - I feel it’s an incredibly underrated book.
A funny thing about White Knight, for me, is because Murphy lives near me he is frequently using my city as photo reference. In something like Joe the Barbarian it fits perfectly but substituting our small city of about 70,000 people and a handful of buildings over 10 stories for Gotham is pretty funny.
Here I am near Gotham City Hall, which is a couple blocks from my work and from the LCS where I bought the trade:
Read this lot over the last week.
Superman vol 5 - This was a mixed bag ranging from okay to meh. The first 2-parter was a bit too saccharine sweet and overly patriotic for me. It’s not terrible but I can’t see why I’d ever read it again. The next two fill-in arcs are pretty bad especially the Deathstroke story written by someone called James Bonny.
Super Sons of Tomorrow - Wow, this was pretty bad considering it was written by Tomasi. It could be the worst thing he’s done. I didn’t like the time travelling Batdrake, I have no affinity with the Teen Titans so that was a non-starter and story wise I felt it was lacking in any originality.
Fables: Cubs in Toyland - I’m up to volume 18 of a complete Fables read. Once the whole Homelands storyline ended I felt the book turn a down turn in terms of being a must read. Essentially I got bored with it and only pushed on as I’m a completist so was reading just to get to the end. However, this volume was great. A real return to form, that’s not a reflection of Buckingham’s art as I feel his consistency is phenomenal and although he’s not underrated I do feel he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. The upturn comes form Willingham’s writing which manages to tug at the heart strings without being overly sentimental.
The Infinity Gauntlet Warzones! - Dustin Weaver draws it so it looks good but Duggan’s writing is bog standard meh. I’ve not read anything else by him but based on this I won’t bother. edit - that’s a lie. I read my mates copy of Infinity Wars 1 last month and the scripting in that was even worse than this.
Guerillas vol 1-4 - Now we’re talking. This is fantastic stuff. Vietnam, chimps, nazi scientists, a reluctant hero, brutal action, brilliant pacing (the closing third of book 3 is a masterpiece off-the-charts page-turning drama) and empathetic characters all wrapped up in stark black and white art. The individual trades are available for about £10-£12 each or you can wait until Jan for the omnibus. I’m putting this in my top 20 stories of all time.
I liked PRJ when I read it in trade but haven’t returned to it since. I might have to pick up the deluxe some day.
The deluxe is great and worth the extra dip. PRJ is one of my all time favorites.
You look just like Beard Guy from Walk off he Earth.