Comic books short reviews

The thing about comic books in series is that’s kinda hard to say that much about them after volume one, so here’s some brief thoughts on comics I’ve read lately.


modesty blaise grim jokerModesty Blaise: The Grim Joker
by Peter O’Donnell (writer) and Enric Badia Romero (artist)

I’ve jumped in my reading of Modesty Blaise from strips from the early 1970s to those of the early 1990s and it shows. While the stories themselves are still very gung-ho pseudo Bond adventures and they still look quite 1960s, the gender politics and subject matter have moved on. Modesty is no longer the only capable female on the block, though there are still gratuitous scenes of her nearly or fully naked at least once in every storyline. This volume collects three stories: one is about amnesia and the bond between Modesty and her best friend/right-hand man Willie Garvin; one is about two very different treasure hunts that collide; and one is about a series of murders that Modesty and Willie decide to risk their lives to solve. The dialogue can be clunky and the plots a little predictable, but these stories remain enormously fun, with a great sense of style.

“Willie hits the water and finds with some surprise that he is still alive. But on the surface the river pounds with furious speed between the canyon walls. For over a mile Willie is swept down-river, unable to do more than stay afloat…he fends off the menacing rocks and tumbling debris, but at last the current hurls a heavy log at him—and on the other side of the world, where it is night, Modesty wakes abruptly.”

Comic strips first published in the Evening Standard 1992–1994.
This collection published 2014 by Titan Books.

Source: A copy was kindly sent to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.


kingsmanThe Secret Service: Kingsman
by Mark Millar (writer), Dave Gibbons (artist) and Matthew Vaughn (co-plotter)

Hmm. Entertaining but problematic, I think I have to conclude. The concept is promising – when difficult teenager Gary has to be bailed out of jail yet again, his secret service uncle (Jack London, which made me giggle a little), gives him the offer of joining the Kingsman training programme for elite hitmen. It’s the only real chance Gary has to get out of the council flat he shares with his mum, step brother and violent douchebag of a stepdad but it’s a severe change from his life of benefits and petty crime. Gary doesn’t fit in with the rich public school kids he’s training with and his uncle isn’t even there, because he’s off figuring out why someone keeps kidnapping celebrities.

The tone varies between genuine violence and goofy old-school-Bond humour, which I was fine with. And at first I didn’t mind how Boy’s Own it all was, but it gradually got more misogynist until I just couldn’t ignore it. If I explain why it would mean a whole lot of spoilers, so I’ll just give you this quote to contemplate.

“Wives and girlfriends are always the key. In every mission I’ve worked on. This is where your seduction training comes in handy because megalomaniacs are never very good in bed. They also tend to be workaholics so the women in their lives are always very lonely, often just looking for a shoulder to cry on. They tend to be a lot more normal than the men…all they wanted was a glamorous lifestyle.”

Add in a complete lack of psychological complexity, a series of lazy stereotypes and an uninteresting big bad, and it’s a wonder I enjoyed it at all. But I must own up that I kinda did. And I kinda want to see the film, despite the very mixed reviews.

Published 2014 by Titan Books.

Source: Borrowed from Tim.


saga-vol-4Saga volume 4
by Brian K Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist)

It’s tough to say much at all about this book without massive spoilers for previous volumes in the series. It continues to be excellent, walking the fine line between comedy/escapism and complex political/sci-fi/fantasy drama. It’s action-packed and has truly great dialogue. Baby/toddler Hazel continues to narrate her parents’ story, starting to pull together some disparate threads. As always there are some wrenching scenes but it’s also great fun.

“ ‘Is my child at least alive?’
‘Sound asleep, boss.’
‘I already missed her?’
‘Blame the so-called man of the house. He ran her ragged at the playground today.’
‘He what.’
‘Can we please fight about this in the morning?’ ”

Published December 2014 by Image Comics.

Source: Excelsior comic shop, Bristol.


ex machina vol 2Ex Machina volume 2: Tag
by Brian K Vaughan (writer), Tony Harris (illustrator), Tom Feister (illustrator) and J D Mettler (illustrator)

This definitely falls more on the complex political/sci-fi/fantasy drama side of things, though it’s not without comedy moments. Mayor Hundred continues to grapple with the politics of running New York City (gay marriage and some disturbing deaths) while flashbacks fill in more of his history as a superhero. There were some truly chilling scenes in this but I absolutely want to continue reading the series (which is best, seeing as I bought the whole set!).

“ ‘By the power vested in me by the city of New York—I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride, and leave the down payment for your marriage tax with the budget director at table twelve.’
‘Ha ha ha ha’
‘Bradbury, you got a smoke?’
‘Yeah, Kremlin sent me a carton for my birthday. Since when were you a coffin nailer, boss?’
‘Since about five minutes from now. I’d rather get end-stage lymphoma than have another picture taken—’ ”

Published October 2005 by Wildstorm Signature, DC Comics.

Source: Excelsior comic shop, Bristol